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. Jimbo

    I don't often agree with Republicans but I think this assessment is pretty much "spot on."

    January 3, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. Bill in Albuquerque

    Yeah, Blaming Obama for not being focused? Wake up America 9-11 happened on Republican watch!

    January 3, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. Shantell

    I am an independent and I agree 100% with Mr. Kean. I understand we have a lot of problems here at home and that is what the Obama Administration was focused on...but now (hopefully) they realize that we must ALWAYS remain viligent in keeping our country safe from terrorists.

    January 3, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. Matthew

    CNN, the title of the link to this post is ridiculous.
    It makes it sound like the GOP was rejoicing at the political capital it gained from the Christmas airline bombing attempt. When you actually read the article, you discover that nothing of the sort has taken place. Please try to recover some journalistic integrity by not sensationalizing article titles.

    January 3, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Bren

    Brennan is RIGHT!!!

    The events leading up to the Christmas Day terrorist plot were DEFINITELY different than the events leading up to 9/11.

    In regard to the events leading up to 9/11---It is obvious that 9/11 did not happen yet. The terrorists were never successful using planes to deliver terrorist attacks in our country. Therefore, the fear was not there, they did not know what to expect, they did not know how to plan, etc.

    However, the Christmas Day terrorist plot---was obvious that all involved-–including Obama and Napolitano-–failed those citizens--and were almost the cause of almost 300 innocent lives lost.

    These people KNEW that 9/11 happened-–and they knew who/how terrorists were able to use planes on 9/11 for terrorist acts on US soil.

    No matter how hard Obama supporters try to defend and cover up for Obama, Napolitano, etc.-–it is NOT going to work. The majority in the country are now very much aware/awake that Obama, Napolitano, etc-- are FAILURES in regard to keeping US citizens and our country safe.

    Also, the MAJORITY in the country knew months ago-–that the Fort Hood terrorism--was NOT an isolated event by a lone Muslim extremist with mental problems.

    January 3, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. jesse

    I am sure the Republican is happy – anything that they can spin for votes and try to keep the people afraid. They are a bunch of Cowards and Traitors.

    January 3, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  7. greenspam

    Hate to agree, but I got to agree with a Republican on this one. This was a massive security failure. I am still waiting for answers on how it happened.

    January 3, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  8. Hendrik

    Oh, Mr. Kean, sounding a bit partisan, aren't we?

    Mr. Obama's actions understandable but Obama still is a scoundrel for not focusing on terrorism.

    Bipartisanship stopped when the commission was done. Right back to the same old Republican line. President Obama is just a well-meaning fool.

    Shut up, Mr. Kean and let those responsible take care of things. No you, you Republican hack.

    January 3, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  9. Sam I Am

    I think it's interesting that the Republicans are quick to jumpt to blame the Obama administration for a failed bombing attempt, when it was actually security in Europe that was lax. The bomber boarded a plane with no luggage, after paying cash for his ticket in AMSTERDAM. Amsterdam is not under the control of the US government and the TSA. Amsterdam is actually a foreign city.

    Republicans also seem to forget that the worst terrorist attack in US history occurred on George Bush's watch, after his administration had been warned repeatedly that an attack was about to take place. And once the attack took place, he sat their like a fool, waiting for someone to tell him what to do.

    January 3, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  10. Nellyjames

    Did us a favor? Might be why the "us" is no longer the political party in charge. Would guess the person speaking did not have any children on board the airplane and why the "us" crowd is so irrelevant. Party before country and human life, no thanks.

    January 3, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  11. David

    Yeah! Did us a favour by helping to reduce unemployment by creating the job of "Chief Crotch Inspector" at every airport in the United States!

    I am sure the entertainment industry will creat a new TV show called "American Airport: Chief Crotch Inpector" ("CCI" for short).

    Don't get me going on the adult entertainment industry...

    January 3, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  12. Connie, Indiana

    and who opened Pandora's box 8 yrs or so ago..? with the pledge of getting Osama Bin Laden. And now we are all paying the price for taking the "eye off the ball"...

    January 3, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  13. rachel

    But wait werent all these polices that FAILED in place for the past 8 years?, the years the repubicans ruled the roost and said these polices would keep us safe? I think there was a failure and President Obama would do well to look at every thing put in place by the Bush administration and look at redoing cause they aren't working.

    January 3, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  14. Marco

    And DUBYA was God too...yeah right get real. The terrorists are constantly trying our defenses. The problem is that the administration is not paranoid enough, not vigilant enough and does not follow through on all intelligence. They know where these guys are getting trained with help from Iran. They know where their bases are located. Any one traveling through those places is SUSPECT and needs further processing. Revoke some Visas, they get mad, too bad. Profiling is not a bad word and it should be used to the max. PC has no business when our safety is concerned. War on terrorism, well I don't hear of other terrorists trying to kill us but the Muslims. It is a war on Islam and no one is willing to say it so far.

    January 3, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  15. Larry S

    I is so great to see all of the un-intelligent liberal comments. It continues to add proof of the lack of knowledge from Obama and the liberal media and people of the democratic party.

    January 3, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  16. Tony

    Again, excuses and blame. What happened to the promise of "responsibility" and "transparency"? This administration needs to get it's act together. It is absolute crap that the administration can't focus on terrorism while focusing on health care, the economy and such. That's why Obama has people in the administration at Homeland Security, the CIA, NSA, etc. I sure wish those folks would focus on their jobs or resign.

    Enough of blaming the prior administrations (yes, Clinton, too). If you took a job and replaced an "incompetent boob", when your annual review came up, what would you say to your boss? "It's all George's and Dick's faults?" How long do you think it would take for you to be FIRED?

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Do your job! Replace the incompetent political hacks at the head of the CIA and Homeland Security. They're getting people killed, literally. You may not have caused the problems, but it's your job to fix them. You took the job knowing this. You campaigned on these issues (your job interview). You promised change, but things are static. We all had HOPE, but you're letting us down.

    Signed, Your Employer, the American Voter.

    P.S. To the RIGHT and LEFT WING nuts in both Parties: think about being the solution instead of the problem or the voters will FIRE you in November!!!

    January 3, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  17. joe

    dingdongs. Look, this is typical misdirection politics that are typical of the Republicans. They want you to ignore their actions or inactions on important issues that America faces every day. Ive never seen the Republican party more useless than it is right now. The democrats might not be that great but at least they are not the Republicans.

    January 3, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  18. DSangiovanni

    What this terrorist attack shows is that the USA Security System is a mockery, and the terrorist are stupid enough to not cause some worst damages to USA. God protect us if they get smarter ...

    Stop accussing this administration and do your job whatever it is. How can the accusse this administration about something put in place long time ago?

    January 3, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    This all falls under being attacked by Muslim renagade's all of this is happening because of a so called prophet named Mohamad and his Koran this guy couldnt read or write and his words wasnt even documented until after his death how can a people trust the words of a confused bible that leaves its meaning to be different for each Muslim such as the meaning of Jihad the Koran is a corrupt bible with to many different people resiting it from memory with no solid facts . The point is we are at war with the words of the Koran .

    January 3, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  20. James D

    How can a president of a country at war with terror not be focused on terror, hmmm maybe he's too busy with oprah, and leno ...and his several week vacation in hawaii, and his wife being more popular than him , and bowing to foreign leaders ect..ect.ect........i sure hope there's a country left in 2012 so we can get a leader who will lead ,not follow his media advisor around hollywood !!!! I made a comment here over a year ago stateing we would be attacked on our soil again within one year of Bush leaving office .... we have had two.....i hate being right sometimes..!!!!!

    January 3, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  21. Larry S

    How many attempts have there been since Obama came in to the WH? In one year, there are more than the eight years of Bush. I guess we need to blame Bush for keeping us safe for eight years . . . the liberal responses are so lacking in common sense.

    January 3, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  22. Sage Nia

    Dear Mr. Republican, Why waste your time down talking the president. There is no chance in hell you guys are taking back the next elections. Give up on this childish "who spilt milk" tangent of yours.

    January 3, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  23. Dan

    When he said "probably did us a favor," he was referring to the GOP.

    January 3, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. pkb

    Typical GOP controlled CNN article. It is alarming that we now have two FOX News channels.

    January 3, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  25. ted

    I disagree with the Republicans that say Obama is not focused on terrorism. Actually the predator attacks on alqueada are more numerous and we have surged military forces twice in Afghanistan. The key to keeping America safe is getting the international community engaged. Had the Amsterdam airport not let this undewear bomber board the plane, then nothing would have happened.

    So, how do we do this? Through the impotent UN? Nah. Obama needs to get the G20 into Camp David surrounded by US military forces and them to pony up on security at their airports and other transportation terminals.
    Also, get more CIA folks into the Pakistan and Afghanistan and Yemen and other areas and infiltrate and start killing the bad guys. Get ,more predators in the air and just bomb the hell out of the bad guys.

    Get the international community going. It is an international problem, not just Obama's problem. It is a patriotic thing, not a political thing, as the Repubthugs think. CHENEY is wrong.

    January 3, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
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