December 30th, 2009
04:16 PM ET
8 months ago

White House briefings leave Hill with 'unanswered questions'

The Obama administration conducted two secure briefings on Wednesday for Congressional staffers about the attempted terror attack on Northwest Flight 253 that left key aides with still a lot of unanswered questions about what went wrong.
The Obama administration conducted two secure briefings on Wednesday for Congressional staffers about the attempted terror attack on Northwest Flight 253 that left key aides with still a lot of unanswered questions about what went wrong.

HONOLULU (CNN) - The Obama administration conducted two secure briefings on Wednesday for Congressional staffers about the attempted terror attack on Northwest Flight 253 that left key aides with still a lot of unanswered questions about what went wrong, according to two Congressional officials familiar with the sessions.

One of the officials familiar with the briefings said the takeaway was that "there are still lots of questions Congress will be asking about what could have been done differently and what will be done differently in the future" to prevent attacks.

The official added that Obama officials who conducted the briefings told the Congressional staff that it "appears there wasn't enough negative information prior to the incident to take any severe measures" such as putting the eventual suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on the No-Fly List to prevent him from boarding the plane.

The Congressional official said the two briefings occurred Wednesday morning in a secure room of the Capitol for key Congressional staffers because most lawmakers are traveling outside Washington because of the Congressional recess for the holidays. At least one lawmaker, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan, was in Washington and did attend.

The first briefing was for Democratic and Republican staffers of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The second session was for a broader group of committees in both the House and Senate that included Intelligence as well as the Armed Services, Commerce, Judiciary, and Homeland Security panels.

The briefings were conducted by officials from various departments and agencies including: The FBI, the Justice Department, the Transportation Security Administration, the Customs and Border Patrol, the State Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In a sign of the Obama administration trying to coordinate its message on the matter, officials said that the White House will be conducting a conference call with Democratic press secretaries from the House and Senate on Wednesday afternoon.


Filed under: Congress • Obama administration
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Let's be clear here. This was a failure on part of the intelligence agencies that are not sharing information amongst themselves!!!

    December 30, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. Mickey

    Yes, thanks to George Bush and his criminal elements, we have this problem.

    Prosecute now!

    December 30, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Doug, witnessing true evil in blue America

    The reality is that a majority of Democrats in America would support an Al Queda attack on their fellow Americans in so called fly over country. Yes, liberals are that sick, just listen to them spew their lies and hate, it just cannot be denied any further.

    December 30, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. JB - NYC

    Amateurs.. Just say it's Bush's Fault.

    December 30, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  5. Out the door in 4

    You want answers from this incompetent White house? Good luck, they may get back to you in a few years.

    December 30, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  6. Mark

    Not enough negative info to put this guy on a no fly list? That is total BS.

    This administration is clueless and not fit to lead our country.

    December 30, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  7. Robin

    Let's see, what went wrong?

    Well, this is a long shot, but perhaps Janet Napolitano is an inept officer on a "ship of fools." (We all know who the captain is.)

    We have gone back to pre 9/11 mentality. That is how a TERRORIST was able to purchase a very expensive ticket in cash, get past not one but TWO check points, without luggage, with exploslives, and without a passport. All while being on a terror watch list. That is what a terrorist would call a success. By the way, he was successful in attacking a plane, he was not successful in committing murder.

    But don't worry, President Obama came out 5 days later and was able to link the attack to al Quada. Thanks, we weren't able to figure that out on our own.

    Sorry Libs, you can't blame this one on Bush.

    Janet Napolitano and her people have FAILED at their jobs. President Obama will not be judged if he gets healthcare passed, he will be judged if he fails to keep Americans safe.

    December 30, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  8. Chipster

    What could have been done differently? Probably nothing much. The guy boarded in a foreign country but no one in the U.S. is perfect either. Maybe Security could do a better job but I'm guessing that most of us aren't always at the top of our game. People make mistakes and sometimes it ends up in a disaster. Can we prevent all car accidents, can we stop all domestic abuse, child abuse, robberies, murder...? No, we are never going to be 100% perfect in preventing crazy people from doing crazy things, especially religious fanatics.

    So, all of you "perfect people" who could have done such a great job of preventing this near miss, please get a job in airport security right away. We really need perfect people who will never, ever let anything or anyone slip past them.

    December 30, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. Angie

    One Unanswered question is How the Republicans can justify the Releasing of Two of the Saudi masterminds in 2007 who were behind the Christmas attack?
    The Republicans told the American public that None of the detanees they released from Guantanimo Prison in 2007 were terrorists.

    Another Unanswered question is why the Senate Republicans have worked so hard to Hold Up the Appointment for the Head of Security?
    We all know the Senate Republican hold up on the Appointment is a deliberate attempt to Put Americans in Danger for Republican Senators Political Gains.

    Don't ask the white house.

    Ask the Senate Republicans and the Republican Party why are they playing Russian Roulette with Our American Lives?

    December 30, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  10. white female

    Good job guys, but please will somebody please put a mute botton on the mouth of Rep. Pete Hoekstra. If the Repubs would keep their mouth shut, and stop spewing out all that hate, we would not be so hated by other countries. Oh but it is so funny how they can call the President all kinds of names and give out (terrerrios's) threats, from the birthers, the Tea parties and all the big bad (White Rednecks who hate him being President , but are so affraid of the (Al Qaeda bunch).
    I hope they see how it feels to be terrorize, and hate by someone else.

    Please let this man do his job Dick Chaney and company, and shut up before you'll get all of us killed. Pay attention to how this can be done by a very smart President Obama, and stop trying to get your faces on TV. don't you think when we tell everything on the air they hear us. somethings are best left unsaid dummmies.
    Good luck President Obama we trust and beleive that you have this uncontrol, I like the way you think before you Jump Son, and please keep up the good work of playing your cards real close to your chest.

    December 30, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  11. gary davis Harbor Oregon proud american

    I feel the president will as usual do the right thing and get more people involved that should communicate better with each other from homeland security to the CIA . need to stop keepin secrets from each other and get everyone in the same loop and same page .. thats what the president has been wanting from the begining . but its hard to teach old dogs new ways . but I beleive the president will get the message to each of the departments .. they either get on board or get out of the offive . its that easy . good job MR. PRESIDENT . and happy newyear to the first family
    from my house to your house :)

    December 30, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  12. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    Funny, I was unaware that we are now in charge of security at the Amsterdam airport. Who knew? Have a nice day!

    December 30, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  13. DF -TORONTO

    Governments in Canada and the USA have to stop being politically correct when it comes down to protecting their citizens. Pofile screening must be the primary method to ensure that those who fly are safe. Most of those who follow the muslim faiths I am sure are decent and law abiding but until the radicalization of those within the Muslim community has been controlled, measures need to be taken.

    Air travel safety concerns can destroy this industry if serious steps are not imposed. traveling in North America during Christmas almost came close to a complete shutdown and for what, another radical Muslim? That is not good enough!!

    December 30, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Beverly in NC

    Of course the Republicans will try to blame this on President Obama. Everthing that happens in the world is his fault in their twisted minds.
    Since Cheney can't seem to remember, 9/11 happened on his watch after he and Bush were warned up until the end of August 2001 that Osama bin Laden was planning an attack on the US with planes. They ignored it. Maybe they did so intentionally so they could create a fake war in Iraq to steal oil for their own profit. Wouldn't put it past those 2 war criminals.

    We should be asking questions of the Dutch security system, our Customs entry agents, and the forever faliure of the TSA.

    I am sick to death of moron TSA employees who horse around and chit chat not paying one bit of attention while I have to pratically take off all my clothes, can't carry a drink or food with me, and have to dismantle my laptop. It's absurd because none of it is real security. It's a completely inconvenient and useless illusion of security. Maybe the Marshalls should be at the security checkpoints versus on planes. That way we have real security professionals doing security versus former McDonald hamburger flippers.

    Airport security is a joke and all it makes me want to do is drive...so much for the struggling airline industry.

    December 30, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    He was screened in the Netherlands

    NOT Obama's living room.

    You republican wingnuts think he's supposed to be in every airport in the world? W wasn't - maybe that's where Chicken Cheney was hiding and shaking in his boots for 8 years.

    December 30, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    "The reality is that a majority of Democrats in America would support an Al Queda attack on their fellow Americans in so called fly over country. Yes, liberals are that sick, just listen to them spew their lies and hate, it just cannot be denied any further."

    We Obamabots don't wish any harm to "flyover country." Just New Jersey would be enough. Have a nice day!

    December 30, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. Sea.gem

    I feel safe so long as our CINC is not bothered on his golfing vacation...the Left castigated Bush for golfing during a time of war...now they admire The Bama's 'low-key' approach...and yes, they have tried to blame Bush for this one too...Obama's "hug a terrorist " appoach" is so refeshing...doesn't the world love us now?..oh wait..that's laughter! Idiots in the WH....

    December 30, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  18. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    The right wingnuts are about the sickest form of life I have seen. They embrace the ineptness of the moron who was responsible for the attacks on American soil in Sept. 2001, and Dec. 2001. But, that is all they got.
    Under Obama, consumer confidence is up, durable goods orders up, stock market up, the recession(near depression) of the last administration is over; and people are learning that fear, hatred and hypocrisy is not the answer.

    Of course you will never get the truth from the birthers, deathers that and paid for politicians that make up the party of the right wingnut.

    December 30, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  19. Bob in Pa

    What went wrong ? Three words... No Profiling Allowed.
    Congress, stand up and acknolege the problem. We are fighting with a very specific group and type of person. Profiling works!

    December 30, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. Mike1952

    Let's see. Bush – eight years and one airline incident. Wingnut – 11 months and this is the third terrorist incident. The big one is coming on Wingnuts watch. The Islamist warriors are licking their chops. The saddest is innocent people will die due to Wingnut's lawyer approach.

    December 30, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. LacrosseMom

    The "Detroit-flight-terrorist" went through SECURITY IN THE NETHERLANDS. Get it????

    The problem is that his name was not on the "no-fly-list" even after his father went to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria to warn the U.S. of his son! You'd think someone at the embassy would have the COMMON SENSE to call the NSA, CIA & FBI and make sure this man's son's name was on the "watch list" and "no-fly-list"!

    @ all the Far-right-folks: Bush was in charge on 9/11, he should have taken the warnings about an impending attack and beefed up security in all our nation's airports........... but......... he did not.

    In 2001, the NSA KNEW about Atta and the other terrorists who were moving FREELY through our Nation.

    I suggest that President Obama call the heads of the NSA, CIA & FBI to the Oval Office and tell them to GET WITH IT!

    December 30, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  22. AgentProvocateur

    This partisan bickering, belittling and embittered language is sickening.

    Is the US in charge of security at overseas airports? Of course not. However, passenger manifests of incoming flights to the US must be cleared by the US (including counter- and anti-terror units) before that flight takes off from foreign soil.

    This was not a failure on the part of President Obama. It was a failure on the part of the intelligence community. The suspect should have been on the No Fly list. Period.

    This incident is no different than that of Richard Reid (aka the shoe bomber), who managed to elude more lax security during the Bush administration. For the record, Amsterdam has stringent security. I've personally been given the third degree at Schipol Airport despite being green eyed and blonde and having an Anglo name–just because I was coming from the Mid-East.

    Let's stop attacking each other and begin concentrating on stopping those who are attacking us from the outside.

    December 30, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  23. pat win

    we should do the body scan long time ago.

    December 30, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Hammerer

    The administration will answer questions on their investigations by sometime this summer if all goes well, but probably in the late fall.

    December 30, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. John D.

    What do these people have to do put a sign on their chests. There was plenty of evidence and this administration is just trying to downplay the fact that we are at war and this man was known to have terrorist connections. Duh! What part don't you imbiciles get? I mean you idiots in the WHITEHOUSE!

    December 30, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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