Intelligence summit at the White House
President Obama will announce new measures Tuesday meant to strengthen airline security after an alleged terrorist attempt to destroy a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.
Fresh off a Hawaiian vacation dominated by news of the incident, Obama scheduled a meeting Tuesday afternoon with high-ranking government officials charged with carrying out two reviews he ordered after the failed attack -- on screening for air travel and on the U.S. terror watchlist system.
Obama will outline his findings for the public after the meeting to which 20 officials were invited, as well as a series of new steps to improve the watchlists and thwart future terrorist attacks, the White House said.
The Transportation Security Administration already has directed airlines, effective Monday, to give full-body, pat-down searches to U.S.-bound travelers from Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and 11 other countries.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, CIA Director Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller were among those expected to meet with Obama in the White House Situation Room.
Attorney General Eric Holder; Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence; Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center; national security adviser James Jones, and John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser, also were to attend.
Obama will get updates on the investigation from Mueller, on the prosecution from Holder and on the review of terrorist detection techniques from Napolitano. Brennan will update the president on his own review of the system of watchlists and outline his initial findings. Agency heads will comment on their internal reviews.
I'll say it only because it's the most obvious quest. As president, when was Barry going to actually take note of the fact a terrorist attack had been launched on the US, and thanks only to observant passengers and airline crew was it avoided? We know Barry's been living it up, living the high life and vacationing in Hawaii, but as the president when something like this goes down the last thing people want to see is a man more concerned with his golf game than with the security of the nation.
Unlike the Left who screamed to high heaven that President Bush didn't jump up and scare the beejeezus out of the kids he was visiting in Florida on 11 September, I'm not going to do that. But as readers know, and will attest to, national security and intelligence issues are the ones I care about the most. Unlike the Left, I recognize there are people who want to hurt this nation in ways that even the wildest imaginations couldn't possibly comprehend. Up until 11 September 2001, our "vaunted" intelligence services could never imagine using an airliner as a missile; this despite the foiled terrorist plot in 1995 known as "Operation: Bojinka" cooked up by Ramzi Yousef:
Yousef's primary target was up a dozen transpacific airliners. Plotters would sneak bomb parts and liquid explosives onto planes and assemble the bombs while on board. They would get off at an intermediate stop and leave the bombs to explode via timers while en route to their final destination in the United States. This appears to be the most mature part of Bojinka: Specific flights were targeted, and Yousef himself performed a "test run" on a Philippines Airlines flight to Tokyo that left one man dead. This aspect of the plot is similar to the transatlantic airliners plot disrupted by British authorities in 2006.
Other targets included Pope John Paul II and President Clinton during separate visits to Manila; the U.S. Consular Office in Karachi, Pakistan; nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom, France and the United States; U.S. cargo planes; and CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia.
Hakim Murad proposed crashing a hijacked airliner into the building. It is thought this may be the inspiration for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and 9-11.
This plot was the immediate precursor to 11 September. The CIA, is tasked with gathering, analyzing, and utilizing intelligence gathered to avoid this sort of foreign attack. They failed then, and this time around, they failed to catch this attack. Instead, as Captain Ed Morrissey notes, the CIA has been busy, literally, watching the ice melt and refreeze because some numbskull decided that was more important than watching our enemies:
The nation’s top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government’s intelligence assets — including spy satellites and other classified sensors — to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change. They seek insights from natural phenomena like clouds and glaciers, deserts and tropical forests.
The collaboration restarts an effort the Bush administration shut down and has the strong backing of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the last year, as part of the effort, the collaborators have scrutinized images of Arctic sea ice from reconnaissance satellites in an effort to distinguish things like summer melts from climate trends, and they have had images of the ice pack declassified to speed the scientific analysis. …
The monitoring program has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering, federal officials said, but instead releases secret information already collected or takes advantage of opportunities to record environmental data when classified sensors are otherwise idle or passing over wilderness.
Secrecy cloaks the monitoring effort, as well as the nation’s intelligence work, because the United States wants to keep foes and potential enemies in the dark about the abilities of its spy satellites and other sensors. The images that the scientific group has had declassified, for instance, have had their sharpness reduced to hide the abilities of the reconnaissance satellites.
Controversy has often dogged the use of federal intelligence gear for environmental monitoring. In October, days after the C.I.A. opened a small unit to assess the security implications of climate change, Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, said the agency should be fighting terrorists, “not spying on sea lions.”
Now, with the intelligence world under fire after the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day, and with the monitoring program becoming more widely known, such criticism seems likely to grow.
Captain Ed assesses this insanity:
Gee, you think?
The CIA has a specific mission, which is to gather intelligence to enhance American national security and to conduct covert operations against our enemies. Right now, we are at war in Afghanistan and attempting to defeat a resilient network of terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen. The latter network came within a reliable detonator of killing hundreds of people and wreaking havoc on our transportation system — again.
The CIA and the State Department managed to fumble the data that would have prevented the bomber from getting on the plane. Eight years after 9/11 and four years after a massive reorganization of the intelligence community, we are no better at connecting dots to stop an AQ attack, and no better at communication of critical information. Maybe — just maybe — the CIA and its political-hack director should be more focused on its mission than on watching ice melt, or freeze, depending on the time of year.
I couldn't agree more with Captain Ed. WE have executive level branches that can deal with climate change, or the lack thereof. This isn't in the CIA's purview. Our intelligence agencies are designed for one purpose -- protecting this nation from attack. The sea lions and polar bears are planning squat against this nation, but Muslim radicals are. There have been thirteen separate attacks since Barry was inaugurated, and while all but one (the recent bombing in Afghanistan that targeted CIA officers) was thwarted, the fact remains that these people want this nation bloodied if not destroyed.
11 September did considerable damage to the nation, and not just in the loss of life. New York was permanently scarred by these animals, and were it not for the brave passengers on United 93, that plane could have been targeted at the White House or Congress. Imagine the impact had those animals succeeded in decapitating, or at the very least, maiming the federal government. (Yes. President Bush was in Florida, but Vice President Cheney wasn't, and neither was the president's national security council. 11 September was an act of war, and without his key advisers, President Bush would've had to start from scratch in our response.)
I have nothing but contempt for Barry's lack of interest or attention in this recent, thwarted attack. Were I the president, there would be heads that rolled in this summit. Janet "Incompetano" Napolitano and Leon Panetta would be the first ones to hand in their resignations. They BOTH dropped the ball on this vital, national security issue. Napolitano stated that "the system worked", and she has concerned herself more with an ongoing grudge with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the 287(g) program than with doing her job as DHS secretary. Panetta displayed some kishkas earlier this year in condemning the White House's "war" on CIA interrogators, but hasn't been much help to the CIA since. Both of these people didn't do their job, and they very nearly allowed a terrorist attack to succeed with their utter incompetence.
Will heads roll? With those who caused this failure to be held to account? Not bloody likely. Barry's going to assess his options (including the possible political fallout), and move on to whitewash the failure that we've witnessed. He'll talk to the nation today, and claim they've made the necessary adjustments to prevent further attacks. But when the next one comes down, and make no mistake that it will, the public will be screaming for heads on a platter, and Barry will be forced to act. It's smarter now to let those heads roll, and order that tougher restrictions on airport/airline security be implemented at once. He might want to take a page from how El Al handles security. Yeah, it may be somewhat extreme in some people's eyes, but they haven't had a successful attack in Israel via an airliner since they implemented their security measures.
Security is necessary and without it we're going to be hit again. Our intelligence agencies need some serious reform, and it all starts with the main focus of their mission. It's to protect this nation, not play political games and look busy.