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Daily View: US failed bomb attack

Host | 09:21 UK time, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

US President Barack Obama has demanded to know why American intelligence services failed to piece together information that could have prevented the attempted bombing of a US airliner on 25 December, Christmas Day.

Photograph of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab supplied by US officials (28 December 2009)The New York Times judges that clearly the system did not work, in spite of "fair warning" given to officials.

"The State Department, working with other agencies, had the power to revoke the son's visa or put a temporary hold on it. Officials say the warning was insufficient. That seems like a very bad judgment call."

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus reflects that the more she thinks about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier she gets.

"There was, one administration official explained, 'insufficient derogatory information' to bump Abdulmutallab to a higher status of watch list. Excuse me, but how much more derogatory can you get?"

But the Los Angeles Times reckons that not all of the blame lies with the US government's management of terrorist watch lists.

"Some share of responsibility lies with civil libertarian extremists who have ceaselessly lambasted the entire no-fly system."

Holman W Jenkins Jr in the Wall Street Journal claims that airport security is not as bad as we might think.

"The fact that terrorists are reduced to smuggling explosive materials on-board in their underwear, without the casings and detonators that make for an efficient explosion, is proof of our success in deterring them from even trying to board with a capable bomb."

The Chicago Tribune is critical of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who first asserted that "the system worked", adding that it was no consolation that the system only worked after the bomb didn't:

"The best thing to be said for this attempted attack, besides that it failed, is that it scared the bejeezus out of us. Apparently we needed that. It revealed flaws in a system that Napolitano now concedes 'failed miserably'."

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argues in The Daily Beast that the attack was a wake-up call to a country which had got complacent and too worried about image, privacy, and the state of the airline industry"

"Complacency remains an insidious flaw in our natural defenses. For eight years we frustrated plots because we spared no effort to examine and address any lead about a potential threat. But as time passed, more people began to suffer from battle fatigue or to fall prey to historical revisionism."

Meanwhile, the current Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, vows that the US will find and fix vulnerabilities in the system which allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board the plane headed for Detroit.

"We know that terrorists motivated by violent extremist beliefs desire to carry out acts of catastrophic violence... President Obama has made it clear that we will be unrelenting in our efforts around the world, using every element of our national power to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and other violent extremists wherever they plot against our country."

The Christian Science Monitor wants to know how tough President Obama really is on terrorism.

"Is Obama, as many conservatives say, someone who has fundamentally shifted American security priorities from Bush's offensive "war on terror" to a passive emphasis on legal process and law enforcement? Or is he simply following Theodore Roosevelt's maxim to "speak softly and carry a big stick"? From Guantanamo to Afghanistan, Obama's record is mixed, which is why experts are looking forward to getting more details at the promised congressional hearings on the Christmas Day attack."

David Dayen blogs on Firedoglake that the one immediate consequence of the attempted airline bombing and the bomber's alleged contacts with extremists in Yemen will be to stop the emptying of Guantanamo Bay of its Yemeni prisoners.

"They haven't done anything newly wrong or been convicted -- or even charged -- with any crime, but they are now caught up in the politics of the moment, making their release seemingly impossible."

Links in full

New York TimesNew York Times | The system failed
Washington PostRuth Marcus |Washington Post | Another cascade of security failures
LA TimesLA Times | Politics and the no-fly list
Wall Street JournalHolman W Jenkins Jr | Wall St Journal | Two cheers for airport security
Chicago TribuneChicago Tribune | We got lucky
Daily BeastMichael Chertoff | Daily Beast | Letting Down Our Guard
USA TodayJanet Napolitano | USA Today | US will 'find and fix' vulnerabilities
Christian Science MonitorPatrik Jonsson | Christian Science Monitor | Christmas Day attack
FiredoglakeDavid Dayen | Firedoglake | Casualties Of War

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