Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Barack Obama criticises CIA failures over Detroit bomb plot.

When asked what blew governments off course, Harold Macmillan famously replied, "Events, dear boy, events."

That's certainly what came to mind when I heard Barack Obama say this:

US security agencies had enough intelligence to disrupt a plot to blow up a plane last month, but failed to act, President Barack Obama has said.

The intelligence community had failed to "connect the dots", Mr Obama said, adding: "That's not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it."

This event, with Republicans jumping all over it for political gain, will make it much harder for Obama to close Guantanamo Bay on schedule.

Speaking after a White House inquest to which he called all the agencies involved, he expressed frustration and anger at the way the bomb plot had been handled: "The system has failed in a potentially ­disastrous way." In a departure from his normally cool public demeanour, the president said that the intelligence services had had all the information they needed about the plot and the Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, but they failed to connect the dots .

"I will not accept that," he said. "We have to do better. We will do better and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line."

My memory of attempted terrorist attacks during the Bush years was that even failed attacks, like the Richard Reid shoe bomber incident, only served to highlight Bush's fear driven agenda and imply that he was right to tell people that they should be very scared. It certainly didn't result in Bush being put under pressure to explain how Reid was ever allowed to board a plane. And I have no memory of the Democrats seeking to make political gain out of Reid's actions.

But the Republicans have been all over this like a rash, implying that only they are vigilant enough to keep Americans safe.

I am sure Obama is right when he states that the CIA could have done a better job of identifying Abdulmutallab as a potential threat, however, I get the distinct feeling that the Republicans are using this for political gain, with the hope of derailing some of Obama's policies.

Obama promised within days of his inauguration last year to close Guantánamo in Cuba within a year. The timetable has slipped and he has been accused by right-wing critics of endangering American lives.

But yesterday, after the White House meeting, he shrugged aside the critics and said he would continue with a plan for closure of Guantánamo Bay, a detention camp which had acted as a recruiting base for al-Qaida. He added, though, that he was suspending the release of Yemenis on security grounds.

There is something shameful about the way that the Republicans have jumped all over this.

And they are doing so to push the notion that the Democrats are soft on security, and that only torturers like themselves are diligent enough to ensure safety for Americans.

As I say, I have no memory of the Democrats turning national security into a political football, but I am not surprised to see the Republicans jumping all over this for political gain, even to the extent that they are falsely implying that Obama has been slower to respond to this than Bush was.

This is simply what these buggers do. It's all a game to them.

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