Thursday, January 7, 2010

President releases details, changes policies after Christmas Day Incident

An unclassified copy of the White House Security Review of the Detroit Incident with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been released, and is available here at CNN in PDF format. One of the slip-ups concerned a simple misspelling of the suspect's name.

The president gave a brief but pointed speech from the White House about the results of the investigation at 4:45 PM EST Thursday Jan. 7, 2010.

The president said, “We are at war … with Al Qaeda”. The announcement of a war (even if legally undeclared) could become a political or “moral” justification for expecting more sacrifice from the American people. In this case, the president seems to be referring to more intrusive screening procedures at airports and more aggressive actions to prevent people for whom intelligence shows association with terror from flying. There is always the possibility that the government gets it wrong in these cases. The president said that we would maintain our "open society" and would not give in to a "siege mentality", giving enemies what they want, as long as he is in office.

The president also said that what happened here was not a failure in intelligence gathering but a failure of agencies to “connect the dots”. This could be the result of “turf oriented behavior.” The National Counter Terrorism Center is supposed to oversee connecting the dots, and I recall that an employee of that facility was gunned down while driving on a public street in Prince Georges County MD in November 2008. A typical factual story of the incident appears in the Washington Post Nov. 13, 2008, by Aaron C. Davis, link here.

Sometimes alert members of the public connect dots as well as bureaucratic government agencies.

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