CIA Sat on Underwear Bomber Report: Blame Game Erupts
December 30, 2009
(ChattahBox)—CNN reported on Tuesday that the Central Intelligence Agency prepared a report in November on the Flight 253 bomber, which was sent to headquarters in Langley, Virginia where it sat for five-weeks without being shared with other agencies. The failure of security agencies to share information was a systemic failure found by the 9/11 Commission Report, and it seems the problem remains. And soon after President Obama’s speech yesterday blaming the botched “terrorist attack on “human and systemic failures,” the unnamed and “reliable” sources came out of the woodwork to engage in the bureaucratic blame game and it appears that the CIA drew the short straw. But “systemic failures,” and turf battles only ensure that the American public continues to come out on the losing end.
According to CNN’s Jeanne Meserve, the father of the Christmas bomber Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, spoke to a CIA official with the Nigerian embassy about the concerns he had with his son’s disappearance, extremists views and ties to radicals in Yemen. The father, a former Nigerian banker, met with embassy officials at least once and also made several phone calls. A report was created on AbdulMutallab; the 23-year-old Nigerian and delivered to CIA headquarters, but the full contents of the report was not disseminated to other agencies, according to a source.
However, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly pushed back against the claim that the CIA sat on information that could have prevented the attempted bombing:
“State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said department staff did what they were supposed to have done by sending a cable to the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington about the matter. Kelly said any decision to have revoked the suspect’s visa would have been an interagency decision.”
The cable reportedly contained AbdulMutallab’s name, passport number and possible connection to extremists. “I’m not aware of a magic piece of intelligence somehow withheld that would have put AbdulMutallab on the no-fly list,” an official told CNN.
The National Counterterrorism Center claims that the CIA cable contained nothing that would have alerted officials to place AbdulMutallab on the no fly list. Out of hundreds of alerts the Counterterrorism Center receives each day, the cable on the Nigerian Christmas bomber apparently did not raise a red flag.
President Obama said on Tuesday that a red flag should have been raised. “Even without this one report, there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together, said Obama.
CBS News reported that as far back as August 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.” CIA officials did not connect the information to the “underwear bomber” Abudulmutallab, until after the attempted bombing of Flight 253, with about 3 ounces of a powerful explosive hidde inside a pair of specially-made underwear.
Obama believes that had the full CIA report been shared with other agencies, the Nigerian bomber may have, at the very least, been given greater scrutiny that may have prevented the 23-year-old terrorist from boarding the plane in Amsterdam bound for the United States:
“Had this critical information been shared, it could been compiled with other intelligence, and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags, and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America,” said Obama in his speech delivered from his vacation in Hawaii.
The CIA issued a statement to CBS news acknowledging that the full report was not shared:
“We learned of him in November, when his father came to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and sought help in finding him. We did not have his name before then,” said Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman. “Also in November, we worked with the embassy to ensure he was in the government’s terrorist database – including mention of his possible extremist connections in Yemen. We also forwarded key biographical information about him to the National Counterterrorism Center. This agency, like others in our government, is reviewing all data to which it had access – not just what we ourselves may have collected – to determine if more could have been done to stop Abdulmutallab.”
Meanwhile, Obama ordered federal reviews of the security lapses surrounding the incident and asked for a preliminary report to be delivered to him on Thursday. Obama also ordered a new plan be prepared for strengthening airport screening.
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