Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What Barack Obama Didn't Say

The account on the Al Jazeera English Web site made it clear just how strongly President Barack Obama feels about the failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day:

In a news conference on Tuesday, Barack Obama said agents had sufficient information to stop the attempted attack but "failed to connect the dots".

"This was not a failure to collect intelligence," he said. "It was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had."

The president used stronger language when addressing his senior intelligence and national security aides on Tuesday, according to a quote by the White House.


"This was a screw-up that could have been disastrous," the president said during the meeting in the White House situation room, according to the White House media office.

"We dodged a bullet but just barely. It was averted by brave individuals, not because the system worked, and that is not acceptable," he told them.

In a televised statement after the meeting, Obama said "it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analysed or fully leveraged".

"That's not acceptable and I will not tolerate it."

Nevertheless, one has to wonder just how big a stick he has behind these strong words. It is one thing to talk about "human and systemic failures" and quite another to commit to an action plan for doing something about them. Furthermore, given that an action plan for repairing intelligence practices in Afghanistan is now not only on the table but also in full public view, one wonders whether it has caught the President's attention yet and whether its is being considered for recommendations that may be as valid for homeland security as they are for future actions in Afghanistan. I am sure we are all glad that our President will not tolerate unacceptable intelligence practices, but this is a buck that stops on his desk. If he is not ready to provide the top-level leadership that is so critical to the recommendations now endorsed by the Center for a New American Security, then we may have to shorten the time scale on that notorious question posed by Ronald Reagan: Are we better off now than we were a year ago?

No comments: