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. Gus

    all this will do is make it harder for American citizens re-enter the country. I spent over 2 hours detained at the US Canadian border, while foriegners flew by unchecked. DHS is a joke. remember DHS wqas a Bushie Idea. 20 years in the Military I even need an escort to go to the bathroom and then only after the security officers I was going to pee on the floor. I am not the least suprised that the Nigerian made it thru, they most likey were scrutinising an American Veteran.

    January 3, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. Obama Mama

    Buckwheat you are delusional

    January 3, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Annie, Atlanta

    It would be interesting to see how much money the GOP raised using the fear card, once again. Yeah, some favor.

    And how in the world can Republicans turn lax security in Africa and Europe into President Obama's fault? And how ignorant have we become that some of us actually fall for this nonsense?

    January 3, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Gil Oberdas

    Has the republican party gone completely political? What a sad comment about the divisiveness that has taken place by the Party of "NO!"

    January 3, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  5. Sam

    The shoe bombing attempt happened a few months after 9/11 while we were still trying to figure out strategy/tactics. 9 years have now passed since that attempt. In sports the scoreboard speaks the loudest. In 9 years we have had 0 attacks on US soil, in 1 year of this administration we have had 1 attempt. Maybe there's some truth to us being perceived as soft now.

    January 3, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. Ray Sawyer

    What baloney! Gov. Kean was part of the bipartisan Commission that laid all this silos problem out 8 years ago. Not to excuse nonsense like "the system worked," but obviously that long Bush watch after this had all become clear did nothing at all to avoid the same problem.

    No different than fool Rs trying to avoid the responsibility for the economic calamity Bush and the other princes of greed left us with, in their effort to blame the people who really saved us from the ultimate disaster those turkeys had prepared for us.

    January 3, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. Frannie

    In all the bickering as to whose fault it is that a man got on a plane with "loaded" underwear, you people are forgetting one major point: he got on a plane in a foreign country where they do NOT have to abide by our laws or monitor our watch lists.

    He would have been most definitely flagged if he had been flying domestic (as the 9/11 perps did), but he started from out of the country. The visa was obtained long before his father made the call concerning him, so any alerts to watch for an application would not have done any good.

    And, to seem partisan for just a moment–the rules about screening came from the PATRIOT Act (a Bush "contribution" to our "safety").

    January 3, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. FM

    What is the blaming game for??? When bad people blow up, do they they chose who is a Dem or who is a Repub???
    Instead of uniting together and fix where it is lose, we are just acting like we are not adults. Its a big shame!

    January 3, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. Rocky7

    I think we are over blowing this incident out of proportion. What we need to do now therefore, is finding ways to link-up all the dots even if its not a dot. because next time, there will be no dots but a word of mouth.

    January 3, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. Jacob

    Just remember voters, the Republicans NEED the Obama administration to fail, and they will continue to remind you that they are failing regardless of the great job the Obama team is doing.

    are the GOP really serving us as a country? don't be fooled...

    January 3, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. GKL1961

    What a jerk, wishing for an attack like this for his party.

    January 3, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. James Tau

    In contrast, the previous administration was busy reading books to Kindegartners in Florida while the Twin Towers were being destroyed by a pair of jumbo jets. That's understandable.

    January 3, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. Gorko

    They need to drag all those worthless repubs over to Iraq and let them fight the war. Those chicken-hawks squawked so loud for their wars, I say they should fight them as well. And Heaven forbid our current president wants to spend some of the $$$ on his own people as opposed to DICK and BUSH's many companies. Wake up people.

    January 3, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Alan Goldstein

    Let's get real. The ones most disappointed by the failure of this attack, are Republicans, Tea-baggers, and other Obama haters. If we are attacked, you'll witness an acting job of Oscar winning proportions, as these clowns fight to conceal their excitement and glee. You can almost hear them cheering the next attacker on. They're just as hateful and narrow minded as any Jihadist. Get Obama at any cost!....................Just as long as it doesn't cost THEM anything.

    January 3, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  15. Eric Chamberlain

    The problem with Obama is that he didn't want to view the situation as a "war against terror". The good thing about Obama is that he has recognized that this is indeed a war against terrorism, finally. But he needs to understand that this is not a war of geography so much as it is a war of ideas. Until he does, you will only see him reacting to what happens, rather than taking steps to prevent events. Ironically, in Obama's one year in office, there have already been more terrorist attacks than in Bush's eight years. He's too idealistic. Obama, and liberals in general, look at the fact that humans have been fighting over resources, land and ideas for over 80,000 years, yet you come along and are stupid enough to think you will change that by one guy apologizing for the United States, after we have given more aid, food, money, and medicine to those in need than anybody else. But that's the liberal way; everything is upside down. Whether it's defending murderers on death row while approving of abortion of innocent babies, or apologizing for the most giving nation in history, liberals like Obama are backwards, upside down, and just plain wrong. If liberals hated the terrorists who want to kill them half as much as they hated Bush, this country might actually get somewhere. When's the last time you ever heard a liberal complain about terrorism?

    January 3, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. seebofubar

    Face it, Obama is a child. He has no experience and no clue how to lead a nation. He's a disgrace and should be evicted from the white house tomorrow. I never thought that I would see the day when the American people were so ignorant as to elect someone who could destroy in less than a year what it took 200 years to build. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

    January 3, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. warren smith

    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.
    Republicans AND Democrats MUST work together to help prevent further terrorist attacks on this country.

    Additionally, America MUST work together with OTHER countries to help prevent terrorists from attacking ANYWHERE in the world. We can't act alone since the departure point is not totally controlled by the United States.Obama got the job done on that one so, of course, the Greedy Old Pr!ck's try to spin the idea that somehow he didn't. Nothing can erase the miserable conduct of Cheney, Bush, Rove et al; the people they murdered, the money they stole, etc...no matter how many lies your paid shills tell on Fox "News" or how many idiots like Regan, Quail, Bush or Palin you fraudulently install in office with rigged elections.

    The Republican party is an obscenity.

    January 3, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. Lori in Texas

    Leave it to a republican to think an attempt to kill 300 people was a good thing. This was a systematic failure, not a presidential or party failure. The system currently in place was instituted by the previous administration and it's a reactive one, not a pro-active one.

    Rather than react to each attempt by adding another layer of worthless security at airports, why not be PRO-active? Do what British Airways does – get your TSA people trained by the Mossad who know what questions to ask before the person gets on the plane.

    While waiting in line to check in at Heathrow or Gatwick, people are asked a few questions. When satisfied, the person puts an OK sticker on the passport and you stay in line. Others may be taken to another room and questioned further if the agent isn't satisfied with the answers. This, in addition to regular old fashioned security, keeps the lines moving, isn't an invasion of privacy and the agents are paid accordingly – not $7 and hour with a high turnover rate like here. These people take security seriously there. Know why? They have dealt with the IRA for generations. They've learned how to deal with acts of terror without terrorizing their own public or losing their collective minds.

    Americans need to support each other and that includes President Obama. Why? Because as long as Repubs like Cheney and Kean continue to attack the Dems, the people who hate us will continue laughing at us all over the world. They will continue to plan these attacks and some, unfortunately, will be successful due to our infighting and/or poor security. Remember, they are winning as long as WE are fighting each other. It's called divide and conquor.

    Lastly, we should all be making a fuss over the heroes on Flight 253. They seem to have been forgotten in all of this, yet they are the only reason why 300 people are alive today.

    Maybe we should take a lesson from them – when bad things happen, working together results in good endings.

    January 3, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  19. Debby

    Hey Gorko, the repubs. are fighting the war. I bet there are 100 repubs. to 10 liberals in uniform. Don't you know the liberals hang out in tinseltown. LOL

    January 3, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  20. buckwheat

    The world will never be safe as long as religion governs it. More people have died because of it than have lived because of it. The things that work so perfect was done by God not by religious beliefs that man invented to excuse himself for the destruction he has done to his fellow man over the eons..If you wonder why the the Arabs hate our guts look up the date May 15 1948 and Harry Truman.This is when our war started with Islam. Make up your own mind whether it is worth the hell our soldiers are enduring.

    January 3, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. Bob Zmuda

    Give me a BREAK. Did us a favor? Are you off your meds, grampa?

    January 3, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. Big Joe

    We should be profiling. At home and abroad. Sorry if you fall into one of those groups. Sucks to be you.

    January 3, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. Brian

    Liberals never let facts get in the way of a good story. Their constant cut and run attitude empowers our enemies. Bush tells them there are enemies hell bent on our destruction butr that dioesn't jive with their one world love-fest so they hate Bush. Obama tells them so they turn on him. Some people just won't face reality. War is a much a part of the human condition as love or art. Being good at it (war) is the only reason we have the country we do today.

    January 3, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  24. RobertJ

    Democrat vs. Republican arguments are irrelevant. It doesn't matter who did what in which administration.

    What is important is what is done from this point forward. That is solely the current President's responsibility, no matter who that person is. So far, our current President has failed to deal effectively with the problem, just like his predecessors.

    January 3, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. Will S

    Global warming, lack of affordable health care, and a poor economy will kill more American's than a terrorist ever could.

    January 3, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
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