Thursday, December 31, 2009

When Would Osama Have Made the No-Fly List?

From the blame scramble over the aborted Christmas bombing comes a CIA defense of the failure to ground Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The New York Times quotes an anonymous official: “You had a young man who was becoming increasingly pious and was turning his back on his family’s wealthy lifestyle. That alone makes him neither St. Francis nor a dead-eyed killer.

“Every piece of data, of course, looks different when you know the answer, as everyone does now.”

By this smug reasoning, Osama bin Laden might not have made the no-fly list for "turning his back on his family's lifestyle" until after 9/11, even if his father, like Adbulmutallab's, had warned the CIA about his son's radicalization, citing online posts about his "dilemma between liberalism and extremism" over several years.

"American officials," says the Times, "contend that they took the father’s account seriously, but that he never signaled that his son might carry out a terrorist attack." Absent details of an actual plot, they put his name on a large list but failed to alert other intelligence agencies.

This kind of lackadaisical response confirms the near-impossibility of preventing terror by bureaucracy alone. As the President reviews what went wrong and looks for ways to fix the system, he might want to start with the reaction of Rep. Jane Harman, chair of the House Homeland Security subcommittee:

"When government officials receive credible tips like that provided by Abdulmutallab's father regarding Yemen... someone's hair should be on fire," she said yesterday.

If we don't have people like that, the White House had better start looking for them.

1 comment:

Holte Ender said...

Happy New Year Mr. Stein, look forward to more insight in 2010.