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. usualone

    We all know September 11 happened during the Republican administration. Democrats did not blame the Republicans as I recall. They got behind the Bush administration at that time. There had been incidents and threats before Sept. 11 so that administration should have been aware of the potential disasters. SHAME ON REPUBLICANS for playing politics at this time. And anyone who agrees with them surely has a bad memory or is living under disillusional thinking. They certainly don't care for Americans, just their party.

    January 3, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  2. homey

    Why are there not bomb sniffing dogs on duty at the airports? Bet one would have caught and bit him you know where, he hid the bomb in his underwear.

    January 3, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. Will

    After listening to the video, I would probably have a different choice of words. Thankfully, no one got hurt but it does show some potential lapses and gaps in the processing, handling and sharing of important intelligence information. President Obama is now doing what he should be which is a review of the situation to improve processes. Personally, I do not think this reflects badly on the president but those departments.

    Nonetheless, I disagree with some that the president's role is to be solely focused on security when reality the, I believe, everything should be the president's focus when dealing with the state of this country. This means the president should be concerned with the health, education, wealth, growth and security of his/her people within our borders.

    Too much of a focus within one particular area will leave the other areas to the wayside. That's why the president has advisors whom supposed to be the subject matter experts within their appointed area to ensure he is up to date with the latest information while the president takes on the big picture.

    January 3, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    @Marcus in Greensboro, NC January 3rd, 2010 12:00 pm ET

    Bush did fail America. From Iraq to Katrina he mismanaged everything. He did not use our resources wisely or the right way. People waving flags on rooftops for over a week after a hurricane is ridiculous.


    They were told to leave well before the waters raged down the streets. Why didn't they? Oh that's right, they wanted to loot Walmart.

    January 3, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  5. Robert

    Hey K Wright, if you wan to bring race into this discussion, at least be factual. He's not a "lean mean black man." He is of mixed race raised by a white mother and white grandparents after his black father abandoned him. Idiot.

    January 3, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  6. Retired US Army Officer - Kansas

    We are not liked by some, big news. Some want to attack us and attack our way of life, big news. Fool's letting such incidents effect what they think and how they go about their daily buisness, a victory for those that want to do us harm. Chill and do not over react to such acts, over reaction and media attention are what such groups want.

    January 3, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  7. NotFooledTX

    “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.

    Really? So the CIA, FBI and homeland security were all focused on health care and global warming? That's ridiculous claim. As proven, the president and his administration are able to focus on multiple issues – as it should. The CIA, FBI, et. al – and their leaders – were all still doing their jobs, and the President has been briefed and has met with them regularly. The other issues of the day do not affect the terrorism efforts – to claim otherwise is really just ridiculous.

    January 3, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  8. Aspen Professor

    “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." Ah yes, a Republican pointing fingers at the Dems.

    I wonder if he ever pointed a finger at Bush – Cheney who were in office for over 8 months when 911 happened? The B-C combo ignored the warnings of possible attack via aircraft and did nothing.

    Then, to save face, B-C composed a lie about WMD in Iraq and led us into a very very long war that was and is longer than World War 2. Did we find WMD? NO. Did B-C have an exit plan? NO.

    Did B-C stop the pursuit of Ben Laden in Afghanistan? YES. Wonderful! The Repub, draft-dodging Commander-in-Chief and his Puppetmaster, draft-dodging V"P are now gone but will not be forgotten any time soon. Hopefully not in the 2010 elections and beyond.

    January 3, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  9. kay

    Kean is a joke.He blamed Clinton for 9/11.There is a lot of blame to go around.

    January 3, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  10. Hawktyme

    Obama shouldn't be checking ID's and monitoring who gets on international flights. There should be a process set up. A process established to prevent a repeat of a previous incident. Something that should have been established under the Republican's management of the system.

    I think the problems continue to be in our Security Services – the CIA, the FBI and the DEA. They just can't seem to connect the dots. They do a great job of busting high school kids smoking pot on a street corner. If only we could get the terrorists to carry some weed when they plan their attacks!!

    January 3, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. Incredulous

    I am not certain which is worse: the Obama administration who is not focused on fighting terrorisim or the Bush administration who used terrorism to gain political advantage and who gave Osama bin Laden essentially a free pass for six years while we spent ourselves into finacial ruin accomplishing little in Iraq.

    January 3, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  12. J.C. - Independent 4 Public Option

    We should thank the terrorist's father, Mr. Umaru Abdul Mutallab, too. This goes to show us that there are peace-loving Muslims and there are radical Muslims.

    January 3, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. Carl Justus

    When did Bush find out about the shoe bomber? Did he come clean on it within two days and he was not on vacation at the time?
    When did he explain how that happened and how long did it take him to speak to American people about the lapse that occured then?

    Was he as fast as Obama to come out and tell the American people the problems and will fix those problems. Did he set up a meeting with ALL security advisors and those in charge within a week?

    It took him six days even to address the problem much less get a head banging meeting to find out how this happened and to address the problems that let in happen.

    January 3, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. roscoe

    Just retired ... so glad I don't have to go through those stupid security lines anymore. I never fely one bit safer by having those bozos make my life inconvenient than I did before the TERRORISTS MADE IT THAT WAY. But, don't insult these animals by profiling. That would not be nice.

    January 3, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  15. Angela

    Bush's state department issued the visa for this guy. He boarded a plane in Amsterdam and went through Dutch screening processes, which is more stringent than here, I have been there. They usually pat everyone down. Other passengers on the plane were patted down, he probably was too. In other counties it is not unusual to pay with cash. No luggage, also not as rare as in the US. The Netherlands are another country which run their own screening process, NOT the TSA. The Netherlands does not answer to the US.

    So exactly how was it Obama's fault that this guy got on the plane? Should he have been there personally strip searching the guy, and that would have been necessary to find the bomb. Should he be spending his days weeding the no travel list to make sure Americans who are no threat are not on it while insuring that every person on the list of over a million has been stringently investigated and correctly listed.

    Considering that Bush's State department gave him a visa. Bush released the people from Guantanamo who set up a cell in Yemen and trained this guy. You might add to the mix the FACT that the Republicans have a hold on confirmation of the Obama man to run the TSA so Obama's choice can't get in there and actually implement Obama's plan. I would say that it is at least as much Bush's fault as Obama's, and more the Republicans fault than that of the Democratic members of Congress. Though to be perfectly rational it was neither man's fault.
    Considering that in the last 11 months we have killed and captured as many Alquaeda leaders as happened during Bush's last 4 years I figure Obama never took his eye off the ball.

    January 3, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. carole

    Wow! Obviously the Republicans have gotten to Mr. Kean. He gave
    quite a different analysis on one of your shows last week, and came
    out forcefully against the "blame game" attitude of both parties.
    Now, who has spoken to him about going on the offensive? When
    statesmen like Tom Kean start acting like this, there is no hope
    for the Republican party. Not cool, Mr. Kean . . . you were one of the last Republicans that Iadmired. Admired in the past tense. Yes, President Obama has had many, many "distractions" on his plate due to the absolute mess that your guys left this country in.

    January 3, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. Chad in Georgia

    The lesson, whether Republicans or Democrats are in power, whether it is 911 or Christmas day, is that the people need to defend themselves with extreme violence. The government isn't going to defend your family from terrorist, thugs, or child killers. Anyone looking to the government is an enemy to his own family.

    January 3, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. Len

    Homeland – – – – Motherland, same things, different times – victory does not vanquish evil without the victors assimilating the best and worst of the vanquished The evil destroyed is disseminated amoung the victors. It has no other place to go.
    Does it survive?
    Actually it revives in many ways.
    Do you just carry it along or does it come to define you.
    The truth becomes evident in the actions.
    It is more than a matter of opinion – it becomes – – a matter of fact.

    How do you act?

    January 3, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. meks1

    "Those who tried to kill almost 300 Americans" did a favour to the GOP politicians. Could you explain that to those whos lives were in danger?? How can someone so irresponsibly say such things?
    I just want to say that such leaders are those that will surely RUN AMERICA DOWN. Criticisms need to be constructive but the GOP has lost all sences and in trying to make a comback in the next elections, they invite ´the terrorist to kill Americans. They seem to have been praying for terror attacks on American interests.
    Shame on you GOP.

    January 3, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. KLJ

    The politics of fear has arisen again! Instead of focusing on solutions, the Republicans are going back to their old playbook of fear tatics and the Washington two step shuffle. The terrorists will continue to exploit our safety procedures because there is no fool proof system. They will continue these attempts no matter who is in the White House. Therefore, we must ignore the political BS that Washington revels in and focus on continually improving our security procedures.

    January 3, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  21. Susan

    As the Blog post by Sothern 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?"

    We have to watch this one.....cuz we will be spending way to much money on all this scanning equipment. Ask the questions......
    what does the scanner do with:
    1. a female wearing a santitary pad,
    2. an older person wearing a depend,
    3. people with small bladders wearing some protection, etc.
    Also, need to ask will scanners catch items in someones stomach or up an orifice.

    January 3, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. Black Viper

    This low level republican want the right wing stupid haters to believe that the administration is not focused on protecting the country. So why
    1. Obama sent more troops to afghanistan?
    2. Increase Drone attacks than never before on Terrorists?
    3. Try to built new alliances with arab nations to combat terrorism?
    4. Trying close a shamefull torture cell in Guatanamo which the recruiting tool for al qeada.
    5. Talking to russia and china to solve the iran Nuclear problem?
    It's make me sick that they are some people in america who think the can fool the american people day and night to make them believe they are the only people that can protect this country while in contrary they are making us vulnerable trying to bully everybody in the world.
    Why didn't kill Osama bin laden or everysingle terrorist in 8 years of power if that was possible?
    It's a cat and mouse game. We just hope they never score by blocking all their attacks and being on offensive.

    January 3, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  23. Edwin

    Letcommonsenseprevail said about the democrats: "...Meet me on a street one day ... and we'll see who gets smacked around.... You make me throw up in my mouth just by virtue of the fact that people like you exist."

    It makes me just as sick that there are people like you who can spew such hatred and think, somehow, that you are the better person.

    January 3, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. Colin

    Lets have this discussion in three years. If we had intelligence on the bomber, why wasn't it acted on? Did the perpetrator have a visa or a passport? If not, why was he even let on the plane. Amsterdam security is among the most lax in the world and it needs to be addressed. This is all on Obama's watch. It is time for him to OWN his responsibility. Obama has never accepted blame for anything in his presidency. He says the economy is growing, but there is no private sector growth. He was a lawyer, but did he actually spend time in a court room? He has never run a Dairy Queen, let alone play head boss with 34 czars (with no accountability) at his side. Americans need to stay vigilant and wake up to the scam we call Barack Obama.

    January 3, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  25. sasquatch

    Although Hillary was no panacea, she is far wiser from experience than what we now have and would have been better than McSame. We failed again in the last election by electing a novice mainly based on his color. When one thinks about it, it really makes NO sense that we elected Obama president on such a mundane basis, with no leadership experience to pull us out of the misery that a noncompas mentas put us into during the eight years before Obama. We had eight crappy years to start this milennium and we have another four to suffer through presently. God help this country that can no longer GET it RIGHT!!!

    January 3, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13