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. Tristan

    Cut the fear crap. None of this will make us safer, they will always find a way to get us if they really want to. Lets drop all the showy security BS and go back to pre- 9/11 days. We live in fear, they won. When the US spends more than half of it's yearly budget on the pentagon year after year, they've won. When we stop terrorizing the peoples of the world they will leave us alone. Grow up America.

    January 3, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  2. Common Sense

    Mr. Kean did not appear to be blaming anyone, but making a valid point. The failure of the plot did open our eyes and did us a favor since there were no lives lost. It did not appear to be a partisan comment.

    As far as the comment from a poster claiming that "Obama got the job done on this one", did you realize that a passenger stopped this from happening, not any Federal agency? Do you now want to give Obama credit for anything a passenger does for stopping such an incident from happening? Only if you also give him the blame for anything a passenger may do to cause harm.

    All of you bozos that want to blame one administration or another need to chill out. Neither Bush nor Obama had anything to do with it.

    January 3, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  3. Michael E

    I do agree that the Christmas bomber did us a favor by exposing holes in the system. Unfortunately, the intelligence agencies should be exposing these holes, not terrorists. And the government should be working to plug these holes. 8 years after 9/11 and far too many holes still exist. I see this as a failure of both the Republicans and the Democrats. Unfortunately, the 2 biggest holes in the system are the Congress (past and present, Republican held or Democrat held) and the White House (past and present, Republican held or Democrat held).

    Our system of governance is broken and I have no idea what it will take to fix it. Those in power care more about getting reelected than doing anything worthwhile for the country. It's a shame, really. And it is sad watching the hopes and dreams of our Founding Fathers, some of the greatest men who have ever lived, die a slow death.

    Sorry for the pessimism.

    January 3, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. C Spurgeon

    Are we saying the 911 commision didn't do much but cost us a wad of money. There has to be a better way to do this than Homeland Defense which takes an astounding price tag and is way too big in size and scope. Cnn and the media are doing this country real damage just for headlines within the 24 hour news cycle. Are all these opinionaters getting paid. If so you are better off watching local news and or QVC. UGH.. Lets support our President and get the political crap on both sides off the air. Let em all go out and find a job. This country needs to get a different attitude too. Now I hear all the saved people on the aitrplane are looking for a cashout...Wow..says somethibng about the country doesn't it...

    January 3, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. Letcommonsenseprevail

    You libs are illiterate morons. Read what Kean said. He said in no exact words, it hopefully helps to serve as a wake up call to the current administration that we live in a dangerous world and people mean to do us harm.

    To the idiot who said we Republicans should go fight in Iraq. Guess what, princess? We are. I've been there three times already and I've been surrounded by Republicans all three times, while you Democratic COWARDS are sitting at home safe and sound. Meet me on a street one day and talk spew your vile and we'll see who gets smacked around like a little kid by someone who's truly not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. You make me throw up in my mouth just by virtue of the fact that people like you exist.

    January 3, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. NMStan

    I think it's real important to listen to the overall message Kean is trying to point out; rather than get caught splitting hairs on who or what Obama or who or what Bush did or din't do.

    There are many many issues facing any Administration and we need to think more about our common ground rather than finger-pointing, name-calling, political-polarization antics. The modern day Huns are at America's gates and here we are fighting amongst ourselves.

    January 3, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. FactCheck

    Republicans had done such a great job of protecting our country... well, except for that ONE time. No wonder wing-nuts are so delusional.

    January 3, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Truer words were never spoken. Thank God no one was hurt. The front line is doing there best. Those (politicians and those in charge) who overreact every time something like this are useless.

    January 3, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  9. axlsm

    Dems, let's just get this out of the way up front: Everything bad in Obamas' first (and only) term is Bush's fault...and everything good, Dumbo gets credit for.

    Now let's get on with reality...name one instance of Dumbo's leadership ability?....(crickets chirping)

    January 3, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Angel

    Wow....... Only a republican can come out with something stupid as that. Mistakes happens and fortunately nobody got hurt, but the hero that helped put out the fire. The republicans has been no help at all since Obama became president, and I expect them to never support him. Even though most people do. Of course not the ones with money, that's why nothing can get done at the white house. Yes REPUBLICANS are making sure of that. The hell with you bums.

    January 3, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. Jeanne H.

    I get it, I get it... When 9/11 happened under Bush's watch, it wasn't his administration's fault for not being on their toes, it was Clinton's fault! But when the failed Xmas attack happened, it wasn't Bush's fault, it was Obama's fault! Very smart thinking, people! I'd say if we are so stupid as to come up with that kind of crap, we deserve all of the problems we're having right now. Don't complain!

    January 3, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. evman

    The Republicans are the biggest liars and scammers on earth. Pathetic losers... Remember 9/11 happened on Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove watch ? Even though they had been warned ? Then lied to us about WND's to attack Iraq WHICH HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11...

    January 3, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Alan Goldstein

    The new battle-cry of the right. "Blow it up! Bring Obama down!"

    January 3, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. 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?

    January 3, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. pattyo

    PLEASE.....stop turning every single event into a political bickering gotcha game. The American people are sick of it. While republicans are busy trying to make good on their promise to have Obama fail, democrats are reliving errors in the Bush administration. There has never been a more appropriate time to remember the phrase"united we stand;divided we fail. Not only is this becoming shameful, it is dangerous to the structure of our government. There has never been a more important time for all of us to come together as Americans.

    January 3, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. AndyBlue

    Be afraid!!! Be very afraid!!!!! The republican motto. This also applies to Mexicans, Gays, Abortionists, Unions, etc. etc. etc.

    Republicans and their disgraceful actions these past 9 years speak for itself. Nuff said.

    January 3, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. JR

    Why didn't he go on and say what republicans really think, that they wish he had succeeded?

    January 3, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. Patrick

    When Rev Al Sharpton said during 911 that "even Bozo the Clown would have been able to bring people together", the Repulicnuts crucified him, and accused him of calling Giulliani names

    Now you have the likes of peter king and other right wing nuts take advantage of a terror situation and no one is holding them accountable...

    I love this country.

    January 3, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Ray

    Silver Lining – I do believe the events that took place on the failed airline bombing does help because it reminds us we have to be on guard and continually improve defensive measures against terrorism.

    As far as the republican/democrat debate, both parties have let me down and the American people. It does seem that special interest groups do a fine job on what they are supposed to do and further their on agenda. However, egotisical politicians who are more interested in their personal gain and re-election efforts are easy pickings for these special interest groups.

    January 3, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    Bravo Pattyo well said .

    January 3, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. Clay

    Only the GOP would consider a terrorist attack as fortunate, just as they probably look upon the Bush adminstration as their golden years. Absolutely pathetic.

    January 3, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. Your comment is awaiting moderation AGAIN

    One thing is showed is the bush administration was unsuccessful in plugging the type of holes that led to this. After all when Richard Reid tried to set off his shoes, the previous administration should have had plans in place to cover it. And the Obama administration now knows they have to set up their own security safe guards, they can't reply on what the thought the republicans had in place.

    January 3, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. Robert

    Many more Americans die from lack of medical care than at the hands of terrorists. Maybe if the Republicans had not blocked the nomination of the new Homeland Security chief things would have been better organized. Maybe if the senators who sold their souls to the insurance companies had not caused such a stink health care would not have been such an issue. Maybe we need to stop cheering for those who rejoice in failure and move ahead.

    January 3, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  24. Angel

    To letcommonsenseprevail. you forgot something .. you went to iraq on a lie. I support you all in the military, And I DO have family in it. You call all Democrats cowards for not supporting a war on lies? Maybe you should get the facts straight. Yes we have been at war for years but if the Bush administration had not ignored the truth you would never had gone 3 times for a useless war. We ended up with more enemies instead of going after the person responsible for 911. And think about it.... Look who go rich because of Iraq. Sorry kid but you are soooo wrong.

    January 3, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  25. Emma

    The man is suggesting that it is possible for the US to have total, God-like power over all individuals who are a threat, or power over foreign countries' security policies. How rational is that? Bush did not have that much power, nor does the US. Do we need to find the means to control other nation's security protocol, including the Netherlands?

    January 3, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13