January 3rd, 2010
11:18 PM ET
13 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. They call me "tater salad"

    Once again, CNN is right there to promote the Republican side of the story making it possible for them to shine a negative light on our President........You guy's should change your name from CNN to Fox- lite!..........And you actually can't figure out why your ratings and viewership numbers are tanking?............Really?

    January 3, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    Another scare tactic by the repugs. Just because the Obama administration is focusing on health care for all Americans (something the rich repugs can't understand) it does NOT mean that they are not paying attention to other problems.
    I hate to say this, but the repugs probably want Americans to die in a terrorist attack so they can say "I told you so". They are dispicable!!

    January 3, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. John Black Hills/SD

    Full body scans if you want to fly, don't make the FAA hire blind scanners so no one can see the grotesque bodies of many air travelers. The times have changed, and the days of air travel convenience are gone, I'd rather be alive when I arrive at my destination, so spread em, squat, and cough, now you can get on-board.

    January 3, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. Anonymous1

    oki like republicans i agree with brennan but please we are talking abt lives at stake and most people change it to a dem. rep. debate not a "how can we keep the nation safe"

    January 3, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  5. ga

    well i thnk he did now we can be safer even though that guy just made traveling the hardest thing to do in the world bt atleast we r safe right

    January 3, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  6. anonymous

    get a grip. here we are posed with a threat millions of lives at sake and all we talk abt is republicans this democratsthat. just once cant we come together as americans to try and stop innocent ppl from dying

    January 3, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. Keith in Austin

    I percieved Kean's words to be a poignant reminder that Terrorism exists and there are those that live their lives plotting to kill us!

    PLEASE STOP getting your liberal panties in a wad! Stop the blamegame and all the feable and hateful rhetoric
    trashing anyone questioning Obama and his Administration.

    Politics won't matter if the plane you're on explodes at 20,000 ft. The important thing is to ACT NOW by stopping the weakness our President is conveying to the World and demonstrate a strong resolve to defeat terrorism wherever it endangers the American people!

    January 3, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. Anne in Houston

    I voted for Obama and I think this man is dead on correct. The fact is we are talking about how to not let it happen again and we aren't commenting on a Christmas Day Massacre. I am thankful for that. A terrorist "doing us a favor" doesn't sound very good on a Christmas card, but this a progressive approach.

    He is not blaming Obama and it is true our president has been distracted and trying to handle quite a lot in his first term. I think he's doing a better than average job...and I don't know why people are reacting to this averted tragedy as a partisan issue.
    Happy New Years all.

    January 3, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Dave, NE

    Barack Obama has so many advisers and they are giving him different kinds of advise and Barack Obama being inexperienced, does not know what to do. American people should realize now that they have elected a community organizer who knows nothing about security. He is sending his advisers to the media and each one of them are sayign what they like. Where is Barack Obama hiding?

    January 3, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. D. Tree

    Its ludicrous for these people to come out saying Obama was "distracted" from Yemen, when he ordered cruise missile attacked that killed Al Qeada terrorists in Yemen only weeks ago. This foiled attack was clearly meant as retaliation for Obama's attack.

    January 3, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  11. rj

    So much bickering... so little in real solutions... I challenge any one of you to try and succeed where so many have fallen short – and that is not to say that Obama has indeed fallen short. There have been countless terrorist attempts on US soil, some successful, most not. Some even perpetrated by US citizens acting as lone wolves or as parts of larger organizations. There has yet to be a successful attempt on US soil since Obama took office and in regards to this latest attack, most of you fail to realize that the holes in the system are international in nature and not wholly dependent on the US administration's policies. The guy boarded the plane in a different country. That should be the first sign that a lot of this incident was out of our control. We need to reduce those variables, yes, but that requires fiscal expenditure and let's face it, the government, ESPECIALLY the Republicans use a cost vs. benefit model when it comes to determining the budget for these types of problems. Make no mistake – just because we feel that human life is precious and irreplaceable, don't think the government hasn't put a price tag on your life. Do you think that they would conclude that 300 lives would have been worth the BILLIONS of dollars to make the system marginally safer? I think not.

    January 3, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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