President Obama last night addressed the nation to discuss the failed Christmas airliner bombing. He took personal responsibility,
making clear that no officials would be fired, although he pointed to
clear failures of intelligence agencies to share data that may have
helped to deter the foiled attack. (This is the closest thing observers have found to the "shock" National Security Adviser Jim Jones previewed.) Obama also outlined new security and
intelligence measures that will effect everything from airport
screening to how intel is shared (full White House explanation here, New York Times summary of the changes here). Is Obama taking the right approach to terror and security?
Fight Terror With Data SharingJuan Cole notes that "[N]o one was in charge of integrating all this information. That lapse is
what Obama wants to change, reasonably enough. John Brennan insists
that the problem here was not possessiveness about information and
cases, as with CIA/ FBI/ INS lack of cooperation on the 9/11 hijackers.
It wasn't that the various units did not want to share, but that there
was no obvious person or unit that was responsible for gathering these
threads together (a sort of data mining)." He adds, "Spend some money to fix that. It would be a rounding error in the
Pentagon budget, and the resulting improvement would add more to our
safety than buying more bombs would."
The Risks of Overstating Threats Democracy Arsenal's David Shorr says
Obama avoided them. "President Obama is saying that if we make these
our nation's main focus, we only build them up and diminish ourselves,"
he writes. "When it comes down to it, the essence of Cheneyism is that
never overstate the threat from the terrorists, never be too dark in
your assmptions, never do too much to counter them."
Where's The Accountability? The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan fumes,
"Here's what that says to the men and women of the security and
intelligence institutions of government who failed us: you will never
be fired, and you will never face real consequences for failing to do
your job competently. And when a system never holds any of its specific
members responsible, there is no direct incentive to get things right."
Too Little Too LateThe Washington Post frets
that "Mr. Obama's solutions have the air of the small bore." They
write, "Perhaps a series of individual tweaks will do the job. But the
administration report suggests that the problem is less tractable than
Mr. Obama has acknowledged. His depiction Thursday of the shortcomings
was admirably honest and more frightening than previously portrayed.
His proposed fixes did not entirely reassure."
Obama Rightly Slams Cheney Crew The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen highlights a section of the speech he calls "a pretty forceful rebuke of
the entire line of argument launched over the last two weeks by Cheney,
DeMint, Hoekstra, King, Steele, and their assorted allies. In effect,
Obama was reminding the nation that the Republican approach is
fundamentally backwards, and at odds with who we are as a people. It's
a reminder he may need to repeat a few more times before it sinks in
with the political establishment."
Too Much Pressure On Intel Agencies Foreign Policy's Kori Schake praises
Obama for taking responsibility and insists that "our government does
terrifically well at protecting us" given that they "have to be right
all day every day." Schake, a former Bush-era official, warns that the
administration undercuts that support by putting too much scrutiny on
the CIA and other agencies. "Attorney
General Eric Holder's prosecutorial attitudes toward the people who
have to make difficult daily choices in order to protect us will make
them less likely to run risks," she writes, referencing Holder's moves
against torture and indefinite detention.
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