December 31, 2009
First the Event....
As most people now know (unless you have been in Antarctica in a blinding snow storm) a Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was allowed to board a Delta jet from Amsterdam bound for Detroit last weekend. This was despite a plea by his own father to the US Embassy to warn that his son was missing, had been taking training from al Qaeda, and was concerned that something would happen. This information was forwarded to the US State Department who did nothing with it (although later spinning seemed to indicate that information had been sent to the National Counterterrorism Center, who really decided to do nothing with it). Nor was the information coordinated with yet another report that spoke to young men trying to blow up planes with simple bombs that could be carried unnoticed onboard . This report, by the way, only finally arrived at DHS on Tuesday (12/29), after incident.
Janet Napolitano, the DHS Secretary, quickly spun up the issue further, indicating that an investigation would be held without at all indicating that she felt a serious breach had occured. Afteralll, according to napolitano, the bomb did not go off. Insterad, the would be-bomber only succeeded in setting himself on fire, and in a very private place that must have caused real pain.
Then the repurcussions...
The talk shows, evening news, and late night comics had a field day with the whole situation--some from a serious mode, and others who were less serious, but all brought the situation out as yet another failure of DHS and the TSA to really monitor and provide safety in the airways.
Several members of the former 9-11 Commission, such as former Governor Tom Kean of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton, former Ohio Congressman also appeared on the air to say that they felt this situation was simply a continuation of the status quo. In their views, DHS had really done little over the longer term to increase safety, increase sharing of information among agencies, and paid little attention to data as it did come out.
Then the big gun, Former Vice President Dick Cheney, came out and asserted that the Obama Administration had been trying to forget that we are at war on terrorism. That stung the administration, having only just put the President on the airwaves to denounce the act and demand answers. The presidential Press Secretary quickly rebutted Cheney poorly, and even more spin started with the announcement that the president expected answers by December 31st from his agency leaders.
I believe the administration will continue to make noise--mostly spin--over the next several weeks. They already put out a new secret security policy that was quickly leaked to several bloggers, but there will be no major repurcussions to the political appointees. A couple of lower level career employees will get bashed, and some may resign, but that will be it--and then back to business as usual in this administration.
It doesn't have to be that way, but it will be unless there is a real, sustained uproar over airline safety and the broader question of continuing actively and intensively the War on Terror--even if Obama doesn't like the word.