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. me - in NH

    ofcourse ... GOP wished the bomber was successful as well.




    January 3, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  2. it's me

    Obamanation has dropped the ball on ciritical issues while he's busy forcing this health plan down our throats, the health care bill which most americans do not want.

    Obamanation is busy with his ego "making changes", bowing to our enemies, apoligizing for the American people, disregarding our constitution, driving our economy into the toilet with his misguided and unnecessary spending.

    Obamanation is one president who is going down in history as turning our society into a socialistic society whereby a few pay for the freeloaders.

    God help us all.

    January 3, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. Walter

    Not focused on terrorism, Governor?

    It seems to me that getting us on the road out of Iraq and re-enforcing our efforts in Afghanistan shows that this administration is emphasizing the war on terror very strongly.

    The problem is that Obama has to undo Bush's mistakes before we can really begin to make much progress. Our disastrous diversion into settling an old Bush family score set the war on terror back just about eight years.

    So why don't you and your fellow Republicans just clam up on the subject for about eight years!

    January 3, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. Sue

    For me, one of the huge problems faced by the government, schools, parents, everyone in the U.S. is the enormous, insatiable desire to print something - ANYTHING - about something - ANYTHING - said or done by someone - ANYONE - in order to fill space.

    There is no need for 24-hour, constant delivery of "news." Note the quotes. There's no such thing as "news" on cnn, msn, hln, whatever-com. It's mostly gossip, innuendo, quotes by pseudo experts who are interviewed about everything from Celebrity Infidelity (T. Woods) to "lack of self esteem" (children and gang violence).

    And we as a nation gobble it up. We are fat and lazy, both physically and intellectually. We eat fast food and spout fast news in sound bytes that are full of nothing but slogans and angry rhetoric.

    We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We need to turn off our television sets/computers, take a walk, read a book, play a board game - while we're at it, stop feeding our pitiful illusions of expertise and do something productive. Maybe bake a loaf of bread. That's the epitome of "back to basics" activity. And it would nourish us, rather than feed the hate politics and/or divisive religious speechifying that have polarized our people and weakened our national identity.

    Ok, rant over.

    January 3, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. catmomtx

    So, can someone, any of you whining Republicans tell us exactly what the Bush administration did for the past eight years regarding the war on terror? After listening to all the talking heads today it seems that President Obama now has to go back and redo everything that Bush/Cheney told the American people was keeping us safe.

    Oh, thanks Senator DeMint for enlightening the American people that the President has been distracted by other things rather than the war on terror. I guess you might consider him distracted by the collapse of our economy, Wall Street, the jobs and housing markets all in crisis mode even before he was sworn in. I suppose he could have been distracted because he was busy dealing with all the other major problems left by the Bush administration and Republicans.

    Oh, and please don't insult the American people by saying that the President won't even use the word terrorist, the President doesn't know we are at war..... That is stupid and just another fear tactic Republicans are using to rile up you gullible pawns.

    I also love how Republicans are demanding that people be held accountable and fired. Who from the Bush administration was fired after 9/11? Who was held accountable for the security failures that occurred then? Who in the Bush administration was held accountable for any of their failures? WHO? Bush/Cheney wouldn't even testify to what they knew or did under oath. OMG !!!

    January 3, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. Little Hawk

    To Letcommonsenseprevail:

    Then go back to Iraq and stay there!

    January 3, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  7. David

    As a young Repulican, I am begining to get frustrated with the GOP politicians who seem to forget that Richard Reed did the exact same thing. They are making this into something political instead of being patriot as they had wanted and gotten during the Bush Administration. The old men are not doing the country a favor. However, the are seizing on the opportunity for political scores. No one in the Republican party had even look at Yemen before, now this administration has the ability to do so. So WHAT! Hearn and others like him need to get a life and wait their turn in 2012. How stupid are these old men! Am tired to the point where I feel like jumping ship. It the first time they are critical of everything a president has done. I can only hope it has notthing to do with his race. Everything is no,no,no, no,no, no, no, no, no, no,no no, no, no, no, no,no, no,no, no,no,no,no. When wil it stop!

    January 3, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  8. Liberals are worthless

    It only took three years for liberals to prove to the majority of this country that they are incapable of running anything.

    Time to put the adults back in charge.

    Libs, enjoy another 10-12 of sitting on the sidelines where you belong.

    January 3, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. JonDie

    Given that the bomber and the Republican Party are on the same side and are both enemies of the United States, the bomber didn't do Republicans a favor.

    January 3, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Jim

    Americans love finding someone else to blame. Did the entire inteligence community get replaced when President Obama got elected? Did they get an order from the President to get soft on terrorism? Every thinking person knows that the answer is "NO".

    Some individual Americans, failed to do their jobs properly. I don't know or care how they voted in the last election. It doesn't matter. But I'm glad to know that the haters here have never failed to be perfect in their jobs.

    Foreign terrorism is a real threat to America but I'm actually more afraid of those filled with intolerance and hate towards the President within the country who are calling themselves patriotic Americans. People who try to settle everything with violence and hate. God help America.

    January 3, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  11. GI Joe

    Prime example of GW Bush thinking:

    Cut taxes for the wealthy and everyone wlll have a job.

    The weathy still have their tax cuts, do YOU have a job?

    January 3, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Give thanks to the Bilderberg group for this one!

    January 3, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  13. Mark

    Is everyone forgetting that the bomber didn't go threw are security, It wasn't our security that failed it was security in amsterdam that failed.

    January 3, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. Tucson Dean

    'Perfect security' is an unattainable fallacy. Prisoners locked in cages under 24 hour guard manage to kill each other, and 5 presidents, the most heavily guarded men in the world, have been shot. The real question is, how many of our liberties are we willing to sacrifice just to pretend that our lifestyles are secure?

    January 3, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  15. Joe Fattal

    You all knew everything about him, even his high school years. The only favor I see is that he could have blown that planed over the ocean, but he didn't. And President Obama blamed Al-Qaeda for it, its like blaming a hurrican disaster to an act of God. Who is Al-Qaeda?.

    January 3, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Reaganomics Leads To Feudalism

    What is Mr. Kean saying here? That we should use the threat of terrorism as an excuse not to do ANYTHING about health care, global warming, and the economy? Is THIS the way Republicans think?

    January 3, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. bjnj

    Our rock star's administration is driven by the polls, those who run teleprompters and our celebrities smile rather then the needs of this nation. If only a wide silly assed smile could solve probles. Obama is a lame duck and he knows it. BJNJ

    January 3, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  18. Susan

    Sounds like Kean is still covering butt for 9-11, as Bush expects him to do. It IS a different situation this time, and he is right that we will now plug some holes in the system. But to compare it to 9-11 is wrong. That one was a case of sniping agencies, and a President who decided not to listen to anyone's repeated warnings. Just because a Republican chaired the so-called investigation does not mean all the facts are out, or that the correct conclusions were reached. The obvious controlled demolition of Building 7 should have raised all kinds of red flags. The fact that jet fuel burns out quickly and could not have caused the tower collapses is another red flag that has been buried by Kean's report. I think the people playing defense here are the Republicans.

    January 3, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. annie s

    I'd rather have an administration who puts American's daily needs first – health care, alternative energies, the economy – than one that is so focused on terrorism that they nearly bankrupt and destroy us. The Obama Administration is doing a fine job of multi tasking, and this incident will help pave the way for better policies. But we will never be totally free of terrorist attacks in this country or in the world, no matter how diligent we are. The real problem is that we are once again resorting to "fear and panic" mode, which is exactly what the terrorists want. Thye know that the only way to destroy us is economically – and to do that, they just have to keep us so scared that we continue to pour our resources into wars.

    January 3, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. jon,philadelphia

    I hate to admit it, but I believe this guy is right. The exact same failings that led to 9-11 are still going on. When are these idiots going to communicate with each other.
    Please don't blame Obama. The entrenched behavior at some of the agencies is so hard to get past.

    January 3, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. Rudy

    Reading these blogs gives me the impression that most of the comments are pro Obama/Democratic party. Why is it the when "Party of No" spokemen like John "Bonner" speak they say that America does'nt want this or that!!! (ex. Health Care, Carbon Cap's, etc..) yet 99% of my fellow Americans speak possitively about the Democratic programs in these blogs. It seems the minority of Americans are trying to dictate policy to the majority of the population. Very Interesting! But Supid!! (Rowan and Martin 1969?????)

    January 3, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  22. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    @Patrick, "I love this country'
    Feel free to leave any time you want.

    @Bill in Albuquerque, yes 9/11 happened 8 months into a Republican Presidency, after 8 years of Clinton being soft on terrorism. US forces had bin Laden targeted prior to 9/11 and Clinton refused to authorize the attack. But I don't suppose you blame him at all do you?

    January 3, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  23. Joe from Virginia

    I have a slightly different take on this. Kean (like a lot of Washington politicians–left and right) has an agenda. His agenda is to support the concept of the DNI (Director of National Intelligence). This is basically a concept that if we create an office/bureaucracy, label it has the Director or head or agency and create lines on a chart, than others will need to report to it.

    It is that philosophy which led the Bush administration (supported by a lot of both democrats and republicans in Congress) to create Homeland Security Dept. (putting FEMA, ATF, TSA and others in it). Talk to anyone who works under Homeland Security. Despite getting a reasonable good Administrator (Tom Ridge) for their first go-around, DHS is a disaster. I've done consulting work for TSA–I was told of one guy who worked for 9 months before he got his first paycheck. DHS is a mess.

    Well, I also do some work in the intelligence community as a consultant. I have yet to run into any agency who has viewed DNI as a real driving force, a coordinator or source of vision for the IC. But Kean, Baker and others who were on the 9-11 commission all pushed DHS and DNI as "answers." Those are naive "answers" to this problem. Lines on a chart or formal reporting relationships don't fix a host of other factors that contribute to a lack of trust, failure to share information, too much information (NSA has trouble sorting through all the arab-language texts/transcripts they get in a timely fashion), databases that don't talk to each other (DHS alone has a dysfunctional departmental IT system). And it's not about the failure of government workers either (b/c most of this work has been done by private contractors).

    This issue transcends political ideology (ie: left or right). And Kean is just plain wrong when he says the administration is "distracted" or focusing on health care b/c I can assure you that everyone checking bags for TSA wasn't thinking about global warming or healthcare or tax cuts. Or the FBI or Customs or the CIA or the State Dept. (all of whom had roles in this) weren't preoccupied with budget issues. Fixing system problems isn't as simple as outsourcing it, or having the private sector do it, or creating a federal office with another layer (which is what happened in the last administration with both DHS and DNI).

    January 3, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. Alfred E. Neumann

    Thomas Kean, a lot of good he did on the 9/11 Commission.

    Five of six terrorist attacks by plane in the U.S. happened under the watch of George W. Bush.

    The GOP is using a failed attack as a fund raising gimmick. Thomas Kean is a good example of what is wrong with America.

    January 3, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. JRH

    "probably did us a favor?"... Who is "us" Mr. kean? The GOP? Aren't you the political party that allowed 9/11 to happen in the first place?

    If you ask me, the REAL terrorists are politicians like Kean...

    January 3, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
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