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. Manuel J.

    I believe people who put their politics above national interests are NOT productive to this conversation. Terrorism has been persistent and growing since the late 1960's. So for those of you wanting to blame Dem's or Republicans, you're way off base and uneducated.

    I dare say most detractors, on the right and the left, have never served the U.S. in any capacity (i.e. military, Red Cross, etc.).

    If you really want to contribute, serve your country as some of us have!

    U.S. Army vet

    January 3, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  2. Levin

    As a Obama supporter and Democrat, I completely agree with the comment that the failed Bomber "did us a favor." With no casualties (other than to the bomber himself), he pointed out the shortcomings of the intelligence and lack of a comprehensive shared database of suspected terrorists allowing us to make improvements in the future. I don't see this as an indictment of the current administration.

    January 3, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. Lynne in CA

    Terrorism is a global issue, the United States is not the only terrorist target. In the failed Christmas bombing it was Amsterdam that dropped the ball. Global security forces must work in tandem and share information as well as responsibility for keeping the world safe from radical extremist attacks.

    January 3, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |

    What is it about the right wing and their self delusions? President Bush is responsible for more American deaths than the 9/11 attacks what about that do you not understand? We invaded Iraq for one reason only that was to avenge the threat to Bush senior from Saddam I won't even go the oil way because its not needed. How on Earth did invading Iraq and leaving Al-Queda in Afghanistan in place keep anyone safe? The Cole bombing happened on Clintions watch but in the eight years Bush was president did he even find Yeman on the map? They have to be the biggest revisionists of history you'll ever find.

    January 3, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  5. Ray E.

    So many intellegent comments on this post. There are Still people out there that want to bring down the U.S., your way of life and substitute their way of life in it's place. Instead of making assinine remarks about the past Adminstration or the one before that you need to realise the problem, there are those that will kill you or cut your head off before you can say stop. Grow up people. The Only way to end this is go full speed ahead and kill the extremeists until they realise that maybe peace is the answer.

    January 3, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  6. james from texas

    Why is it that the republicans act like they care what could have happened to the 300 passengers... while they blow off the 45,000 Americans who ACTUALLY die each year from lack of health insurance. Wake up America, they don't care about us unless it will make political points.

    January 3, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. Leta

    Every time you lock down Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Bill Clinton so they can't move money or weapons you have a terroist attack..... The heat shuts them down and the Iraqi's and Iranians get mad and scared. It messes with their system....GO FIGURE!!

    January 3, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. Ms. Solo

    In my opionon, all Visa's should be suspended...period....until futher notice. Anyone traveling to or from Middle East, should be screen further. People, let's take a look at where he boarded the plan...In Amsterdam...now had tighter security measures been in place, he would not have boarded. Yes, the government should share info between agencies. Let's make it a law. Let's not blame and point fingers at each other. Let's work together. Obama, I support you. Let's make it happen, right now, TODAY!!!

    January 3, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. Impeach Obama Now

    9-11 was planned as Bill Clinton squandered his presidency molesting a female staffer in the Oval Office. Bush had to deal with Clinton's mess and he kept us safe for 8 years.

    Within a year, we have already had two terrorist attacks on US soil (no matter how Obama and his shills in the Press spin it) thanks to this incompetent street agitator and the clowns that surround him.

    Impeach Obama now. He's in way over his head!

    January 3, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. Gop

    If you read it, you understand he is not placing blame on Obama. Just pointing out the same problems, Democrats pointed out that were wrong when Bush was president still have not been corrected.

    If Democrats were telling us Bush took his eye off the ball then we must say the same thing about Obama.

    The one thing he is pointing out is this information is still not being shared and that problem could have lead to over 300 more Americans dieing at the hands of a Terrorist.

    Obama cannot believe just because he does not like using the term Terrorist or war on Terror that these things will just go away!

    Hey Claudia

    Bush never failed the American people. You’re ignorant to even think that. Again, you’re nothing but a liberal so it’s just your mindset if you could even prove you have a mind.

    Bush kept this country safe and that is a fact you liberals can’t deny but keep trying to gloss over with your lies.

    It's disgraceful to the families and victims of 9/11 that Obama and his party thinks because they stop using words like Terrorist and war on Terror that they will respect our nation and stop trying to kill Americans. Nevertheless, liberals like you Claudia just cannot see the truth no matter how much it hits you in the face.

    January 3, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  11. Dave C - NJ

    So the question is...if this happened on Bush's (or McCain's) watch...would Kean be making the same statements?

    I highly doubt it.

    January 3, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  12. Marcus in Greensboro, NC

    Obama is not in the CIA, FBI, NSA, or another other intelligence agency. I do not blame him for the failure of their work. They are hired to inform him of these issues, and obviously that is where the failure happened. He can only work with the information he's given, and all levels of the government have conceded that there were mistakes that happened outside of his control. He does not work at the embassies around the world where the father went and warned us of his missing son that has radical ideals. He can only work with what information is given to him, and basically it was not passed on and NOT his fault. Republicans think anything that goes wrong is fair game, but we need to remember that the setup he is using was put into place before he got into office. They need to watch the finger pointing because if we go back it will show that he is working within the system that was setup before he became president that they designed.

    January 3, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  13. Jason

    I agree, What does this administration's stance on Terrorism have to do with the security systems that are already in place at the airports!? Aren't we "already" safe!? Either way, it doesn't fall on Obama. It falls on our governent in general, which has been around for decades, and they still can"t get it right.

    It's such a shame that our politicians fight eachother rather than work together. Why do we pay them so much!? really, what have they done for us except lie cheat, and steal?

    January 3, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. tonyb

    Look in the mirror America!!! Stop buying illegal drugs and the Mexican, Taliban cartels would'nt have financing. You can control people by their vice rather than virtue.F

    January 3, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Proud Democrat

    The lax security at several airports is not a new revelation. We have known this for some time and yet Homeland Security has been slow in fixing these problems.

    However, this new incident has OPENED the EYES of the American public and leashed a new outrage which has mobilized Homeland Security and the White House to fix the current problems.

    Let's hope they listen to us when it comes to the Gitmo detainees......we DON'T want them in the US and we DON"T want them tried as US citizens. These are foreign terrorists who have committed an act of terrorism against us and they deserve to be treated as such.

    Addiitonally.....who was the dummy who came up with the idea of sending the YEMEN Gitmo detainees back to YEMEN? Only a person with low brain activity could come up with such a ridiculous idea.

    January 3, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  16. Confucuis

    The Christmas day near disaster stems back to the lack of cooperation among the agencies that are PAID to protect us from terror tyrants and their minnows who are willing to self sacrifice for whatever ideology they were brainwashed to espouse. EGOS block the entrance for intelligent communications and unlike 9/11, heads should roll and high paid department chiefs should get the AX!!

    January 3, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. Donkey Party

    Amazing how the righties proclaim their eternal ignorance when they say how Bush "kept us safe" for 8 years. Safe from what? Safe when 9/11 occured? Oh yeah, that happened on Bush's watch, but they all seem to forget that little teensie part.

    January 3, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  18. SNAPPA

    Once and for all President Bush kept no one safe for eight years, 9/11 happened on Bush's watch even when Richard Clark kept trying to give the president the intel on Osama Bin Ladens plan to attack the US with "planes" you can remember that from the 9/11 hearing right? for eight months of the bush white house he kept trying to fill bush in but he was constantly shove to the back of the line. From day one Bush was planning his war on Iraq to avenge the death threat saddam was quoted as saying about bush senior nothing else mattered to bush jr than to avenge his father. This is what I mean when I say the right wing is not interested in FACTS only delusional historical revisionism.

    January 3, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Dave in Albuquerque

    Every time I think that the Republicans have run out of despicable things to say, they come through with another one. Does anyone else remember the damage done to this country by the "soft on Communism" accusations? Now equally small-thinking minds are again trying to play the "soft on" card.

    January 3, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  20. Alex

    I think it is a threat to whole democracy in US that absolutely everything what happens in world is constantly depicted as the result of one person, "the president". It is not. Obama has not made any changes to how the terror watch list, do not call list and airport security are handled. If Cheney says the incident happened because Obama is not using the expression "war on terror" like he did then this is completely insane. Perhaps the best would be to abolish the whole institution of president alltogether and have parliamentary governments instead like most democrazies too, that may be only way to end the "president" obsession about things that have extremely little, if anything, to do with the person sitting in oval office.

    January 3, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  21. Liberals are worthless

    They've already proven they can't be trusted to on the economy, this is just more evidence that liberals can't be trusted with the security of this country either.

    Millions of liberals' heads are going to explode in November wondering why they got blow out.

    It only took you idiots three years to give a vast majority in this country such a bad taste in their mouths, that you can fully expect to be sitting on the sidelines, where you belong, for another decade or so.

    January 3, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  22. Marcus in Greensboro, NC

    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. Having people live in those portable trailers for over a year is ridiculous. Spending trillions in Iraq when you didn't pay attention to the real threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan is ridiculous. Those are ridiculous failures that Bush oversaw.

    January 3, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  23. Obama Mama

    Kean is an idiot. The administration was focused but need about 50 eyes to keep track of the mess Cheeeeeeney and Bush left....

    January 3, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  24. Cory

    It's what I've suspected of this administration all along. They have this delusion that al Qaeda ONLY exists in Pakistan, when it is obviously a world-wide threat!

    Bush was intelligent and brave, and understood the fact my last paragraph illustrates. That's why, until 2009, we fought the war on terror EVERYWHERE. And unlike the current President, Bush didn't value approval ratings and foreign opinion of America more than American lives!

    Hopefully, the current administration will end up like Carter's. Lord knows it's equally as self-destructive.

    January 3, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. Viola

    Why is everyone blaming this Administration for a "failed" attack, when no one blamed George Bush for the successful attacks on 9/11/01. Also no one blamed Regan for the 1983 embassy bombing where over 200 Marines loss their lives. You are right "Bill in Albuqyerque"...America especially the right wing nut jobs and the Christian Taliban needs to wake up.

    January 3, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
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