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. Brunton

    Great, this Kean fellow trying to make everyone afraid like some kind of Nazi. Hey dude, Obama has your stupid commissions recommendations in place just as much as Bush did. If there was something you wanted to add you should have spoken up. What part of your statement is useful? What part of undetectable chemical explosive did you not understand? We can't ignore the nations business indefinitely just because people like this want us to mess our pants whenever they say boo. Either grow a pair or get out of America.

    January 3, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain

    The GOP has absolutely NOTHING to offer our country, so they resort to fear tactics, lies, hatred and division.

    The GOP's policies are proven failures. Think about it; after 8 years of GW Bush:

    1. Was our country safer? No; 9/11 happened on Bush's watch; the majority of the 9/11 Commission recommendations were not implemented; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan became huge recruitment tools for extremists everywhere.

    2. Did your wages go up? Probably not, unless you were wealthy and enjoyed all the tax cuts Bush gave (you didn't do much tinkling down with that extra money, either).

    3. Did your health care costs go up? Yes – dramatically.

    4. Did your investments go up in value? No – you probably lost huge sums of money, due to the recklessness of Wall Street encouraged by all the deregulation under Bush.

    5. Did you feel a sense of unified purpose as an American? Probably not – you probably feel more divided, more of a "us vs them" feeling towards your fellow citizens.

    The only reason the GOP trots out people like Kean is because, even though they have NOTHING to offer us, they want to get back into power.

    GOP = Party Before Country

    January 3, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. Hugo

    Bill in Albuquerque
    Get a clue Bill, 9/11 occurred due to the inadequacies of the preceding Clinton Administration to take control of the voluminous warning signs of a mounting terror movement, please recall the Africa embassy bombings and the USMC Lebanon barracks bombings. I think that Obama thought he would swoop in with his Muslim heritage background and apologies to the world and gain some understanding from the middle east zealots. Guess he just didn't bow low enough, we are at war on their ground everyday and have been for over 10years counting the Iraq no fly bombing runs. It was Clinton that first dropped the ball but Obama is making the same mistakes and for those that think winning the hearts and minds of the locals will turn this, to coin a historical USMC phrase, if you grab them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow...

    January 3, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. Alan Goldstein

    >Southern mudsucker Isnt it odd that the new screening machines are already built and ready to go,but needed the support of the people to use,mmmmm?<

    Not really odd, just kind of silly. They've been ready for quite awhile, but a lot of people were up-in-arms, over the prospect of security personnel drooling over images of Aunt Ethel's naughty parts. Sometimes it takes an incident or two, to make people think like adults.

    January 3, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. Obabikon

    Some of you extremists that honestly believe republicans wanted a successful attack on the U.S. need to get a life. Just because they don't have the same view as you, doesn't mean they don't want what's best for this country. They want more security...

    January 3, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. Joe J

    Dream on you crazy republicans. Georgie and his morons had the intelligence reports forty two days before 911 and they sat on their hands.They should've been run out of office right then. There has never been such gross incompetence in the White house before those clowns.

    January 3, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  7. Richard Potter

    CNN,MSNBC and the main stream media presented Obama as the next Messiah;He was going to end all wars and bring peace to the world( Iran, North Korea ). Obama and the democrats are spending the US into oblivion,and our children and grand children can 't repay.The Obama administration gave up on the war on terror to appease the Moslem nations.They are no longer enemy combatant;but criminals.No military tribunals instead a trial in our US court system with all the the constitutiona rights of an american citizen. (New York) Wake up American before its to late. (November 2010 )

    January 3, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  8. Ethan

    Republicans are just begging to be ignored. They have proven their malfeasance time and time again. It's too late for them. They are now totally ignorable and irrelevant.

    January 3, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  9. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    First of all all of you cons such as Gingrich whining about TSA not doing their job, TSA is NOT responsible for screening passengers in The Netherlands.

    And what would have President Obama do, carpet bomb the Netherlands?

    Some one point out to the moron, that the agency to "harass the innocent, delay the harmless and risk the lives of over every American" was defined by and instituted under the reign of HRH, King George the II.

    You cons, ruled both ends of Penn Ave and have had 8 years to root out these short comings as spouted by Newt the Toad. Why didn't the Party of Newt take care of these shortcomings?

    To those same cons complaining TSA is not doing a thorough job, it is the fault of the cons and the traveling public. First, there were complaints that same sex pat downs were too "intrusive" and how offended we all were. Now, the "scanner" while not touching you still "invades our privacy" by letting a same sex screener see the outline of your penis and testes, or your breasts if you are female, however, it would have shown the explosive packet in the guy's groin area.

    If you do not approve of your penis or breast exposed via machinery or searches in an intimate area, then do not complain when highjackers are awarded the same right to privacy.

    This guy had the PETN in his underwear, just think how intrusive THAT pat down search would have been. We all want the "other guy" checked but not any of us "normal looking" people.

    Finally once again the man was not on the "no fly lists" because he was traveling on a valid visa that had already been used once. The TIDE data base could not tie the father's complaint a month ago to the list, because WE the TAXPAYER will not pay the taxes necessary to upgrade the computer system to respond in less than a month due to too many manual processes in place. So, the technology and good old manual frisking are there to help keep all the flying public safe, but a very vocal minority has succeeded in not allowing the full mechanism to be employed.

    So, we will keep taking chances like we saw on Christmas Day, but just quit squawkin' about it, because this is all WE the traveling public will pay for security and have demanded our privacy as a higher priority to us than is security.

    The trade off is some of us may not make it to our destinations, next Christmas.

    January 3, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Career serviceman

    The issue is not which party or administration is responsible, the fact remains that our nation is at war and obviously still being threatened. All Americans, whether military or civilian, democrat or republican, need to wake up to the realization that we must remain vigilant.
    Reflecting on our nations' history, the primary objective during World War II, despite the many other economic and national priorities, was winning the war.
    Many Americans are guilty of continued neglect and lack of acknowledgement there is a war going on will only weaken and divide the country. Regardless of party affiliation, all Americans need to unite in our resolve to first ensure our nation's security and quit worrying about civil liberties, and then focus on creating tangible positive solutions to other concerns such as reforming health care and not behind close doors, as well as creating the jobs that the stimulus money was supposed to create a long time ago.

    January 3, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  11. Dino

    "Did us a favor"???!!! Tell that to the passengers aboard the plane who could have been killed as well as their families. The GOP has been so disgusting that it almost seems like they wish that the terrorist had suceeded as it would have gained the Repugs more seats in the 2010 midterms. Ugh!!

    January 3, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  12. Kim

    As horrific as it is to consider, I do get the impression that many in the GOP would actually have preferred that the attempt had been successful. This is a sad and frightening testament to the depths to which this party has fallen.

    January 3, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    axlsm: President Obama saved our country from falling into an economic depression, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression.

    He has rebuilt our standing in the world, a key ingredient for future economic, military and political cooperation.

    President Obama has lead the fight for health care reform.

    He made a thoughtful assessment of our military needs in Afghanistan, taking into consideration the input of our generals (something Bush refused to do).

    And President Obama would have been able to do a LOT more, if it weren't for the obstructionist policies of the GOP, whose sole desire is to make our president and our country fail.

    January 3, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  14. Paul from Phoenix

    Exactly what was said that wasn't true? He said the Bush administration lacked focus before 9/11, which was true. He said Obama's administration has been lacking focus, which is clearly true, just by looking at the response to this.

    As an independent, I fail to see how this is in any way a partisan attack. People on the right and left are so programed that anything that comes out of the mouth of the other side they immediately claim is a partisan attack.

    You are all puppets of your parties, and you do nothing but regurgitate talking points.

    January 3, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. Moderate GOP turned Democrat in Tx

    I don't understand how any attack on our homeland – successful or unsucessful was doing us a favor. Would the same article have been written if 300 people on the plane died? Bush won re-election by screaming 9/11 and the politcs of fear. I am ashamed I voted republican for all these years. Conservative repubilicans, please stand for the USA and not for a party. This is why you have lost my vote.
    Politics, Politics and wanting the current elected party to fail at any cost??? Cost to our nation and its citizens through partisan politics is unacceptable!!!! These agencies were put under 1 umbrella to make sure that this does not happen. To say its a good thing is the worst statement an American could make. To me that is like saying 9/11 was a favor to Americans.

    January 3, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  16. Alan Goldstein

    It is a good thing it happened though. Now we are aware of another possibility. Problem is, there are countless possibilities, and we can't guard against them all. If this conflict continues long enough, there will be a successful attack or attacks.

    January 3, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  17. Don't you get it?

    "We will be safe when we stop terrorizing the people of the world"?!? Don't you get it? Read up on your history. EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT ISLAMIC EXTREMISM. We will be safe when the whole world is Muslim and not a minute sooner. This is not our fault! Educate yourself!

    January 3, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  18. Hector A

    Wow GOP seriously? I'm an independent and will vote for any party, as long as I like the candidate. I tell you what, I'll be scrutinizing the GOP more with ridiculous comments like this one now. It questions their motives. If all they want is to see Obama fail, above all other priorities, then I don't want you in office.

    January 3, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. Objective Observer

    Wow, some people obviously lack reading comprehension skills.

    Not only did Mr. Kean not place blame on Obama, he said he understood why the administration was concentrating more on other things than they were on terrorism. And no where did Kean support terrorism or imply that he wanted anybody "to fail". Attempting to turn this into a GOP vs Dems issue is just plain stupid and those of you attempting to that need to take a page from Kean's book and approach this from a what's best for America thing rather than carry on with ignorant partisan bickering.

    It is either a lack of reading skills or just blind partisanship.

    January 3, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  20. chester

    It seems strange that no one has commented on the fact that the bomber seems to have been trying to detonate a bomb over Dearborn, Mi. one of the largest conclaves of Muslims in the world. Out of a polulation of 100,000 40% are Muslim? Were they trying to punish the Dearborn Muslims?

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

    Completely agree that this was a failure of the security.

    Enough with the politics. Both parties need to accept

    We moved past this partisan bickering immediately after 9/11. Eveverything that Bush/Cheney wanted was passed. Sadly that didn't fix the problem. Fix it now or leave politics forever.

    Both parties need to accept blame that nothing has been fixed since 9/11.
    Bush, Cheney, and the Republican controlled Congree who ran everything 2001-2006 clearly did not fix the problem.
    Bush and the Democrats who controlled Congress from 2007-2008 did nothing to fix things.
    Now, Obama and the Democratic controlled haven't fixed things either.

    History understands mistakes happen. Those who accept responsibility and fix them are heroes. Those who criticize others, play politics, and betray Americans are called Benedict Arnolds.

    That's right, Benedict Arnold was once a celebrated American. He cared more about politics and power. He betrayed Americans. What will today's Democrats and Republicans do?

    Hopefully the days of holding up confirmation hearings over politics are over. The head of the TSA should be confirmed today. The Senator who has held this up, needs to explain why he thinks playing politics is more important than American security.

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

    For all of you neoconservative posters here that lay claim that their beliefs are all the facts and the other side is all a bunch of (take your pick from above), one "fact" stands out – the people who speak the loudest for conservative thought and is held the highest in conservative esteem is people with no higher education (Beck, Hannity, et al), disdains science (if left up to conservatives, we would still be depending on prayer alone to the Almighty to cure cancers, heart disease, etc.), and probably still be living in caves. In that regard, the ultra rightist and the extremist Muslims have something in common – they would rather go backwards than forward.

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

    When this country turns back to God, the God of the Holy Bible which the founding fathers knew and revered, THEN we will be protected.

    January 3, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  24. Republicansdisgustme

    Republican traitors and power seekers are utterly vomitous..

    They will happily destroy the country to gain their ends. What hateful, bile-spewing, offal.

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

    that is just sick to say a terrorist did us a favor. Have you no manners?

    January 3, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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