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)

    True republican thinking. blame the democrats. this guy was tutored by the two terroist that bush and cheney turned loose from gitmo. then turn around and blame Obama. it is a republican failure. just like jim demint ed. holding up the nomatation of the guy to run the agency. republicans losers all.

    January 3, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. lieNoMore

    Come on, make political points elsewhere not using terrorism. All we really need right now is to keep the pressure up on Al-Queda, with troops and the drones they the fear so much. Drones, drones, and more drones these damage the psychology of the terrorists more than anything. The entire Islamist terror movement is about human power to control through force the "other", and in so doing convert them. There is no such objective with the drone. It creates the same impotent fear the Russian Helocopter gunship did in 80s. If we didn't help in the 80s these religious low-lifes would have been long gone by now and the Russians would have done our work for us... All Al-Queda has left are the gullable wacko psychos, like Richard Reed and these other pathetically deranged characters. Just sit tight and keep up the pressure Mr. Obama.

    January 3, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. RBS33

    I am a democrat and I think Mr. Kean's assessment seemed honest, but not necessarily politically motivated. It is a fair review of the situation, pointing out that we must be vigilant at all levels. It looks to me that the headline link by CNN does not match the story. Certainly there are politicized nutjobs rooting for terroists to be successful, but most human beings in the US should be able to look at this objectively, much like Mr. Kean has here. Thankfully we were lucky this time, which should result in some improved processes.

    Read the story and watch the video, but please ignore the inflammatory CNN (hack) headline link.

    January 3, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. Chris Hearn

    Terrorism killed 0 people in the US last year. Lack of health insurance killed 44,000. Do the math morons. Quit focusing on things that rarely kill anyone.

    January 3, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. WisconsinEric

    People here are being too hard on Kean; read what he said. It isn't political. Strikes me as reasonable, though contrary to what he implies we already WERE increasing our focus on Yemen. Also, although some of the Republican politicians HAVE done their usual pathetic wail in this case of "It's all Obama's fault", Kean isn't one of them here (and I speak as a strong supporter of Obama with the usual "liberal" credentials). CNN didn't help - headlining this as "GOP'er"0 is misleading and apparently got people's hackles up; Kean was not speaking as a Republican, he was speaking as head of the 9/11 commission. So calm down everyone, the guy was being non-political (we could use some of that) and has a point.

    January 3, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. Sheila

    To Michael E: Don't apologize for thinking that your assessment of the situation is pessimistic. It is more appropriate than most opinions posted here. I don't have all the answers either, and neither does either one of the political parties we have allotted to us in our framework of democracy.

    IMO a third party would not have all the answers, or better answers either. People of common sense know that no perfect situation will ever be obtained because it is impossible. What irks me is the tone that Obama has set, the one that encourages this notion of Utopia, or Shangrila type of universal equilibrium of governing where all people of all nations get along on a global level and are happy and prosperous in their localities.

    It is worse than any fairy-tale or Pixar fantasy movie made for children. Those who refuse to at least acknowledge Obama's mistakes and political naivete are even more politically unsavvy and immature than Obama.

    Additionally, when I hear people say that it is wrong to complain that someone is not 'qualified' to be president because there is no pre-requisite, or job description to measure presidential candidates against, I say maybe that's what we need to do and put our potential Commander in Chief through a very vigorous interviewing and selection process. Let's make it a process as any corporation would go through to find a qualified CEO, instead of allowing people to 'buy' their way to the WH.

    January 3, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  7. NVa Native

    I invite everyone to read the 14 Elements of Fascism and you will know the Republican politicians' mission statement, and acknowledge the Republican's many accomplishments. As a country we need to denounce the Republican politician's ideology of fascism that will sacrifice American democracy for corporate profit.

    January 3, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. RB

    The Terrorist Republican party are DUMB as rocks! They want to call attention to an event that was not successful? Why....because they have nothing to provide that would be of BENEFIT to the American people. Did they forget who's watch 09/11/2001 occurred??? My question is why did the airline allow this individual to purchase a ON WAY ticket with CASH to the USA?.....with NO CHECKED BAGGAGE??

    January 3, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. Elizabeth

    Yes, of course this unsuccessful bomber did us a favor by waking up the asleep Obama administration, who to this day still believe that Al Qaida is a criminal operation. Obama will have to be brought along kicking and screaming every step of the way to take the necessary action, and he is driven only by the POLITICAL imperative and what it might mean for 2012. Cheney is absolutely right; Obama actually wants nothing to do with this, but now has been given no choice by the bomber.

    Oh yeah, he also still want to close Gitmo and send more terrorists back to Yemen where they can plot to kill more Americans. Really good idea, Bozo!

    January 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. David

    It is neither the Democrats nor the Republicans who are running this country. It is the Lobbyists. They are the ones buying politicians on both sides of the asile to benefit their clients, namely the Military Industrial Complex and Wall Street. Until we TOTALLY eliminate Lobbyist NOTHING will Change and we the people will continue to ne irrevelant

    January 3, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Tom Carr

    Hay Bill using your logic the economy that has failed terribly in 2009 came under Obama's watch.

    January 3, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. j

    This would have happened no matter which party was in power. We're lucky the person was just too inept to carry it off. And speaking of inept, I seem to remember at least 8 years of inept leadership, which party was that? Oh yes, it was the Republicans.

    January 3, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Sickened by repugnants

    Did you ever once ask yourself why you were in Iraq killing innocent civillians that had nothing to do with 9/11? Ever stopped to think about how many fathers, sons and daughters you have helped turn into terrrorists?

    Grow a brain and learn to think for yourself! Every moron can take a gun and shoot. An intelligent man ponders the consequences of his shot before he takes a gun and starts firing. Shooting at your own shadows does not make any of you republicans brave men...sorry to have to break it to you.

    January 3, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. Jazz

    CNN way to further stoke partisan problems. PEOPLE this guy wasn't saying it's good that the terrorist attacked because of political gain, he was saying that the silver lining is now we'll be more aware of the threats still posed to use by terrorists. The bull-crap media fuels tensions and stupid people only read headlines.

    January 3, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. Brad

    I'm by no means a Republican, but I think he's right about this. It doesn't appear to me that he's blaming Democrats. Just confirming that we needed a wake-up call.

    January 3, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Jim

    Ray Patrick and Jr.
    Your reactions don't seem to have any relevance to what was said. All that was said was there still is a problem and we need to keep paying attention to make sure 911 doesn't happen again. That's all that was said. Should we ignore what has just happened and stick our heads in the sand? If we do that 911 will happen again, it's that simple. Don't you get it?

    January 3, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Michele

    It is so interesting to read the posts of the Obama haters who are convinced he isn't doing anything at all. This man was handed the worst situations of any newly-elected President a year ago. Remember? The stock market was crashing, home foreclosures were at record highs, we were involved in wars, the, other countries hated our imperialistic policies enough to attack our embassies, and education was on the back burner, because Bush had gotten "No Child" passed, but forgot to fund it. Not to mention allowing torture, spying on all of us, and taking more vacation time than any president ever.
    Today, the stock market is over 10,000, the home market is recovering, the job situation is getting better, we have stopped torture, we are closing Gitmo, banks are REPAYING their government loans with interest, North Korea wants to have peace on the Peninsula and end nuclear problems there, and Obama is focused on FINALLY assuring health care for all Americans and education funding. I'd say he's accomplished an awful lot in 11 months. He just isn't out there under "Mission Accomplished" banners every week beating his own drum. Thank God.

    January 3, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. Jersey George

    My nephew was killed on 9/11, and the country and both political parties pulled together. Now with this failed terrorist attempt on Christmas day, country unity has disappeared! The Republicans and Democrats in Washington are warring with each other, Americans across the country are warring with each other whether on the computer or at political events. I'm a Vietnam veteran and thought the days of extreme divisiveness in our country would end after the war. Unfortunately, I was profoundly mistaken. Our country is on a dangerous path and I'm not sure where it will take us.

    January 3, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  19. Scott

    Stop being mindless followers!!!! Forget your party and remember what you really are, an American and a human being...don't pretend politicizing every issue is a trait that belongs to only one party. Scum of each party persuasion play party politics with peoples' safety...get over the finger pointing and fix the system, it will benefit all of us.

    January 3, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  20. John in Tampa

    This interests me: I write polite and middle-of-the-road responses to the subjects put out to post here on CNN, and they disappear. For a while I see them saying this is under review, then they are gone. I am not swearing at people or disrespectful of opinion that differs from mine, and almost anything gets posted except mine. What am I, too in the middle? Not exciting enough for CNN? Then FU, let's see if that works.

    January 3, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. George

    Which side is the GOP on. Comments like these make you wonder.

    January 3, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. Nancy G

    Typical neo foolishness. REMINDER-9/11 occurred on a republican administration despite the warning signs prior to that day....Oh I forgot, it was Clinton's fault.

    January 3, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  23. catmomtx

    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.

    How pathetic you are. FACE IT it is people like you who are doing harm to our country. It is people like you who make ridiculous statements and disrespect our President that are the problem . Don't think for a moment that al Qaeda and other terrorist or people who hate Americans and our country are not gleefully watching you fools do what they are intent on doing. DESTROY OUR COUNTRY. You haters are making their job so much easier . You come on these post day in and day out vilifying our President dis respecting him and our country spewing your racist, bigoted, hateful comments. You people are just beside yourself that you can't gleefully shout that there was a successful terrorist attack on Obama's watch so you can vilify him some more. You people are anti American unpatriotic and aiding and abetting the enemy. Perhaps all of you should move to Gitmo. Maybe you would feel much safer there.

    I never thought I would see the day that so many ignorant people would want this country to fail because they didn't like the duly elected President of the United States of America. VOTE, you had your opportunity. The American people had proof that our great country was being destroyed by Republican/Conservative leadership. That was a fact and we did it the American way and we voted. You people on the other hand just want to destroy the country.

    January 3, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  24. Sue

    pattyo said:

    Well said, pattyo, thank you.

    January 3, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  25. GMA

    The repubs are going to try anything and say anything they believe will help them in the next election. They are counting on Americans to have a short memory.

    January 3, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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