A Counterproductive Congress; The Christmas-Day Incident Transforms Into Partisan Bickering
Over the last week, Democrats and Republicans have engaged in their usual bantering about who should be blamed for last December’s terrorist screw-up. Some Congressional Republicans are lobbying for the firing of Secretary Janet Napolitano, citing her controversial comments after the failed attack that the system was actually working.
Other hardline Republicans in the House and the Senate have decided to turn the “underpants bomber” into a political issue designed to discredit the Obama White House. In fact, a number of neoconservative commentators have gone so far as to use the Christmas Day incident as an anti-Obama campaign; a movement trying to brand the President as a leader with no understanding of the terrorist threat. Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post- among others- is an example of the quintessential partisan opportunist. Of course, we should not be surprised that this is occurring; people like Krauthammer have been doing this for years against their political opponents.
For one, I –like most Americans across the country- have become sick and tired of all the finger-pointing. Blaming people for the screw-up- even if these people are in charge of counterterrorism operations- does nothing but distract the country from the real problem.
I realize that people are upset, especially those people aboard Flight 253 who were so close to becoming the victims of a coordinated terrorist attack. And they have a right to be; there is no excuse for a failure to “connect-the-dots,” especially when the CIA, NCTC, and the Director of National Intelligence possessed important information about the “underpants bomber” weeks prior to the confrontation.
But let’s place a realistic perspective into the equation; placing blame on one person (regardless of whether the person is part of the CIA or the NCTC) will not fix the problem.
The intelligence breach that resulted in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempted terrorist attack is a “systemic failure,” as the President has said all week-long. Therefore, this problem will only be resolved through a “systemic solution;” steps that will actually improve and speed-up information sharing between intelligence agencies in all levels and in all clearances. And from the new security measures that are now being outlined by the White House, it may be safe to speculate that this is exactly what is happening.
Can anyone here honestly argue that firing DHS Director Napolitano or NCTC Director Leiter will produce a new era of Enlightenment in U.S. intelligence? If anything, the firings would put more fuel on an otherwise heated fire. For a story that is already grabbing front-page headlines from the New York Times and CNN, the White House would be smart to not make a decision that could potentially inflame the security-issue further. This would only be a disturbance from what really needs to be accomplished; a thorough review and effective reform within the entire U.S. intelligence system.
From what I can gather, history has verified that removing a single director rarely gets anything done in the long-run (the hiring of Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the exception). It may be a quick fix and something that Americans want, but it would not address the holes that we really ought to plug.
-Daniel R. DePetris
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