The system didn’t work, and neither did the spin

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano finally admitted today what she should have said yesterday — that the “system” failed to prevent a 23-year-old Nigerian man from trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet as it prepared to land in Detroit on Christmas Day.

Napolitano’s remark Sunday on CNN that “the system worked” came off as another tin-ear moment in the still-short history of the Obama administration, given that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reportedly received a U.S. visa and boarded the flight despite his being listed in a database of people suspected of having ties to terrorists.

As she backtracked, however, Napolitano invoked the ever-handy “taken out of context” excuse for her earlier comment. Well, let’s take a look at the context of her remark to CNN host Candy Crowley:

CROWLEY: So, just to finish up on the question– I do want to talk to you about security measures — but do you think — has there been any evidence of the Al Qaida ties that this suspect has been claiming?

NAPOLITANO: Right now, that is part of the criminal justice investigation that is ongoing, and I think it would be inappropriate to speculate as to whether or not he has such ties.

What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel. And one thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated.

So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.

So, Napolitano was responding to a question about Abdulmutallab’s ties to al Qaida when she tacked on the line about follow-up measures; you might say she went “out of the context” of the interview. In fact, there had been zero mention in the entire segment about follow-up measures, only reporting about the suspect, his past and how he came to be on that flight.

This isn’t surprising in an age where media handlers coach interviewees to emphasize the two or three points they really want to make, regardless of the questions they’re asked. But it is a pretty transparent attempt by Napolitano to spin the story away from the real system failures — suspicious guy gets a visa and boards an airplane with bomb materials in spite of security measures and doesn’t succeed only because, as in some other attempted terror attacks, the explosives didn’t work properly — to the comparatively less important follow-up measures once that breach of security had taken place.

Even as spin goes, it’s pretty shameless.

57 comments Add your comment

Steve

December 28th, 2009
2:07 pm

lmno

December 28th, 2009
2:11 pm

It reads that she meant that the system of notifying all inflight airplanes of the event worked. Not that the system of keeping terrorists off of planes worked.

Kind of like if your house is burglarized and the guy gets away with your money, however, the alarm company did notify the police who responded accordingly, you might say that the system worked.

Steve

December 28th, 2009
2:14 pm

You are correct when pointing out this entire incident turned out well for those passengers only because the bomb did not work properly.

lmno

December 28th, 2009
2:27 pm

The last sentence she spoke on it clearly indicates that she was referring to the response system, rather than the screening system when she states that it worked.

“So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.”

The issue of how the fellow was able to board a plane with the explosives is not to what she is referring.

Kyle Wingfield

December 28th, 2009
2:40 pm

You’re right — just as I said, that’s the system she was talking about. But why was she talking about it, unprompted, when the “system” that everyone wants to know about is the one that should have kept this guy off the plane in the first place?

Andy

December 28th, 2009
2:41 pm

Funny how Republicans blame the Obama administrations for a process that was put in place by the Bush administration. If the Obama administration had tried to make improvements to the security system, how many Republicans would be howling at the top of their lungs that the Obama administration was trying to fix a system that worked fine the previous eight years.

Why can’t you you simply recognize that everything will not always work perfectly, that every system put in place in somehow flawed, and just fix it?

Kyle Wingfield

December 28th, 2009
2:55 pm

Believe that if you want, Andy, but I think a solid majority of Republicans would have supported the president if he’d said he was tightening visa and travel restrictions for foreign nationals suspected of having ties to terrorists.

When the father of the suspect has reported his own son as having possibly been radicalized and nothing is done about it, then something is wrong. You can’t prevent everything, but given what we know so far this seems fairly preventable.

lmno

December 28th, 2009
3:03 pm

“But why was she talking about it, unprompted, when the “system” that everyone wants to know about is the one that should have kept this guy off the plane in the first place?”

Because she was trying to accentuate the positives.

As far as the other system, the one that should have kept the man from the plane, it obviously failed.

It would be interesting to know how many “warnings” the homeland security gets about would-be terrorists and if they have the resources to actually do anything about all of them.

Cutty

December 28th, 2009
3:11 pm

Anyone remember, “Osama bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.”

Same thing if you ask me. This guy’s father warned the U.S. Embassy, and Bush got a Presidential Daily Briefing. Both failed to act on the information given to them.

samuel

December 28th, 2009
3:17 pm

The flight originated in Amsterdam, and I don’t know the level of coordination between U.S. and Dutch authorities, or the level of cooperation between them and Delta/Northwest, but to blame this solely on the Obama administration is silly. There are 550,000 people on the watch list, and there’s no way to track that many people around the world with perfect coordination. I have bought international plane tickets with cash, just as the suspect did. I have also flown into and out of both London (Heathrow) and Amsterdam (Schiphol). If you know how many people from all over the world fly through these two airports, you would know how difficult it is to track any suspected terrorists. Also, no airport I can think of has full body scanners, which may have prevented this man from boarding in the first place. The cost for any government, be it the U.S., Dutch, French or British government, would be prohibitive.

Chris Broe

December 28th, 2009
3:28 pm

Were the details in the recently-leaked “Passenger Screening Guide” helping Al Queda here? Are we paying the price for the cyber-stupidity here?

Another question is how many parents have reported a radicalized son? The terrorist watch list is very large. (500K+ names) Why? What is the criteria? What are the plane ticket-purchasing and boarding-procedural consequences for being on the list? Why doesn’t anyone know anything?

Is it time to dismantle the Patriot Act? The Luck Act seems to be working better.

JinTX

December 28th, 2009
3:29 pm

Call me goofy – but isn’t 60-90 minutes for notification to other flights a LIFETIME considering the orchestrated attacks 9/11?

Howard

December 28th, 2009
3:31 pm

Kyle…we used the Amsterdam Airport 10 days ago on our way back to USA, via Paris…and we were searched thoroughly and the security was tight. How did this clown get through?? As for Janet Napolitano and Obama…these far-left nitwits don’t have a clue how to protect us. Let’s see…BH Obama has been in office less than a year and we’ve been hit twice by Muslim terrorists…one was successful…see Ft. Hood. The other failed…because brave people reacted and didn’t take time to read Miranda rights or ensure the poor man’s self-esteem weren’t being hurt or ask him why he was doing what he was doing! The media spun the Ft. Hood massacres away and I’m sure that Obama and his lackeys at NBC, AP, CNN, etc., will soon have this one under control also. Of course they will determine he acted alone and was a nut case and such…mark my words, another attack like 9-11 is coming…one Obama and his stooges won’t be able to explain away. Then maybe we can start calling a terrorist a terrorist and a war on terror a war!! This country is in more danger, from this administration, than at any other time in its history. Forget Al-Qeida…the biggest hreat to the USA is the Democrat Party and its exhalted and high mystic ruler…Barack Hussein Obama!!

Drifter

December 28th, 2009
3:33 pm

The system failed because the policies are flawed (both Bush and Obama share equally in the ineffectiveness). If you want to know how to prevent things like this, take a look at what the Israelis do. We screen for bad things. They screen for bad people. If you keep the bad people off your planes, it doesn’t matter what they bring with them.

Chris

December 28th, 2009
3:40 pm

Howard– This clown got through security in Amsterdam because the ACLU will not allow the newer body-imaging scanners to be used. These scanners would have showed the explosives on his body. Amsterdam has them and uses them for all flights EXCEPT those to the U.S.

MUSTANG100

December 28th, 2009
3:43 pm

Obama is in charge. The responsibility for our safety stops there, as so many millions have pointed out concerning Bush and 9/11, even on here w/ Andy’s lame excuse.

Intown Lib

December 28th, 2009
3:43 pm

Hooray for the Dutch passenger that took this guy down!

One tired American

December 28th, 2009
4:02 pm

Once again, Americans have only themselves to blame for this dangerous circus. You had to have Obama’s brand of change or at least what he spouted in his silver-tongue rhetoric.We should have seen this kind of activity coming when the Adminstration and DOD allowed a Muslim fanatic to stay in the military until he killed decent soldiers serving their country. We are in a mess, people and I am afraid the incompetence we know as our current president spells open season for Americans at home and abroad. I just he could do more than read lofty speeches and fly all over the world.

Don

December 28th, 2009
4:02 pm

OBAM is the weakest ,poorest excuse for a man that I have ever seen.Congress runs him and not the other way around and we all know what they want..More Pork projects,that the american people will be paying for on top of this depression were in..seems to me if he tried half as hard to create jobs and put folks back to work as he is in forcing health care down our throats,I mean isnt that what a president does? His job is to keep jobs here in our country and to help create others..If all were paid a fair wage for a decent days work ,then we wouldnt need their handouts ,so they could have their control over us

DannyX

December 28th, 2009
4:09 pm

According to the Republican playbook Obama should now be making plans to invade a country that had nothing to do with this failed act of terrorism, that is right after he finishes reading My Pet Goat.

samuel

December 28th, 2009
4:12 pm

Chris @ 3:40, are you sure Schiphol has full body scanners that they use for all flights except ones coming to the U.S.? I’ve flown into and out of that airport, as well as Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, Madrid and Barcelona since September 11, 2001 and never encountered a full body scanner. Is it because I’m a U.S. citizen and/ or bound for the U.S., or because most of these airports simply don’t have them?

DannyX

December 28th, 2009
4:14 pm

The ACLU!!! Comedy gold!!!

The ACLU is now in charge of foreign airports!!

Keep em coming!

Uncle Joe Liberty

December 28th, 2009
4:16 pm

We are currently ruled by a bunch of self-seeking, self-loving nincompoops, who have no idea of how to run a country. Of course they don’t want to admit this, so they blather on about “ongoing criminal justice investigations” and “air environment” safety. Gee, I’m really impressed at such great eloquence, poise and completely ineffectual nonsense.

In a time when one man with a box cutter is a weapon of mass destruction, I am sensitive to quickly blaming anyone for incompetance. But I am not sympathetic to stupid ideas like civilian trials for international terrorists, moving Gitmo to Illinois, outlawing racial profiling, making celebrities and White House guests of our own terrorists, being uncomfortable with the term “victory”, and treating Mohammedanism as a religion of peace.

This President, Congress, media lackeys and to a large extent, judicial system, have dug our graves. Shall we just jump in?

My heart-felt thanks and indebtedness to the heroes on the Detroit flight who were prepared to lose their own lives, if necessary, to save others. Would our leaders do the same?

Scared in America

December 28th, 2009
4:23 pm

Well, have we read him his rights? Given him a civil trial date? Planned a parade in his honor? That’s what we do now for terrorists, right? Our government acts like we are are a bunch of clueless morons. Good for the passengers who held him down. They should have taken him off the airplane with the explosives strapped to him and put him a field and blown him up. Our terrorists are given nice meals, a nice place to live and security knowing our president will protect them. I’m so scared…

jconservative

December 28th, 2009
4:33 pm

We had 37,313 Americans killed in 2008, not by terrorists, but by other Americans in highways accidents. So the guy blows up the plane & 278 get killed, that is 37,035 less than were killed on US highways in 2008.

Somehow we have gotten our priorities screwed up. OR, are we saying that if we kill them it is OK, just don’t let a bunch of foreigners kill them?

We need to get off of the terrorist bandwagon. We are playing right into their hands. We have been under attack from some type of terrorists since the 1960’s. Learn to live with it. And we have done a pretty good job of handling the threat. But there will be the occasional 9-11, the occasional “shoe bomber” and the occasional McVeigh. But terrorism is NOT the most important item on our national plate. And playing politics with terrorism makes it a bigger deal than it needs to be.

DannyX

December 28th, 2009
4:33 pm

Or, Scared in America, we could just release him.

You know, like President Bush did with mass murderer Osama Bin Laden at Tora Bora.

Of course allowing Bin Laden to walk allowed this last act to take place. Yes, our glorious Republicans are going to keep us safe at night.

Republican style clemency for the Nigerian bomber? Lets hope not.

Melissa's Mom

December 28th, 2009
4:36 pm

Say what you will about George Bush, but we didn’t have another terrorist attack in the US after 911 on his watch. Obama’s been in office a year and so far we’ve had 2, the Fort Hood massacre and this recent botched attempt. If this last terrorist had been successful and a planeload of people had been blown up, what excuse would you use then? What if Janet Napolitano had said what she said after 911, that the system worked – after the fact? Would you have been so charitable towards her?

The problem is, liberals are tolerant of terrorists, whom they consider just another country’s “freedom fighters”. Please just admit – you are wrong!

Lulu

December 28th, 2009
4:42 pm

The facts as reported by the media (their job) spoke for themselves and only the brain dead would listen to words from people paid hefty salaries to attempt to excuse themselves from performing their job. Taxpayers pay an obscene amount of money and endure all manner of indignities/ inconveniences in an effort to be safe when traveling. There is no excuse for such failure and we have a right to expect that the Home Security people have some serious replacements from top to bottom and a thorough improvement in enforcement of proceedures already in place.

DannyX

December 28th, 2009
4:42 pm

You see Melissa mom, you can say things like that all you want. Actions speak louder than words.

The facts are, Bush allowed Bin Laden to escape. He then diverted our resources to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq. While in Iraq we totally ignored the place where this mess started Afghanistan.

When you have more than pretendland talking points just admit…….You are the one that is wrong. History will not be kind to the Republican response to 9-11.

Melissa's Mom

December 28th, 2009
4:44 pm

Dannyx, wasn’t it President Clinton who told the military, who had Bin Laden in their sights, to let him go? Wasn’t Bin Laden responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing that didn’t bring down the whole building? Boy, talk about a missed opportunity! If Clinton had acted, we may never have had 911.

DannyX

December 28th, 2009
4:48 pm

Melissa, you’re playing a he did that first game.

Your whole argument is that the Republicans are going to keep us more safe!! Which as I pointed out is absurd!

Melissa's Mom

December 28th, 2009
4:54 pm

Dannyx, let’s just say Republicans aren’t afraid to use profiling when it comes to screening prospective terrorists, which totally makes sense to me. I would like to see more common sense, instead of trying to be politically correct.

Enough of this! I’m going to read about Tiger partying with his mistress now. Have a nice night!

samuel

December 28th, 2009
4:59 pm

Before the first Gulf War, Muslim terrorists had never launched an attack inside the U.S. Since then, they have tried repeatedly. Why do people think that is? It’s because Muslims were angered by U.S. forces, and especially planes, going into a Muslim country and killing Muslims in a “war” we had no business being involved in. If we had given it more time, the same forces (like the Mujahadeen) that fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan would have risen up to fight Sadaam Hussein. The second Gulf War started, in large part, because of Dick Cheney’s paranoid assumption that Sadaam had something to do with September 11, 2001. It’s been 2 or 3 years now since he was executed, and I don’t think the Bush administration would have allowed Sadaam to be executed if they thought he had any knowledge of September 11 without divulging it. So, the blame for the repeated attacks falls on both Presidents Bush.

Mike Hunt

December 28th, 2009
5:19 pm

The issue is national security, not democrats vs. republicans. It doesn’t take much effort to find fault with either political party. The governmental agencies responsible for national security continue to commit the same errors that contributed to the 9/11 terror attacks. Lack of coordination, information not transferred appropriately between agencies and general ineptitude in handling of critical security data. The entire premise of this article is a farce.

WC

December 28th, 2009
5:47 pm

Lets give credit where credit is due. It was the passengers and the flight attendants that probably stopped this tradgedy from occuring. Good Job guys. It seems like we are on the front line and the last layer of defense.

dewstarpath

December 28th, 2009
5:56 pm

- jconservative – 4:33 pm

- Great post. You hit the point of priorities
in 21st century America (and what we need to fix)
dead center. We need to get our OWN house in order
first.

dewstarpath

December 28th, 2009
6:01 pm

- Counterterrorism programs are still relevant.
Even though there are problems at home, those
programs should and will continue.

DebbieDoRight

December 28th, 2009
7:16 pm

Oh NO!! Someone, somewhere, hundreds and thousands of miles away from American on someone else’s soil did something HORRIBLE!! IT’S OBAMA’S FAULT!!! The guy at Ft. Hood, who’d been in the military since 1998 (During Dumbya’s reign), shot up a lot of people, IT’S OBAMA’s FAULT!!! Yesterday, while walking towards the bank, a man slipped and fell because his shoes were untied, IT’S OBAMA’s FAULT!!! Tomorrow, if it rains and sleets & hail, IT’s OBAMA’s FAULT!! He shouldn’t be on vacation!!! He shouldn’t be talking!!! He shoulden’t be sleeping!!! He shouldn’t be eating!!! He should do as the ignorant, illiterates (aka — Faux News watchers), tells him to do!! They know everything……………………..

Andy

December 28th, 2009
7:33 pm

Lots of politicians claimed that because no terrorist act occurred in the U.S., then DHS must be doing something right. With so many possible points of failure in our security systems, maybe the answer is that it wasn’t skill that prevented a terrorist incident but luck.

The same security system that was in place during the Bush administration suddenly fails, and it is Obams’s fault? Instead of pointing fingers at democrats for the failure, maybe you should just figure out how to make things work better. But republicans seem incapable of figuring out how to make that happen.

I am an independent; I think for myself; perhaps some on this board should do the same, and stop assuming that I am something that I am not.

Honest Broker

December 28th, 2009
8:18 pm

When dealing with these type of matters, you can either be preemptive or reactive. If you are preemptive terrorists die. If you are reactive, Americans die. The question is which methodology do you prefer? I believe the Democrats prefer the reactive (terrorism is a crime) approach.

Michael H. Smith

December 28th, 2009
8:48 pm

Guess this means we can all go back to calling terrorism, terrorism, instead of referring to terrorism as “acts of man made disaster”.

Um… how’s that enemy combatant boot licking, apologizing to the world for America and “Political Correctness” working out for you now, Liberals?

Whether we wanted this war or not, by now it should be clear even to the most ardent of left-wing bet-wetting liberals alive today that this is just one of those such unavoidable wars which must be fought I spoke of in rebuff to the “justifiable war”. Let’s hope this shocks Obumer and the left-wing MSNBC MSDNC crowd into sobriety: American’s kindness has often been mistaken for weakness.

Weakness is an invitation to war.

Repukes and DummyCrats are ALL Scum

December 28th, 2009
9:19 pm

Flying is becoming an ordeal of stupidity…the new rules treat passengers as children. 100% of terrorist attacks since 9/11 in America have been by muslins with brown or black skin. Why is the utterly stupid government wasting time and effort making white people remove their shoes and panties, and sit for the last hour of flight with their hands on their knee’s, and chant “Obama is Great”? Fire Big Sis now, and everyone else at TSA, they are all idiots.

DannyX

December 28th, 2009
9:20 pm

Michael A Smith is right!!

It seems that, I’m not making this up folks, two of the masterminds behind the plot to blow up that Detroit bound plane were released from Guantanamo and sent back to Saudi Arabia to get this, enter an “art therapy rehabilitation program.”

Um… how’s that enemy combatant boot licking, apologizing to the world for America and “Political Correctness” working out for you now, Liberals?

WHOOPS SORRY…. Those two terrorists were released in November of 2007. That would have been on Bush’s watch.

Never mind.

Art therapy! Lol!

Michael H. Smith

December 28th, 2009
11:08 pm

Oh wow, Bush! Gee, you would think by now the X kooks would be over Mr. open borders Bush.
Funny, how anytime conservatives rise the roof about securing borders, fixing a for too lax broken visa system they all cry ani-immigrant.

Spare me the Bush remorse please. Obumer is the open borders clown now in command and this his watch.

So um… now how are things working out Liberals?

deborahinAthens

December 29th, 2009
6:58 am

You guys are so funny. What on earth does Obama have to do with the failings of the Dutch transportation authorities? You can’t see the forest for the trees. If Bush had truly gone after the terrorists (using international police procedures–which have almost always worked) instead of being a pip-squeak John Wayne and making war on people that had nothing to do with 9/11 we would not be in this mess. How many times do you have to be told…15 of the 19 terrorists on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia. Why did he invade Iraq for God’s sake? Not only that, but a couple of years later when the Saudi king was visiting the White House, Bush kissed him! Kyle, why don’t you right-wingers ever, ever address this issue?

Jimmy62

December 29th, 2009
7:22 am

The people running around saying we have to be politically correct and not profile are partially to blame for this. It’s the PC attitude that allows a guy who’s own father warned us about him on to an airplane. And it’s NOT Republicans driving PC attitudes. Whatever you might want to say about Republicans, they sure as hell aren’t ignoring the fact that the vast majority of terrorists these days are Muslim and have names like Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

December 29th, 2009
8:06 am

We would all agree that President Hussein could immediately implement an effective profiling policy to specially screen followers of Mohammed. The new system would not need to be nearly so intrusive, and could focus on all passengers from Islamic countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Simply ask each passenger if they agree that Islam is a fraud. Those who disagree would be subject to screening.

Horrible Horace

December 29th, 2009
8:16 am

Just more evidence that the kenyan and his administration are pretty much shameless and stupid.

Horrible Horace

December 29th, 2009
8:19 am

DannyX

December 28th, 2009
4:48 pm

Get a job or atleast do something postive, like working with lepers.

Lil' Barry Bailout

December 29th, 2009
8:49 am

The Homeland Security chief say’s “the system worked”. The president says the bomber is an “isolated extremist”. Both of these idiots should lose their jobs ASAP–they’re simply incompetent.