UK terror sweep was news to U.S. intelligence director - hours later
December 22nd, 2010
11:48 AM ET
12 years ago

UK terror sweep was news to U.S. intelligence director - hours later

Washington (CNN) - News of 12 terror-related arrests in Britain sped across the 24/7 cycle Monday. But the U.S. director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., somehow missed it.

In an interview that aired Tuesday but was taped on Monday, ABC's Diane Sawyer chatted with Clapper, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, and John Brennan, the president's assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism.

She asked Clapper about the incident.

"First of all, London," Sawyer said. "How serious is it? Any implication that it was coming here? ... Director Clapper?"

Clapper was initially bewildered and Brennan jumped in to acknowledge the arrests.

Sawyer said to Clapper she was "a little surprised" that he "didn't know about London."

He replied "I'm sorry, I didn't."

His spokeswoman, Jamie Smith, on Wednesday said Clapper hadn't been briefed about the arrests, but should have been.

"Steps have been taken to ensure that he is (briefed) in the future," she said in a statement. "The intelligence community as a whole was fully aware of this development and tracking it closely."

Smith said Clapper hadn't been "immediately briefed" because the event "didn't appear to have a homeland nexus and there was no immediate action by the DNI required."

She also said the "DNI was working throughout the day on important intelligence matters, including monitoring military and political developments on the Korean Peninsula, providing answers to questions concerning the ratification of the START nuclear treaty, and other classified issues."

Monday's operation, led by the the British intelligence service, MI5, resulted in arrests of suspects ranging in age from 17 to 28 in the cities of London, Stoke and Birmingham, England, as well as Cardiff, Wales. A senior UK official not authorized to speak on the record said Monday that the suspects were arrested on suspicion of "preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK," but he also said the suspects were "aspirational" rather than equipped and "ready to go."

Brennan on Wednesday told reporters that Clapper should have been briefed by his staff, but he defended him for dealing with the intelligence issues President Barack Obama expects him to focus on.

"And I know there was breathless attention by the media about these arrests and it was constantly on the news networks. I am glad that Jim Clapper is not sitting in front of the TV 24 hours a day and monitoring what is coming out of the media," Brennan said.

Filed under: James Clapper
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    Such a well informed appointee. Heck of a job, Obama.

    December 22, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. Rickster

    Nobody should be surprised by this. This entire administration is a bunch of clueless buffoons.

    December 22, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. tcaros

    Most of this terorrism hogwash is created by the cooperating intelligence agencies. .. .this so they can continue international organized crime. They basically have replaced the MOB.. the protection is to let them do all the illegal stuff so long as they don't create more terrorist attacks.

    December 22, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  4. BILL, WI

    I would hate to be his daily briefer or senior aide.

    December 22, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. Charles W. Skinner

    All he should have said is "I'm sorry, I've been entirely absorbed with the Korean peninsula and preparing in case Kim Jong Il or one of his flunkies did something stupid. I'm sure that I'll be briefed shortly on the arrest of terror suspects planning terror attacks in one of our allies countries when I'm finished with the crisis I'm dealing with."

    December 22, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Democrats Class Warfare - Destroying the economy and country

    He's CLUELESS just like the rest of the Obozo administration! They have been EXTREMELY lucky most of the attacks under their watch have failed for reasons of attacker incompetence.

    December 22, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. bipar08

    typical washington, doesn't know what is going on beyond washington
    time to get all of the old farts out

    December 22, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. bipar08

    i saw that on tv and he didn't even know where he was at

    December 22, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. Floyd

    bipar08: I think that the insane goings-on in North Korea were higher priority than what was going on in the UK. Looks like MI5 had things covered in their own country.

    December 22, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  10. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Since we have not been attacked like we were on 9-11, it is comforting we do not have clueless buffoons like Bush in charge anymore.

    December 22, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. sneakylong

    Why is this story buried within the bowels of CNN and not still on the front page? Kind of important to have a little confidence in such high ranking (and paid) official.

    December 22, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. T'sah from Virginia

    [Such a well informed appointee. Heck of a job, Obama.]

    [He's CLUELESS just like the rest of the Obozo administration!]

    [Nobody should be surprised by this. This entire administration is a bunch of clueless buffoons...They have been EXTREMELY lucky most of the attacks under their watch have failed]

    LMAO – LUCK has nothing to do with it – if it did, 9/11 would never have happened!!! I wonder what would be blogged here if Clapper did know??? An OVERSIGHT on someone's part makes the RIGHT blame President Obama every time!!! Please!!!

    December 22, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. Bill

    I feel so much safer now knowing that our intelligence chief is on the job .... it could have been days! LOL 😉

    December 22, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. NVa Native

    Of course the right wing jackals will try to equate this with Bush/Cheney doing nothing to address the 911 attacks before it happened – when they could have. And this current situation was all about attacks on foreign soil not a fore told repeat attack on our "Homeland".
    No ... wait ..... you mean the simpletons don't even remember 911??

    December 22, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. 100% ETH

    Wheather we are in America or Israel, the new HUMBERGER GENERATIONS are coward and irresponsible to defend the people and the Countries. Now again, the Super-British are proofing their heroism. When can we learn from them?????? After the end of the game???? Few Hundred Years ago, The Super-British never said, we are tired, no time, etc. when they lead the whole World tirelessly.

    What kinds of excuse is it!!?? Humberger generations!!!!!!!!

    December 22, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. fidndit

    Clapper is the worst of all of Obama's appointments - by far. Clapper has never been about doing a great job, just looking good and playing good politics. I speak from personal experience with the man. I was extremely surprised with his name was even floated for the DNI position. I was shocked when he was nominated. Then it was with utter disbelief that I heard he had been confirmed for the position. He should no more be the DNI than Brad Pitt. Hell, I take that back. Brad Pitt might actually *try* to do the job right.

    December 22, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |