Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

A Counterproductive Congress; The Christmas-Day Incident Transforms Into Partisan Bickering

Posted in United States by Dan on January 9, 2010

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

Follow me at http://www.twitter.com/mideastblogger


8 Responses

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  1. wlockridge said, on January 9, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Taking the blame is all well and good, noble even, but it doesn’t matter at whose desk the buck stops. It matters what they do with it after it stops there. So far the King has done a lot of talking and issued a few proclamations but that’s about it. I think I’ll reserve judgement until I see something actually happen. Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you and this fellow has been fooling us for quite a while now.

  2. david1159 said, on January 9, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Somebody must resign. Who it doesn’t matter, draw straws if you must. A systemic error occured on your watch and no matter how much you would like to blame the Bush administration for it the simple fact is that this has been under your watch for almost 12 months and very little has been done about. This leaves President Obama sholduring the event. It is nice to hear a president saying that the buck stops here but somewhere before him the buck broke. Somebody must fall on their sword or all the blame will go to Obama and his political enemies will have a field day.

  3. drywaller4u said, on January 9, 2010 at 12:06 am

    With as many attempts that I am sure that has been tried, we are in good shape. These issues that are so over exposed on the anti-Obama phenomenon. I am not saying that all is good on the western front, but we have been so protected that it is ridiculous to keep pounding on this same subject after the President already told us what he was going to do. To connect or not to connect, it will be addressed but everyone needs to know that all that is possible to keep us safe is being done. We live in a different era now, we are finally solving all the issues left to us by bush, so all is well and getting better.

  4. MarkMontgomery said, on January 9, 2010 at 12:06 am

    No comments anywhere — in any media I have seen yet, that focuses on the enterprise and organizational architecture that obviously prevents accountability of any individual in the system.

    I submitted an op ed to the Washington Post that was rejected — 10 minutes after an email with a very senior strategists in the military who attempted to convince me that I should focus the piece on crises prevention in the private sector rather than intel. Hopefully just another coincidence, but the mathematical probability is getting too high for the string to be coincidental over time, and I can hardly be considered anything other than a 50 year old, solid, credible source — they don’t get any more credible.

    The NSA does indeed have enormous volumes of data — they have the real challenge with GIGO. The no fly list volume is much smaller than any of dozens of semantic enterprise data sets in common use on the web today. Thousands of data bits per day with such enormous red flags is not at all a challenge.

    The President appears to have been duped. So has the media been. The question is what happened to critical, informed, independent journalism?

  5. some_random_guy said, on January 9, 2010 at 12:07 am

    This isn’t the first time Obama “took responsibility” for something, and I have no doubt that like every other time.. he’ll end up blaming everything on somebody else. It’s how he works.

    Obama was apathetic, at best, about national security up till this point. And he filled key positions with people even more worthless than he is. The Obama administration’s incompetence certainly should get a critical look in regards to this fiasco.

  6. RealAmerican2009 said, on January 9, 2010 at 12:07 am

    If doing nothing is a failure, then OBAMA is at fault. Talking accomplishes nothing on its own, talking must be accompanied by proper actions. OBAMA has not done anything, only talk a “good”, and deceitful, game.

  7. sjlaw123 said, on January 9, 2010 at 12:07 am

    RealAmerican2009 and some_random_guy,

    Please elaborate on Obama doing nothing about national security issues. There have been several foiled terror plots this year including one today in New York. He has created a division that concentrates on cyber security, which is a real threat that’s goes under reported by the media. He has merged the foreign and domestic arms of is national security team to take on threats that often overlap each other. He has stepped up the efforts to curb nuclear proliferation by negotiating larges cuts in stockpiles with nuclear countries and setting targets for a nuclear free world. He has focused the previously neglected Afghan war efforts on the AfPak border region by stepping up drone attack, outnumbering the amount of attacks by the Bush Administration and going for the heart of al Qaeda. He has acknowledged that global warming is a threat to our national security and is laying the foundation for a green economy. A green economy eliminates another threat: foreign oil. And regardless if you believe in the human role in global warming, the climate is changing and countries like America who wont be effected as negatively will be overrun with refugees looking for a suitable place to live. He followed the recommendations of the military and intelligence community by closing GITMO, denouncing torture and helping to restore America’s status in the world. I can go on and on. All of this before the Christmas Day attack.

    Just because the media has been wrapped up in health care/economy debate doesn’t mean national security just stopped. There are thousands of men and women who put it on the line 24/7 to protect us; I think they would be upset to know that you think they’re not working hard as hell.

  8. whitehawk said, on January 9, 2010 at 12:08 am

    I don’t believe anything Obama says and the follow explains why

    What are we up Against?’


    What are we up Against?” That is the title to this two man roundtable that took place in November at Restoration Weekend. Two very bright guys, Democrat Pollster Pat Caddell and writer David Horowitz talk about the Democrat Party and the condition of our nation. Caddell worked for Democratic presidential candidates George McGovern 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, Gary Hart in 1984, Joe Biden in 1988, and Jerry Brown in 1992. Most AT readers know Horowitz well.

    The two spend some time going into “the shadow party Democrats.” And Horowitz even thinks there is some good news in that we may be at the beginning of a kind of “Great Awakening.”

    It’s a brilliant discussion in two parts. Each of the two are about 28 minutes long.

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