People have been pointing fingers in lots of directions ever since would-be-bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was discovered trying to light an explosive device on a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day. But now that more light has been shed on his history, and the intelligence procedures which almost — but very disturbingly did not — stop him, Washington is now better able to play the blame game. So, whose fault was it that Abdulmutallab was able to board? The Times has a rundown:
President Obama: No matter what person or agency was to blame individually, the buck stops with this guy. Moving on.
The National Counterterrorism Center: This agency, created in 2004 to force the intelligence agencies to work together and share information on terrorism, failed to synthesize eavesdropping intelligence with warnings from Abdullmutallab’s father.
The CIA: Defenders of the NCC say that the CIA compiled biographical information on Abdulmutallab and his plans in Yemen in November, but simply didn’t share it.
The Bush Administration: Guess who’s pointing fingers in this direction, blaming Bush for allowing Al Qaeda to flourish while focusing on Iraq? Yep, not Dick Cheney. White House officials who declined to be named!
Human Error: The White House’s review posits that it wasn’t willful noncooperation that caused the intelligence failure, but oversight that caused the right people to fail to put together information from the right databases.
The American Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria: Abdulmutallab’s father, distressed by text messages he was receiving from his son, reported them to the U.S. State Department. Officials at the embassy in Abuja “essentially ignored” him, he said. (The embassy did send out a terrorism warning about Abdulmutallab after the meeting.) Ultimately, this information, which spurred the CIA biographical search, was not connected with reports that a Christmastime attack was brewing.
The Department of Homeland Security: According to the Times, there was one last barrier before Abdullmutallab boarded the plane with the explosives in his underwear. “Before a plane can take off for the United States, details on every passenger are forwarded electronically to the Department of Homeland Security. There is also an electronic summary of each passenger’s airline reservation — which in Mr. Abdulmutallab’s case would most likely have included the fact that his ticket had been bought with cash and that he had not checked any bags.” With this information, the TSA could have pulled aside Abdulmutallab and given him extra scrutiny. They were not ordered to do so.