Refusing to interrupt his Hawaiian golf vacation for almost three full days after the Flight 253 attack, President Barack Obama finally emerged on December 28th to assure the American people that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was “an isolated extremist” and that he had already “been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft.” Continuing to treat the incident like a common law enforcement problem Obama referred to Abdulmutallab as the “suspect” five times and promised he would “not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.”
Perhaps Obama should have stayed on the links for another 24 hours, because by yesterday it had become exceedingly clear that Abdulmutallab was in no conceivable way “isolated” and was instead very much part of al Qaeda’s larger war on the United States. Here’s what we know so far:
- According to CBS News, as early as August of 2009 the Central Intelligence Agency was picking up information on a person of interest dubbed “The Nigerian,” suspected of meeting with “terrorist elements” in Yemen.
- According to the Wall Street Journal, the father of Mr. Abdulmutallab warned the CIA of his son’s likely radicalization at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. That led to a broader gathering of agencies the next day, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department, in which the information was shared.
- According to CNN, information on Abdulmutallab, including his passport number and possible connection to extremists, had been sent to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, but it sat there for five weeks and was not disseminated.
- Also according to the Wall Street Journal, the National Security Agency who had been monitoring former Guantanamo detainees in Yemen had communications intercepts suggesting a Nigerian was being prepped for a terror strike by al Qaeda operatives in that country.
- And the Washington Post reports that not only did the British government reject an Abdulmutallab visa application this May, but that British Home Secretary Alan Johnson said that U.S. officials should have been told about the rejection and that he believes they were.
Faced with this preponderance of evidence that Abdulmutallab did not act alone President Obama finally admitted yesterday that “a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable.” It may have taken Obama four full days to reach this conclusion, after both White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spent all of Sunday trying to convince the American people that “the system worked”, but his belated acknowledgment of the seriousness of the situation is welcome.Also belatedly welcome is the acknowledgment that al Qaeda is a major force in Yemen that must be dealt with carefully.
The Washington Post describes al Qaeda in Yemen as a ”major new threat to the United States,” but there is nothing new about it. In fact, al-Qaeda’s first terrorist attack against Americans came in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden’s father, who had migrated to neighboring Saudi Arabia before the birth of the al-Qaeda leader.
In December 1992, bin Laden’s followers bombed a hotel in Yemen that was used by U.S. military personnel involved in supporting the humanitarian food relief flights to Somalia. And in October 2000, seventeen American sailors on board the USS Cole, were killed in an al-Qaeda bombing in the harbor of Aden, Yemen’s main port.
The Obama administration must stop thinking of al Qaeda and Abdulmutallab as mere criminals. Obama’s blindness to Abdulmutallab’s al Qaeda connections and his insistence on calling him a “suspect” in the “alleged” bombing is the same mindset dictating Obama’s decision to send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other terrorists to New York for a civilian trial in federal court. Hopefully this incident will prod Obama into revisiting that historically bad decision.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Does Obama Realize We Are at War Yet?