It had become clear to the President and top advisors that before Christmas, the US government was in posession of "bits and pieces" of information, which, if they had been properly knitted together, "could have...allowed us to disrupt the attackIn response to the post Northwest flight 253 Janet Napalitano critics, Democratic strategists asserted that President Barack Obama "has been far more aggressive in fighting al Qaeda" than the previous administration . In an e-mail this afternoon to supporters -- which incidentally excoriated Republicans for politicizing the attempted bombing of Flight 253 -- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) stressed it was President George W. Bush, not his successor, who relegated the fight against the terrorist network to the back burner by turning "its focus from al Qaeda to Iraq."
Today Newsweek has announced a revelation that throws that assertion into question, on December 22nd, three days before the attempted underwear bombing the president was warned that an attack my be imminent.
According to the senior official, the holiday threat briefing, one in a series of regularly-scheduled sessions with top counter-terrorism officials, was held in the White House Situation Room on December 22. Present were representatives of agencies involved in counter-terrorism policy and operations, including Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller. The CIA and National Intelligence Directors Office were represented by deputy agency heads: CIA deputy director Steven Kappes, and David Gompert, the principal deputy to National Intelligence Czar Dennis Blair. Also present was Michael Leiter, director of the National Counter-terrorism Center, a unit of the Intelligence Czar's office which was created after 9/11 to ensure that intelligence reporting about possible terrorist plots was shared quickly among all US agencies who might have some capability to do something about it.
The senior official said that beginning in early December, based on reports coming in from intelligence agencies, policy-makers had begun tracking a stream of information which alluded to a possible holiday-period plot against the US orchestrated from somewhere in Pakistan. However, the official said, this reporting later turned out to be "garbled" and it was determined that the threat probably was a washout. The official denied that the White House received any report, representing the concensus of US intelligence agencies, warning that a Holiday-period plot originating in Yemen and targeting the US homeland could be in the works.
In a background briefing for reporters on December 29, also attributed in an official White House transcript to a "senior administration official", that official asserted that in the wake of the attempted underpants attack, it had become clear to the President and top advisors that before Christmas, the US government was in posession of "bits and pieces" of information, which, if they had been properly knitted together, "could have...allowed us to disrupt the attack or certainly to know much more about the alleged attacker in such a way as to ensure that he was on, as the President suggested in his statement, a no-fly list." In the briefing, the official identified three rough categories of information that the government had which could have been relevant to foiling the attack: information about Abdulmutallab and his plans, info about Al-Qaeda and their plans, and info "about potential attacks during the holiday period."
Asked about what kind of intelligence reporting was circulated to senior officials about possibly holiday period attacks before the failed underpants attack, a US intelligence official, who also asked for anonymity, explained: "As everybody knows, terrorists often speak in coded language, especially when they think their communications might be intercepted. There was no clear discussion of an attack, on Christmas or any other time, in the Middle East or anywhere else. But as veiled as the message was, it was spotted, processed, analyzed, and presented to senior policymakers as a warning sign-however vague-of a holiday attack. While this was handled properly, there were, to put it mildly, virtually no details at all. That happens." When Newsweek asked a senior Administration official about this characterization of a warning which was passed to White House policymakers, and whether it tracked what was presented at the December 22 Presidential briefing, the official would not comment.If there is anything worse than a terrorist attack, its an attach that could have been avoided. Sounds like the president was spending too much time on accepting peace prizes and pushing through a health care bill that nobody wants, to concentrate on what Americans really want, to be protected.