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. indiana voter

    I love seeing Democrats still try to blame Bush for Obama's failures. Go on, keep trying to use that line, even though the majority of the U.S. and the rest of the world, recognize that this is Obama's failure, not Bush's. I think there are people on here that are afraid that their President is a mere man and that he is failing an awful lot and taking this country too sharply to the left, that the majority of the American people are pushing back and calling the Democrats on it.

    January 3, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. mikeN

    If they would just let law-abiding, well trained citizens carry fire-arms on planes it would prevent so much.

    January 3, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. kalico

    It appears that what wil suit the GOP, "The Party of "NO" is to allow them to continue the Bush's ideology and leave things as they were. What they are clamouring about is that changes are being made here and there to the fruitless ideology that they set up.
    "This administration is going to fail." "We do not want you to touch anything, and do not change anything."

    January 3, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain

    If the Bush Administration had implemented the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, then this most recent terrorist attempt would never have occurred.

    January 3, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. indiana voter

    Why is it that every time a Democrat is in the White House, we lose more Embassies in other countries. Once again, Obama is like Carter. A weak President with no backbone.

    January 3, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. kalico

    It appears that what will suit the GOP, "The Party of "NO" is to allow them to continue the Bush's ideology and leave things as they were. What they are clamouring about is that changes are being made here and there to the fruitless ideology that they set up.
    "This administration is going to fail." "We do not want you to touch anything, and do not change anything."

    January 3, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    The Bush Administration was too busy trying to gain control of Iraqi oil to upgrade communication between our intelligence services, to make our ports of entry safer, to properly allocate money to those cities and areas deemed at the highest risk of further attack. All of these things and more were recommended by the 9/11 Commission, on which Kean served.

    As usual, the Bush Administration put profits ahead of people. That administration was full of arrogant egos, unwilling to listen to the Clinton transition team's warnings about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, to the point of ignoring the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing memo entitled, "Al Qaeda Determined to Attack the U.S. Using Airplanes."

    January 3, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. sasquatch

    First off, this administration is not focused on global warming, nor healthcare with a president that takes a three week vacation after submitting a half-ass plan which will never work and only get us deeper in debt and thirdly, there is no real focus on new job creation, which tells me that the focus is not strong on anything presently. Typical half-ass nonsense blownhard political rhetoric at its finest blown through the jaws of the most modulated presiential voice ever to grace the capitol I will give this president an A for "sounding great" and saying nothing!!!

    January 3, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Texdem

    United we stand, divided we fail. We as a people need to tune out the extremists on both sides and work together. It is sad that people like Rush and his counterparts on the left make 100's of millions of Dollars urging us to hate each other and we are so gullible we buy the BS they spew. They are tyhe truly un-Americans in our midst.

    January 3, 2010 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Little Tommy

    I'm sure glad I voted for change!

    January 3, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. sasquatch

    The ONLY "positive" thing to come out of this Nigerian terror episode is that Obma is guaranteeing a very "FAIR" trial to the terrorist, granting him the best defense attorney DC has to offer, paid for by none other than good ole US taxpayer money...even though the terrorist was born with a silver spoon in his mouf and has a billionaire father that should easily pay for this nonsense trial. When will laws change in this country to get rid of terrorists without trials and protect joe citizen? Until that happens...the laws are insane and need complete overhaul. We really have very few SANE laws nowadays...most laws protect the criminals.

    January 3, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    Kean is not privy to the same information as Brennan. Therefore, Kean is just speculating about what happened, acting like a typical Republican these days, sewing fear and distrust, doing his best to try to make our president and our country fail.

    GOP = Party Before Country

    January 3, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  13. Mark

    So Mr. O and Holder just got done lambasting the CIA and now they want the CIA to cover for them? You cant have it both ways Mr O.

    January 3, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. valwayne

    "The System Worked". Its taken Obama less than a year to take apart our security systems to the point where terrorists can just waltz onto a plan with a bomb. That's bad enough, but than to declare the system worked. Even worse Obama than decided the terrorist was an Isolated Extremist and had him read his Miranda rights, given a lawyer, and the right to remain silent. We now know that he wasn't an isolated extremist, but a part of a vast Islamic terrorist conspiracy at war with the U.S. intent on killing as many Americans as possible. But of course we can't interrogate him to get information to save the lives of more Americans.....Obama has seen to that. The conclusion is simple: President Barack Hussein Obama" has damaged our secruity systems and has put us in terrible danger. Unless of course you are a democrat who believes "The System Worked"!!!

    January 3, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  15. SD Bob

    Has anyone traveled lately? Like the lines, and security theater? How about we not give in to the fear? How about we tackle drunk/distracted driving with the same fervor, its killed far more US citizens than any terrorist.

    January 3, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  16. beanne

    Is it a no wonder that so many terrorists have tried and have attacked us this year with BO holding his arms wide open and saying...
    Come all you who want to attack us and I will give you citizenship
    Come all who attack us and I will give you lawyers paid by those you attack
    Come all you who hate us and I will give you a world stage to spew your hatred towards us and expose our weakness.
    Come all who want to destroy America and Americans and I will bow down before you.
    Come all who would be captured on the battle field and I will send you to a tropical Island and give you a job driving golf carts.
    Come to America and I will give you hope and change!
    so much for the statue of liberty...time to take the ol girl down and replace her with a statue of BO holding the Koran in one hand and an olive branch in another.

    January 3, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. robert l gray

    how come all thse hasbeen people will not take the blame for screwup this countryno can have the gall to make remarks teblling what we should do to correct ALL THE MISTAKE THEY MADE SCREWUP THIS COUTRY

    January 3, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. Abe Gilbert

    Well, of course the current administration has no intelligence capabilities. The bush administration gutted everything that once made this nation independant starting with all Intelligence gathering. Bush should be sent to Guantanamo Bay where he can tie his own hands behind his back gag himself and hang himself to death. Oh, and the House and Senate allowed our nation to be effectively left defenseless and even helped in many cases which makes them complicit. Why do we continue to vote for people who were picked by these two parties that have decimated our once great nation. I am tired of these theives, liars and murderers. We can't rebuild our country as long as the Democrats and Republicans continue to squable over how to destroy our nation further. It is half past midnight for the U.S.A. and something must be done immediately or she will never see another dawn.

    January 3, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  19. Mike in Texas

    Another person playing the party blame game. Our politicians and American people who play this game are pathetic. Quit trying to keep score and work together.

    No one wins in the blame game because nothing gets done.

    January 3, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    As others have posted here: 9/11 happened on GW Bush's watch!

    In part, because his administration ignored the Clinton transition team's explicit warnings about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

    GW Bush also ignored the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing Memo entitled, "Al Qaeda Determined to Attack the U.S. Using Airplanes."

    January 3, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  21. Joe

    All you Obama people are ready to slam anyone who is a Repbulican. Why don't you read what Mr Kean is saying. He clearly states that the Republicans and Bush were not focused prior to 9/11. All he is saying is that Obama is focused on many things such as Health care and other things. This is a wakeup call for the adminsitration to start looking at another area that is just as important, the safelty of the American people and the countrys safety. Stop bashing everyone that has an opinion. If you carefully read what is being said he is not bashing Obama. (that is if any of you can read and reason.)

    January 3, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. Over the top

    How dare he appear to possibly criticize Pres. Obama!

    January 3, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. windrider

    The main difference this time is the speed with which the White House is briefing the American people and providing as much explanation as possible and still keep national security secrets. It took months before the Bush administration would admit there was any kind of problem in the national security s, and steadfastly denied that the WH had any inkling of an attack...until documentation of the 40+ warnings delivered to the WH surfaced. We NEVER got a full or honest story from the White House about 9/11. The Obama administration has admitted early on that the same problems that plagued the intelligence agency information sharing under Bush is still happening. This, despite hundreds of billions of dollars, and an obscenely unwieldy sprawling bureaucracy (Homeland Security), and the compromise of fundamental constitutional rights in order to give Bush what he claimed he needed to fix the problem. Obviously he didn't. And so another terrorist slipped through the cracks. I'm not sure that any system by any President can catch every crazy out there who wants to do us harm. But to treat this lapse as solely Obama's responsibility ignores 7 years of negligent reform under Bush that failed to alter the CIA's fundamental culture of hoarding information. It also ignores Bush's culpability in not treating the al-qaeda threats in Yemen and Somalia seriously...just as he only made a token effort in Afghanistan so that key leaderships of the Taliban and al qaeda escaped and found sanctuary in Pakistan.

    January 3, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  24. Nigerian Journalist Kemi Omololu-Olunloyo

    Homeland Security needs to start focusing on "the individual" and not terror watch lists and terror alert colors. I said this on all the cable channels last week. Please protect innocent folks.....

    January 3, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. billyboy

    Just a question: who was president during the 9/11 terrorist attack?

    The Republicans have some nerve!!!!!

    January 3, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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