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. Jack R Hall

    I think most Americans are aware that this attack was not like 9/11 but I think this should open our eyes to the fact that our intelligence institutions are not sharing information about possible attack scenerios the way that they should. nuff said!!!

    January 3, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. Marc L from NY

    I noticed many posts here repeating the fact that 9/11 happened while Bush was President, as if that is a justifiable argument for Obama's success as President. It is also repeatedly mentioned that Bush was warned by the outgoing Clinton administration about the threats and he did nothing. These commenters have conveniently omitted a few more facts, namely the first bombing of the Twin Towers, the twin African Embassy bombings, and the attack on the USS Cole. All three occurred when Clinton was President. All three were warning signs of an impending war on Islamic extremism, a war that was declared on us. Whether these terrorists plan their attacks based on who the President is, I have no idea. It is obvious though that they were serious about bringing the war to us after the first bombing in 1993. They were no longer interested in just going after our interests over seas, but going after our citizens on our soil as well. This is a war. It is not a conventional war, Country vs Country, but a war none the less. The driving factors that led to all wars in the past, namely self interests cloaked by idealism, are present in this war. War is a very serious matter. There can only be one victor and when one party is serious and aggressive about going to war, there are no compromises. While strategies in fighting a war must be flexible, there is only one way to win, and that is to fight an uncompromising aggressor with the intention, with the unflexible goal, of winning. That is the bottom line. We are at war.

    January 3, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  3. phillip

    The US government and the US corporations have the sheeple right where they want them. All arguing about "Libs" this and "Repugs" that. No one is smart enough to realize both parties are the same, and work for the same people. Everyone has picked their favorite sports team and is content to sit around heckling the fans of the other team. What a bunch of morons. Suckers. Idiots. Grab a brain of your own and put aside the doctrine, you brainwashed douchebags. So boring to read these comments with people barking at each other. "My dad can beat up your dad!" – That's what this crap amounts to. Republicans and Democrats. What a laugh. What a scam. What a bunch of soft-headed suckers.

    January 3, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. unshrub

    It is shameful how religious fanatics what to invade those who believe differently than themselves, it’s almost as bad as the Europeans and the Christians were during the crusades.

    January 3, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. Former Republican

    To: German,Irish American
    "Brian- Clinton warned Bush over and over again. LMAO The Clinton hand over to Bush was the most hostile transformation in the history of the US. From shredded intelligence, disabled computers, to theft from the White House and Air Force One."

    You sound like a typical Fox Noise watcher. All that garbage you refer to above was nothing but lies. Andrews Air Force base told Britt Hume over and over Air Force one was not trashed, nothing was stolen by the Clintons, etc, etc. Same goes for all the other stuff you want to spue. Britt Hume kept reporting the lies anyway. It was beneficial to the GOP to have the hatred of the Clintons continue. Well, what can you expect from Fox – the Republican propaganda station? Certainly never the truth!

    January 3, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. Libertarian

    Those that seem to really want to see Obama fail should stop and think that THEIR OWN FAMILIES are being affected. If you wish Obama to fail, then you wish that America will fail. If you wish to see another successful terrorist attack "to prove your point" then just hope your family members aren't involved.

    I pray for America to succeed. I don't care who is in office....both parties suck. I just pray that they can get together on some things and be successful. If you are unbendable right or left....you are part of the problem.

    January 3, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. scott

    Alright Repubs lets review math 101.....on the Shrub/Dick watch 3,000 americans lost their lives on 9/11 because after being warned by Clinton administration and warned over 40 times after including the aug. 6th PDB "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In The U.S." Shrub/Dick never convened a terrorism meeting until sep. 11th......a little late!....Now Obama administration tries to clean up the mess of Shrub/Dick and the untold number of Jihadists who were more than eager to volunteer to blow themselves up for their "72" virgins after Shrub/Dick invaded the Wrong country (iraq)!....By any measure of comparison Obama has a long way to go before he can even come close to competing with the incompetence of the Bush/Dick Regime!

    January 3, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. utahsang

    What about terrorists father contacting U.S. embassy in Yemen telling them not to let his son on airplanes to U.S. ? Thank goodness for the man from Denmark as well as other passengers who reacted swiftly otherwhise there would be lot more than smoking gun Mr. Brenan there would be smoking airplane.

    January 3, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. krakow

    Would like to remind lacrossmom, katiec, and other Obamists, that the Constitution of the United States of America is NOT A SUICIDE PACT. Most Americans will not submit to your desire for the installation of the Caliphate by the Obama and his co-Islamists.

    You call for the rule of law YET YOU VOTED FOR OBAMA. That is a twisted mentality. Mr. Obama, the "constitutional scholar" has done more to destroy the rule of law than all previous presidents combined.

    January 3, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. Jimmy from Concord, NH

    I understand what Brennan is trying to say, but downplaying what happened is a very bad move. Regardless of the magnitude of the attack, had it been successful, it would have been a tragedy.

    As someone who finds myself defending Bush more than I would like, I don't see how Brennan is actually blaming George W. Bush here. He is correctly citing our agencies' inability to cooperate at the beginning of the decade.

    However, THAT can directly be blamed on Bill Clinton. As much as I would vote for Clinton again in a heartbeat, he reduced funding of federal security agencies to such a degree that the kind of infighting for resources we saw should have been expected.

    January 3, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. Bren

    The warning signs were there--–Obama, Napolitano, etc. decided to ignore them.

    -The Nigerian terrorist was on a terror watch list. His US Visa was NOT removed.

    -He paid cash for his ticket.

    -He bought a one-way ticket

    -He did not have any luggage

    -His father contacted the US TWICE--saying that he was afraid that his son was now a danger--as he was associating with terrorists.

    -He requested a seat near the wing and the fuel tanks.

    Seriously, HOW MANY SIGNS/RED FLAGS--did Obama, Napolitano, etc. need???

    Almost 300 people are alive today--but it had NOTHING to do with Obama, Napolitano, etc. taking steps to keep them safe.

    No matter how hard Obama supporters try to cover this up-–it is NOT going to go away.

    January 3, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. ron in minnesota

    oh phillip!

    you are so tough that when carpenters ask for some more nails, they say, " gimme some of those phillips!"

    January 3, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  13. Dave

    Whhooo.. politicizing...

    If there is a war that is treated like "law enforcement" and if the enemy tricks you twice in the same week (Afghanistan killing of CIA agents by double agent, and the airline bomber prevented by a Dutch passenger), and if people are worried not to get sued and provide legal help to terrorists first, then what type of safety we the people get?
    If this is not Obama's 9/11 turning point when he finally "gets it" then what is needed for this administration to understand the war we actually in!

    January 3, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  14. Sue

    Check Mate:

    The ONLY reason Bush was FORCED to offer legal, citizens' rights to the shoe bomber--was due to the ACLU and the loony left.

    January 3, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  15. racoco

    The bottom line fact is Mr. Obama is a Jidhaist sympathizer and will allow these things to happen because he does not want to make these killers sad.

    Mr. Obama's social secretary floated the idea of removing Christian symbols from future White House Christmas decorations. That says all we need to know. The speculation is now over. We know what Mr. Obama is. Scary indeed.

    January 3, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  16. James

    Dear Americans;

    It doesn't matter who's in office. If someone is determined to attack US interests, they're going at least get to the point of the actual attempt itself, maybe not ever time, but here and again it will happen. It doesn't matter who says what, what information is available, it doesn't matter where you point fingers in the past and in the future; you can't stop every attempt. Living in New York, this reality is ever-present.

    The government can't always stop these events. Vigilant citizens can. Vigilant travelers can. We've seen this twice now. So instead of sniping and blowing hot air, start asking yourself what YOU'RE doing to prevent terrorism and terrorist attacks. And what would YOU do to stop ONE of 6 billion people from committing an act of terrorism when you're getting vast volumes of misinformation on a daily basis.

    January 3, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. Doyle Wiley, MI

    You can word it any way you like but it comes down to the same thing, system failures. But, if what happened on the inbound Detroit flight is the best that Al Qaeda can do then the system is working very well.

    January 3, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  18. pete

    maybe if they 'profiled' during travel screenings, these fundamentalist dirtbags wouldn't get on our airplanes!

    January 3, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  19. D.

    Foolish, somewhat obvious, totally unsuitable remarks at this point of time. Do not start political campaign based on this failure since you are going to fail miserably. This guy is a real clown!

    January 3, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  20. Sue


    We had 3 successful terrorist attacks since Obama has been in office-–don't forget the shootings at the Army Recruiting Center in Arkansas.

    And, there have been at "least" 5 terrorist attacks stopped this year. However, the ONLY reason that they were stopped--was due to Bush's Patriot Act.

    January 3, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  21. Alan

    Now the right-wing response is we should be profiling all Muslims and anyone who looks, acts or comes across as "possibly" Muslim.

    I can't believe it. Back to racism based on Republican fear.

    There's a sticky problem with your twisted racist logic, Republicans: SOME Muslims (a LOT actually) are tax-paying contributing CITIZENS with all the rights afforded citizens in this country.

    Isn't it great to hear the same folks who say ANY regulation of private gun ownership in this country is a "slippery slope" that will lead us down the path to a dictatorship - but selectively removing constitutionally guaranteed rights of SOME of our citizens is just fine in the name of making things "safer."

    And you wonder why people call you idiots.

    January 3, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  22. Republicansdisgustme

    "Bren January 3rd, 2010 11:33 am ET

    The warning signs were there––Obama, Napolitano, etc. decided to ignore them.

    -The Nigerian terrorist was on a terror watch list. His US Visa was NOT removed.

    -He paid cash for his ticket.

    -He bought a one-way ticket

    -He did not have any luggage

    -His father contacted the US TWICE–saying that he was afraid that his son was now a danger–as he was associating with terrorists.

    -He requested a seat near the wing and the fuel tanks.

    Seriously, HOW MANY SIGNS/RED FLAGS–did Obama, Napolitano, etc. need???

    Almost 300 people are alive today–but it had NOTHING to do with Obama, Napolitano, etc. taking steps to keep them safe.

    No matter how hard Obama supporters try to cover this up-–it is NOT going to go away."

    What part of "the Dutch let him board with no luggage and cash for his one-way ticket" and all the rest, and "It was a Dutch passenger who stopped him" do you not understand, DR Einstein? If you cannot comprehend reality through your POS blindness, maybe you should STFU before you FURTHER embarrass yourself. The US does not control the Dutch airports.

    January 3, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. Fred Williams

    We Americans don't really care whether this event is "like" 9/11. It's frightening that Mr. Brennan is spending his time on these rationalizations rather than admitting we have a serious weakness in our security system and pledging all resources to fix it immediately. This attack demonstrates that our security apparatus is focused on processes, not results.

    January 3, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  24. Sue


    "This pathetic attempt at an attack showes how inept at attacking the US al Qaeda has become."


    Are you CRAZY???

    The ONLY reason that the terrorist was not successful--and 300 people are alive today--is because the explosive device failed.

    January 3, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  25. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Don't worry you right wingnuts, we will keep you safe.

    January 3, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
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