January 3rd, 2010
11:18 PM ET
5 years ago

Kean: Unsuccessful bomber 'probably did us a favor'


Washington (CNN) – The man who led the federal government’s inquiry into the intelligence lapses leading up to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks said Sunday that the Obama administration is plagued by the same problems the Bush administration had more than eight years ago.

Thomas Kean, the Republican who chaired the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, said Obama counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan had sounded “a bit defensive,” in an interview that had just aired on CNN’s State of the Union.

Kean said Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian who failed in his attempt to set off an explosive on an airplane about to land in Detroit, “probably did us a favor.”

“We had an administration which was not focused, as it should be, on terrorism and that’s understandable,” Kean said. “They were focused on health care and global warming and the economy. That’s very understandable. Secondly, we weren’t really focused on Yemen and the terrible things that are happening there. Now we are and that’s a good thing. And, thirdly, there were holes obviously and the [intelligence gathering] system wasn’t working well. We found out it wasn’t working well and the president understands it’s not working well and now we’re focused on fixing it.”

Kean directly repudiated Brennan’s earlier assertion that the circumstances that allowed AbdulMutallab to board a U.S.-bound plane on Christmas Day were different from those that led up to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

"It's not like 9/11," Brennan had said earlier on State of the Union, adding that the "system didn't work as it should have" due to "lapses" and "human error."

"There wasn't an effort to try to conceal information," Brennan also said in reference to the well-chronicled competition and turf wars between security agencies prior to the 2001 attacks that was later blamed for the failure to prevent them.

Kean disagreed.

“He’s wrong when he says this wasn’t like 9/11,” Kean told CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

After pointing out that the 9/11 Commission concluded the U.S. intelligence community failed to piece together various bits of information it already possessed in the weeks and months prior to the 2001 terror attacks, Kean said “[AbdulMutallab’s foiled Christmas Day attack] is the same thing – a lot of pieces of information. If they had been shared by the intelligence agencies the way they should be . . . then this guy would’ve never have gotten on a plane.”


Filed under: Extra • Popular Posts • State of the Union • Terrorism
soundoff (311 Responses)
  1. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    Bickering about the past about 9-11 is counter productive to our current condition we need to join together and act as a whole Nation to solve this proublem whats done is done we need to move forwards with resolve.

    January 3, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Sam

    I voted for Obama and I agree with Mr. Kean; I think he is pointing out the flaws in the system in a very poignant way and I hope the administration listens to him.

    January 3, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. buckwheat

    300 people are alive because their maker , I think ,has seen enough killing in his name.

    January 3, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  4. Roi Al Payne

    I'm impressed that some of the Republicans are admitting how difficult it is to run a government that is constantly lurching from one national crisis after another, which for years appeared too disorientated or overwhelmed to prioritize which crises they should pay close attention to for any given moment. Besides, they've had the distinction of 8 years of service to the American people to finally place the fruits of their hard labor on to President Obama's plate. I am grateful that they have brought these and other talking points out and have done so with such graceful and humble sincerity for the past year. They shall indeed receive their due reward very soon from the appreciative hoards of Americans for holding true to their very being & character, the quintessential politicians that they are. You can count on it.

    January 3, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  5. robwestchester

    I agree with one of the above writers. Unfortunately, we're at a point of time in history where we need to be profiling according to race (and religion). It's proven to be very effective in countries that do this.

    January 3, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Time to get the equalizer out – Humanities reliance on
    religion is the core problem – organized religions
    response to irrefutible proof of other advanced civilizations,
    thats what I am waiting for our- species come uppance
    Get people past religion- we would be better off globally
    we the earth dwellers are probably considered to be
    furry ameobas to the others we share the multiverse with.....
    My god told me so – pathethic- Flush crusaders & jihadist
    & their ilk down humanities toilet

    January 3, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  7. Tommy Mack

    By repub logic, then it was Clinton who kept us safe after the WTC was bombed in '94. No other terrorist attacks happened on American soil for this rest of his presidency (6 years). Then Bush comes along and within 8 months, drops the ball. Sorry, but these are simple facts. There is no "war on terror" because it's a technique, not an enemy. After 8 years of jingoism, it's time to smarten up.

    January 3, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  8. Liberals are worthless

    "The huge difference between 911 and the "Christmas" bomber is....THEY CAUGHT THIS GUY BEFORE HE BLEW ANYTHING UP!!! "

    Tyipcal ignorant liberal response.

    This guy detonated his device. If he wasn't as incompetent at building bombs as Barry is at running the country, 300 people would be dead.

    January 3, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. axlsm

    What you Libs fail to understand is that these terrorist will rip your useless heads from your yellow spines just the same...time to step aside and let real Patriots defend this great nation.

    January 3, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. mark

    WOW. All you Democrats attacking this man for his comments "bashing Obama". How blind are you to the actual words he said?! First off, he is the one that led the panel investigating the issues with intelligence prior to 9/11. Second, He did bash Obama AT ALL. He said he totally understands the situation of the administration with the issues they are currently facing.

    Goodness Dems, you all preach about Republicans constantly attacking and then you cant even read the words in front of you before you spew nasty hate for a Republican who is actually semi-agreeing with you. Big shock there.

    January 3, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  11. JP

    The Dimocrats have lacked focus since coming to power. Most everything they have failed to achieve is because they can not come together on an issue. They would like to blame the former administration and call the Republicans the party of No but the truth is, they are their worst enemy themselves.

    If Obama and the Dimocrats hope to be successful, a least enough to hold on to their political seats, then they need to stop blaming the Bush's and Republicans for their situation and get to work solving it for America, before the voters wise up and kick them to the curb.

    January 3, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. Jefe

    If anyone in the government was interested in keeping airplanes safe, they would ante up a fraction of the money we've given KBR to "build" Iraq, and install state of the art equipment in every airport, bombsniff, and weapons screen every passenger. People say it wouldn't work because it would take too long, or cost too much. That is a joke. The only reason it would is because they're not willing to spend the money, because it mostly comes down to paying Americans to do the security jobs. However, we are willing to give evil corporations like KBR/Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars to "support" or "anti-terrorism wars".

    Anyone who's been through an airport in the past 10 years knows you can bring whatever you want on the plane and there is almost no chance of getting caught. The security as it stands now is simply for show. And those who want Gingrich-style security, just wait until radicals find a blonde-haired, blue-eyed convert.

    January 3, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. horace

    What makes people think that the current administration is not focused on terror or Yemaen for that matter? The news media might not be focused on terrorism, but does that mean that the whole homeland security department is out golfing? From what I can see the Obama adminstration is still managing two wars and the terror threat while trying to advance a social agenda at home. Okay, maybe Obama does not react as quick as Bush did, but do people really believe that he is simply ignoring the wars and terror to advance some crazy tree hugging agenda? You might not agree with Obama and his administration, but they are not a bunch of idiots.

    January 3, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. Kevin

    Another GOP jerk at work. Did us a favor? That's like an attempted rape victim being told she was "done a favor" as her personal safety issues have now been heightened.

    Give me a break!

    January 3, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. Wakeup Call

    The phone rang at "3:00 AM" and Obama was sound asleep. Too worried about passing worthless bills and catering to his special interest groups to focus on the real threats.

    Time to Wakeup Obama.

    January 3, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    When Bush was given the warnings about 9/11, he told the agent something to the effect, that you covered you ass. now get out of here. He then chose to ignore the warning.

    January 3, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. One of the MANY!

    Nobody on the "9/11 commission" has any credibility; they're all dispicable white-washers at a minimum, and at worst, traitors.

    The vociferously voiced assumptions and accusations that President Obama hasn't been focused on or vigilant in the war on terror are not much more than an ignorant farce AND does much more harm to our national security than the security lapse that allowed this potential bomber aboard an airliner ever could.

    January 3, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. Ray

    Interesting comment from Gov Kean about a getting an A grade!!! An A grade does not mean you get ALL questions right!!! Security will never be 100% effective. For the individual the greatest danger will be traveling to the airport not the actual plane trip.!!! Thats just a fact!!! How long will it be BEFORE suicidal terrorists decide to blow themselves up BEFORE going on the plane- like standing in the security line.!! Perhaps at multiple airports at the same time??

    January 3, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    Yes the attempt was a warning sign that were letting our guard down.

    January 3, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. John

    When are the republicans just going to shut up and try to help our country.

    January 3, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  21. Debbie

    The GOP is right, we should be thanking Al-Queda. They did us a favor.

    January 3, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. Jack M Lowe

    Too bad for tthe GOP defenders of Bush/Cheney they didn't have 300 deaths to harp about.
    Tell me when we're going to be perfectly safe. Tell me when complacency and human errors won't be factors.

    January 3, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. Southern mudsucker

    This guy dont know squat.He was a sorry Governor and a sorry Raygun lover.

    January 3, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. Shawn

    Sickening. The GOP cheers for our economy to fail and for terrorist attacks against our country. Why? Because they LOST an election. They have truly become enemies of America. Somebody should remind them that the last Republican "administration" presided over and caused the most US and international deaths from terrorism in modern history.

    January 3, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. jake

    This guy got on the plane in another country, what is president Obama to do? Go to other countries and check everone getting on ever plane.

    January 3, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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