AP-HSS Janet Napolitano
Embattled Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano continued to defend her department’s actions in the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit bound passenger jet despite growing calls for her resignation.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a bomb sewn into his underwear during a Detroit bound flight on December 25th. Fortunately, the bomb had a faulty detonator and instead his pants caught on fire allowing passengers to subdue the seared terrorist.
Napolitano initially claimed that the fact the bomb didn’t explode proved that, “the system worked.” However, in light of growing evidence that the government had significant advance warning of the potential threat from Abdulmutallab, she later backed away from the initial assessment ultimately admitting that, “Our system did not work in this instance."
Despite spending billions on upgrades to airline security and intelligence gathering, disturbing questions have been raised regarding the ease in which Abdulmutallab was able to evade detection as a probable threat and pass airport security without incident.
In fact, it is now known that US officials were contacted by Abdulmutallab’s father relating to his suspicion that his son was in contact with Muslim terrorists. As a result, Abdulmutallab was added to a national terrorist data base in November. Perhaps more damaging, was the lack of communication between interdepartmental groups and the failure of the U.S to share intelligence with the Yemini government where Abdulmutallab resided.
In the most recent revelations, it is reported by Foxnews.com that the CIA's Africa division had prepared a report on Abdulmutallab some time before he allegedly attempted to blow up the plane, but release of the report was delayed as a CIA analyst waited for pictures of the man.
This inability to assemble, interpret and share vital information concerning terrorists and possible catastrophic plots is unacceptable in a post 9/11 world. In fact, this is the identical kind of breakdown that facilitated the September 11th attacks, and is all the more troubling considering how much time and resources have been spent to thwart this exact type of scheme.
As awareness of the prior knowledge of Abdulmutallab grows, calls for Napolitano’s resignation are gaining momentum. In a written statement, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) said that, "The fact that this security breach occurred in such a brazen way means that there was a level of significant incompetence involved, and I believe that rests solely on the shoulders of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Her bizarre remarks on Sunday were the final straw in a series of embarrassing and incompetent comments this year.”
Acting New Jersey Governor (and Senate President) Richard Codey, D-Essex, has also sent a letter to Napolitano in which he wrote, "Based on the handling of this entire affair, I think it's time for you to consider stepping down and making room for an individual with more law enforcement and counterterrorism experience to take the reins at the Office of Homeland Security ... The entire episode was handled poorly, from start to finish."
This is the second time doubts about Napolitano’s competency have been raised. In an earlier incident in April, her department released a report to law enforcement agencies warning that the sagging economy "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past."
Whatever the outcome with Homeland Security and the employment of Secretary Napolitano, it is obvious that Americans were extremely fortunate in the Abdulmutallab incident. Clearly, significant changes must still be made in information exchange between intelligence agencies and in airport screening methods that are largely inconvenient and obviously ineffective.