The Crotch-Bomber and Nidal Hasan Reviews

The White House has released its summary of the intelligence review on the Christmas Crotch Bomber (and here is Obama’s order for corrective action). The big take-away is:

The US Government had sufficient information prior to the attempted December 25 attack to have potentially disrupted the AGAP attack.

But, the summary says, the Watch List system and the Intelligence Community are not broken; they just need to be improved.

All well and good.

But I’m curious by the quick turnaround on this report and the lack of any similar unclassified summary of the report on Nidal Hasan’s successful attack. For that matter, William Webster is still working on his review of the Hasan attack (which I understand to be a follow-up to just this kind of initial review).

Does that mean whatever the review found, preliminarily, could not be published? Meanwhile, the military has just appointed a “sanity board” to review Hasan’s competence to stand trial.

  1. Loo Hoo. says:

    Wow. Brennan and Napalitano are shaken up. bmaz, does Janet normally do that looking at the ceiling thing?

    • thatvisionthing says:

      I sure have a different dog whistle. The big moment that had me yelping and jumping to the point position was when Helen Thomas asked Robert Gibbs: Why

      MR. GIBBS: Helen.

      Q Was there an outside contractor used or security in Amsterdam? And also, what is really lacking always for us is you don’t give the motivation of why they want to do us harm.

      MR. GIBBS: Why don’t you take the first part, and then, John, you can address the second.

      SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: The screening at Schiphol Airport was done by Dutch authorities. And they did the screening that was described to you earlier this afternoon. The hand luggage was screened, the passport was checked, he went through a magnetometer. But it was done by Dutch authorities.

      Q And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.

      MR. BRENNAN: Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. What they have done over the past decade and a half, two decades, is to attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.

      Q And you’re saying it’s because of religion?

      MR. BRENNAN: I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that uses the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.

      Q Why?

      MR. BRENNAN: I think this is a — this is a long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.

      Q But you haven’t explained why.

      This sailed over the head of the MSNBC news shows I watch. Now I’m waiting to see if Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert pick up on it. Bingo bingo bingo.

  2. Arbusto says:

    I’m reassured no one acted irresponsibly, failed to get out of their chair, talk to someone or phone someone;it was a system failure, and its already happened so it’s OK.

    Wasn’t Buscho tasked with closing the open loops, not invented here, not my responsibility mentality. Wasn’t this attitude know for 60 years?

    More databases, more hardware, more software, better search engines, no accountability. Our Government inaction. I feel safer now, don’t you?

    • freepatriot says:

      Wasn’t Buscho tasked with closing the open loops, not invented here, not my responsibility mentality


      Bush was also supposed to defend and protect the Constitution

      how’d that work out

      the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result

      maybe America IS crazy

  3. nextstopchicago says:

    Two things become apparent.

    1) the incoherence of the No Fly List and Terrorist Watch List designations, and airport screening. They talk about the derogatory information necessary to put someone on the Terrorist Watch list, as if that’s what was needed. But in addition to a Terrorist Watch List with a membership on the order of 10,000 as I understand it, we’ve also got a No Fly List with 6 figures worth of names.

    Currently, the No Fly List is almost useless. I’ve had friends show up on it. And I don’t mean friends who post on liberal blogs — I wouldn’t be surprised if my own name had shown up. But I’m talking apolitical, anglo 30-somethings. No explanation. And what’s even stranger — how did one of them get off the list? The airline check-in person looked her over, said I can let you through, and did!

    But what we seem to need is a lower designation — Terror Watch; No Fly; and Fly With Discretion. The latter would flag people for different handling without actually preventing them from flying. No Fly would mean No Fly, rather than “fly if the woman at the airline counter thinks you look innocent”. And Terror Watch would be an even stronger designation.

    2) The rampant need for regional specialists and language specialists. This is not the first time we’ve missed someone because a name was mistransliterated. Abdulmutallab isn’t that tough. In my old office, we used to have a phonetic name-alphabetizer. I know it’s ridiculous, but it actually worked. We handled birth certificates, and it was otherwise difficult to alphabet and then retrieve documents for people who sometimes were born before their family had standardized the spelling of their names. At any rate, for at least 8 years, since I first began googling (or yahooing) the names of Sept. 11 terrorists, and discovered that they were spelled differently in different places, this has been an obvious need. An obituary of the woman who died in the al-Balawi bombing actually cited her ability to index “the various permutations of al Qaeda leaders’ names” as a key and surprising skill. We need to get on top of this. You can’t keep a No Fly List if you don’t have a consistent way to index names coming across from Arabic letters. It’s just silly to bother keeping the list if we haven’t solved this yet.

    • emptywheel says:

      Hell, we need that for the voting rolls, and for simple Spanish names. That was the biggest problem I saw last year when I worked voter protection for a Detroit precinct with a significant Latino population.

      • nextstopchicago says:

        You’re in luck. Well, you would be, except I’m not in Detroit. But I’m now in charge of quality control for the voter rolls here, among other things. :-)

    • YYSyd says:

      Nigerian passports are in English, the official language. There are no excuses for not getting the name spelled correctly for correlating databases. If you can’t get the real names right, getting false names and alternate names would be even more hopeless.

      Where the language (and character sets) are not English, for the identity of the person, I wonder if the system caters to those needs. It goes without saying there will also need to be a bank of people with language skills to check and double check names. Arabic is nothing compared to having to deal with two byte characters (so don’t get into a fight with N Korea). The system needs to be able to deal with identities in other than English and in ways that do not require that the viewers of data be able to read and pronounce some of the identification data.

      But before dealing with say, 20 to 30 languages other than English and likely to be required to tie data together for potential actors, they need to be able to correctly enter and identify even the English spelled official identities.

  4. nextstopchicago says:

    The more I think about this, the angrier I am.

    We’ve lost all sorts of rights, we’re torturing people, we’re spying on citizens, we’re holding people WE proclaim as innocence because they might nonetheless be dangerous.

    But the father of a terrorist comes in and says “I think he’s a terrorist.” And we do nothing, don’t even revoke the visa, because we fail to recognize how he spells his fucking name?????

    If I promise that Dick Cheney can lock me in a dark cell forever on even a hint of impropriety in my background, would he at least agree to try to train embassy personnel to SPELL in the language of the country they’re sent to?? FAAAACK!!!

  5. MadDog says:

    OT – From Jeremy Scahill’s RebelReport blog:

    Two Blackwater Guards Arrested by FBI on Murder Charges

    Two former Blackwater operatives were arrested by US federal agents on murder charges, stemming from their alleged involvement in the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians in Kabul in May. They have been identified as Justin Cannon, 27, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach, Va. They have been charged with “crimes including second-degree murder, attempted murder and firearms offenses while working as contractors for the U.S. Department of Defense in Afghanistan,” according to the Justice Department. The 13-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 6 and unsealed today…

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Hasan attack involved the US Army at Ft. Hood, including most obviously a mid-level officer and psychiatrist working where the Army’s sun doesn’t shine – with the wounded and and the survivors of the dead.

    The Crotch Bomber involved systemic problems about the feds inability to share and act on information already in hand. “Improvement” implies nothing to see here, move along. Dr. Hasan’s violent acts succeeded, so that spin won’t wash.

  7. MadDog says:

    More OT – From Sam Stein over at HuffPo:

    Dawn Johnsen To Be Re-Nominated, Confirms White House

    A White House official confirms what the Huffington Post reported on Wednesday — that the administration is set re-nominate Dawn Johnsen, the controversial nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel…

    …Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office tells the Huffington Post that Johnsen’s nomination will have to go through the Judiciary Committee once again before she can get a vote from the full Senate.

    Shorter Harry Reid: “Dawn who?”

  8. nextstopchicago says:

    Earl, and Marcy,

    I wouldn’t focus too much on the idea of broken vs. reformable. What Obama or his people are doing here is defining what exactly needs to change. The scope of the change needed isn’t as important as the fact that I think they’ve zeroed in on the right thing.

    I think by “had sufficient information” and the need for “improvement”, the report is saying the problem isn’t gathering enough info but handling the info we already have.

    By zeroing in, they help the public zero in on likely solutions. If our needs were omni-directional, then the claims of the torture apologists, the wire-tappers, etc., become stronger. If the need is better analysis, then we can say – look, the last thing we need is more disinformation from tortured suspects. What we need is people who can recognize that Abdul from Nigeria is the same guy as Abdoel from Indonesia, because of the way one transliterates into Dutch. It helps define the need in constructive ways.

    For example, I think it’s interesting that of the three “successful” attacks this year (Hassan, al Balawi and in a sense Abdulmutallab), each seems to have had a presence in our intel system, and two of the three had made known their interest in martyrdom in online forums. The same is true of the Decatur, IL, jihadi. This makes me believe (perhaps naively) that these sorts of attacks aren’t as subtle and difficult to anticipate as one might think.

    Maybe the lesson is that terrorists, at least the type with enough knowledge of America to be dangerous to Americans, may most of the time out themselves if we just let them. We’ve been tearing out the foundation of the house looking for where the mice MIGHT get in, when the mice are really just coming in the open window.

    Now Marcy, I’m sure you can argue that that implies the system is broken. My point is that on a go-forward basis, if they’re accurately identifying the needs, which I think they are, a new system will inevitably evolve that is more focused on those needs. A great deal of the problem is the maximalist, all-or-nothing, devious-arabs worldview of the Bush/Cheney folks, which led us completely astray in grappling with what type of foe we faced and what we needed to do to address it.

  9. Jeff Kaye says:

    Re the “sanity board” — It’s very difficult to be held non-competent to stand trial. An attorney may have to do this to cover their bases, or to play for time, but basically, outside florid schizophrenia or serious brain damage, one is usually found competent to stand trial.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    OT, but does the ABB factory shooting in St. Louis, at least three dead and five wounded, foretell more strife as the middle class and the prospects for its children are thrown down the drain by Democrats and Republicans alike.

    According to this report, the shooter was an employee and participant in a current lawsuit against ABB for poorly managing employees retirement funds. The disaffection consequent to corporation predation and poor regulation of current business practices is probably just beginning.

    Will Washington subsidize the purchase of more sonic cannons and workplace metal detectors, or work to improve workplace conditions and make management’s responsibilities to its workers more than a smoking room joke?

  11. randiego says:

    Yet another argument for college football playoffs: These teams sit for 45 days and make tons of mistakes in the biggest game of the year. Each big game has been like this.

    What is Texas thinking having McCoy run the option?

    • Jim White says:

      Shouldn’t a team that is playing for the national championship have a back-up quarterback who won’t give the game away? Texas is going to wah-wah about losing McCoy, but ‘Bama is beating their butts big-time on both sides of the ball now.

        • Jim White says:

          So if this game plays out the way it looks now, final AP poll is Alabama, Boise State, Florida for 1-3?

          I know, I know, you think Boise should be number 1…

      • randiego says:

        Shouldn’t a team that is playing for the national championship have a back-up quarterback who won’t give the game away? Texas is going to wah-wah about losing McCoy, but ‘Bama is beating their butts big-time on both sides of the ball now.

        Hah, I was just saying that to my wife. You’d think they’d have two guys preparing side-by-side running that dangerous (for QB’s) option offense.

        This game sucks. Alabama is unimpressive. Bring me Boise State. Bring me a playoff.

  12. orionATL says:


    Hendrich humperdink

    Or hendrick hubrish

    Or whoever

    The very clever

    New yorker writer commenting on health insur legislation recently

    Would love this situation.

    Things are complicated

    No one should be implicated

    Otherwise it’s some kind of informal fallacy.

    B.s. Then, b.s. Now.

    Specific individuals made specific decisions about health legislation

    And about whether the Nigerian crotch rocket was a threat.

  13. randiego says:

    I’m no fan of Texas, but just a minute ago we were letting the boys play when ‘Bama dude should have had a flag. That’s a cheap PI flag against Texas.

  14. orionATL says:

    There are two things in football that mark a winner:

    – playing ferocious defense


    – running over the other team no
    Matter what defense they adopt.

    In case you hadn’t noticed

    Mark ingram is an extraordinary runner.

    One like I haven’t seen since emitt smith.

  15. orionATL says:


    Two different senses of “winning”

    Winning a particular contest


    Winning over a season (several games)