January 3rd, 2010
09:08 AM ET
10 years ago

Brennan: Failed Christmas bombing not like 9/11

Washington (CNN) - Human error and system lapses, rather than deliberate concealing of information, allowed a terror suspect with explosives to board a U.S.-bound airplane on Christmas Day, President Obama's terrorism czar said Sunday.

John Brennan, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the security breakdown in the failed bombing of the Northwest Airlines flight was different from the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"It's not like 9/11," Brennan said, 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," he said, referring to the well-chronicled competition and turf wars among security agencies prior to the 2001 attacks, which was later blamed for the failure to prevent them.

"There is no smoking gun piece of intelligence out there," Brennan said of the failed Christmas bombing, allegedly planned by a Nigerian man who boarded the flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, with explosives in his underwear.

Full story

Filed under: John Brennan • Popular Posts • State of the Union • Terrorism
soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. Dave

    Fascinating how the right manages to twist the facts to suit their demented view of events. Well here are some facts for you:
    The Cheney/Rove adminstration ignored intelligence provided to them before 9/11.
    The shoe bomber attempt took place under the Bush (actually Cheney/Rove) administration.
    The shoe bomber was tried in the US court system like any other criminal and is now in jail.
    Al Qaida was not in Iraq before the invasion.
    There were no WMD in Iraq.
    The Obama administration is now focusing it's attention on the area where Al Qaidi actually resides as opposed to going after the "guy who tried to kill my daddy".
    Those innocents taken to Gitmo are now rabid US haters along with the guilty.
    The Obama administration has launched more Predator attacks against Al Qaida leadership in the past year than in the final four years of the previous administration.
    Waterboarding is torture.
    President Obama has clearly stated this is a war.

    Check a fact once in a while (and your spelling at the same time) and watch something other than Faux News.

    January 3, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  2. Ken in NC

    @ John D.

    John since you feel so unsafe living here in the USA, maybe you should pack up and move to Somolia and try living safely there.

    January 3, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. RJS3

    I use to be in the US Navy, and grew up a military brat. That means I have been around the military most of my life. One of the things that I learned, and that still holds true today, is that when you are in a leadership position, anything that takes place under your watch is your responsibility. There is no pointing the blame at the person before you, the person under you, or the people around you. Leadership means you take charge and take the responsibility. Leadership means "the buck stops here."

    Now, the events that lead up to the action may have started under a previous leader, but it is still the present leader's responisbility to review practices in place, to fix what needs to be fixed, and to improve what can be improved. This applies to any leader, regardless of political leaning, etc., who is put in charge.

    It is time that leaders on all sides stop pointing fingers, and start stepping up and taking responsibility, even if the issue was not theirs to begin with. Get the issues resolved so that the person after them doesn't have to deal with it.

    January 3, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  4. EDR

    So everytime Obama Admin makes a mistake or does something wrong, the justification is "well, Bush did it too..." ?????? This administration was built on lies that IT was the answer to all our problems. This administration promised to clean up Washington and all it has done is continue to blame everything on Bush! And everything they blame Bush for, they themselves have done twice as bad.

    January 3, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  5. CRob

    Quit playing politics and just make sure this doesnt happen again.

    January 3, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  6. ron in minnesota

    before this administration, i had no idea that people who call themselves american and supposedly love democracy, could be so hateful to those who disagree with them; you would think that intelligence and moderation would rule in such a beautiful world such as ours........instead i see idiots, mouthing the most inane crap since the klans were more active.

    lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.

    January 3, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  7. Michael

    Wow...reading through these comments just reinforces the ignorance on the right and their very un-american position regarding our commander in chief. I am more worried about the inevitable conflict we will face as a country due to our own religious extremist views from the far right. This is the group that will bring our country down – not foreign influences. Shame on all of you for calling our president a bozo and other derogatory names. You are doing nothing for our wonderful country with the exception of dividing us.

    January 3, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  8. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    The lesson to be learned here is treating the entire travelling public, world-wide, many millions of people, as incipient terrorists doesn't work!

    We need to develop what we in the technology business would call a "distributed" approach–in this case, people on each aircraft to protect that aircraft. And if this involves developing weapons that will blow the head off a terrorist but not so much as dent the skin of an aeroplane, that's what people like me are for.

    January 3, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. Harold Trainer, USAF RET

    We have had a dozen or so acts or attempted acts of terrorism here in the U.S. this year. We are being outflanked while our military resources are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is just what Al Quaida wants. Our present wars opens up our flanks.

    We need to use the Iraq and Afghanistan military financial, physical and personnel resources for our own homeland defense. Better technology, intel, domestic and international policing is critical to preventing homeland attacks and threats. Harold Trainer, USAF RET

    January 3, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. ted

    Wouldn't it be good if the Republicans could stop the blame game and engage with the Democrats and Obama in making our country safer from terrorists? Doing so is a patriotic thing to do.

    January 3, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  11. tk

    Interesting reading all the comments. Let's look beyond politics and finger pointing. We want America to be safe and in order to do so we need to be prepared as though we are at war because we are! Anytime you have all this activity from terrorists it is silly not to admit that we are at war. With that in mind, our actions should reflect the appropriate approach.
    I would like to see congress, senate and the administration get their act together and start behaving like they actually care for the safety and well being of Americans. We are at war and we know who the enemy is. Lets admit it and move forward.

    January 3, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  12. unshrub

    Republicans would like nothing more than to this into something more, like like into 9-11. However, it is not a 9-11, and it will never be, no matter how much BS the republicans throw.

    January 3, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. Donkey Party

    The Fox News boards must be clogged, so all their mental midgets are over here posting their hate-filled propaganda. The nation is more at risk having these treasonous idiots on our soil that a bunch of towel-heads in the Middle East.

    January 3, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. Elizabeth

    Interesting how the Obama administration is carpet bombing the political shows today's with Brennan in order to show a competent face in contrast to that hilarious spoof of a Homeland Secretary, Napolitano, who must resign or be fired immediately.

    However, while Brennan gives a much better image, his message was still naive and fundamentally flawed. For example, he pounded the table and claimed that Al Qaida had NEVER used an explosive like PETN and that they were ill prepared to deal with that air terror concept. Duh – can you say "SHOE BOMBER"?!!! This guy is another political hack and must also go for either being stupid or deliberately misleading.

    January 3, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. jd

    OMG please IS this really how america is BLAME OBAMA blame BUSH blame this and that..

    How about we just fix the issue, and stop this week of constant blaming the other people..

    Grow UP America stop Blaming one party then the other.. let just fix it.. and threw the process of fixing the problem we may actually find out who did not do there JOB, but i bet in reality it is not the Presidents at all present or former.

    January 3, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  16. Donkey Party

    The Fox News boards must be clogged, so all their mental midgets are over here posting their hate-filled propaganda. The nation is more at risk having these treasonous idiots on our soil than a bunch of towel-heads in the Middle East.

    January 3, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  17. jenny

    so what this twit is saying is someone had to be killed before it is lile 9/11. how dare he make light of peoples lives. this should not be happening any time there is an attempt it should be considered like 9/11. the only difference is 9/11 did happen, and with the christmas attempt the citzens on the plane were the ones who stopped the attempt.

    January 3, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  18. tony


    You called me a commie without knowing the slightest thing about me. I am in favor of the war in Afghanistan because Al Qaeda in that country had attacked us. I am not in favor of the war in Iraq because our attack on that country diverted our attention from people who had attacked us. Saddam and other Middle East rulers did not like Al Qaeda because Al Qaeda wants to replace them with a world-wide caliphate. What did Bush do? He removed Saddam, created a power vacuum in Iraq, and we got Al Qaeda in Iraq. Obama actually sent military help to the Yemen government to fight against the people who planned the attack. That was before the attempted attack happened. I am in favor of fighting the people who actually attacked us. How about you? Do you still think that losing 4000 people in Iraq (more than we had lost on 9/11) fighting against a country who did not attack us was a good idea?

    January 3, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  19. Stephen Randall

    It's interesting to see how some people read this as "blaming Bush" when he said that unlike the previous administration this was a system that didn't work due to "laspse" and "Human Error". That is saying that "WE MESSED UP'

    January 3, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. Houston Mom

    We all know that nothing will ever be able to compare to the complete incompetencies of the Bush administration, but it sure looks like the Obama administration is gonna give it a run or it's money in some areas. I don't think we have anything to worry about with Obama anyway. He has pissed off the gay community so bad he'll never get re-elected.

    January 3, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. Larry

    What happened in New York on 9 / 11 / 2001 was carried out by the Bush administration, they did it and many of us know it.
    If the day ever comes when enough of the American people pull their heads out of the sand, maybe these traitorous, treasonous liars like Bush, Cheney and Rove will get what they deserve.
    Until then, we must all suffer with the risks from the real terrorists, those that sleep under the roofs next to our own, and call themselves Americans.

    January 3, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  22. EDR

    Dave – Check your own spelling!

    There were WMD in IRAQ – they were moved. Saddam used them on his own people before the first Gulf war, and before he invaded a neighboring country. Saddam was seeking Nuclear capability, just as Iran and N. Korea have, neither of which has ever launched an attack on the U.S. so is that a reason to ignore them? Congress and a coalition on Nations voted overwhelmingly to invade IRAQ. That part of the war was won. The evil Saddam is gone.

    9/11 attackers planned their attacks during the Clinton Administration.

    You liberals have no right to talk about releasing people from Gitmo when you want to release them all and shut the whole place down.

    Why don't you just take the advice of your fat-headed poster boy for your cause and STFU!!!

    January 3, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  23. Republicansdisgustme

    The Nigerian would never have made it aboard a plane in the US because of no luggage and paying cash for tickets. But because a foreign country let him aboard it is liberal incompetence.

    Republicans are morons.

    January 3, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  24. Jim

    I wish Americans could accept the fact that mistakes get made and systems don't always work. There is no way to make ourselves completely invulnerable and have an open society at the same time.

    I'm also tired of the Republican party screaming and whining about every little thing trying to gain political advantage. Their lack of patriotism in their efforts to get back into power astounds me, especially as they are always trying appear like they are more patriotic than the rest of us. In this case you'd think they'd be a little quieter as they played a part in it by voting against funding for security and are holding up nominations to key posts.

    January 3, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  25. suncatcher

    Frankly, I don't care WHO hired this fool – the system failed. Period. At least US citizens now know we have been left to fend for ourselves on land, sea and air and will respond accordingly.

    BTW – this could have been a horrific act of terrorism – the reason the 'boxer bomber' didn't blow the plane up over the ocean was because he was trying to crash the plane's debris into Detroit and/or the airport. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Brennan... (What ARE you smoking anyway)?

    January 3, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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