I'm home in northwestern Wisconsin (aka Real America) this week. When I've talked with friends and family (even Obama-voting ones) about the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack, the security failure most astounding to them is that although Abdulmutallab was on the terrorist watch list because his own father warned the U.S. government, he was not on the no-fly list.
It's particularly dumbfounding that this Politico piece alleging a double standard regarding the treatment of Obama in the wake of Abdulmutallab's attempt and the treatment of Bush after shoe bomber Richard Reid's attempt doesn't care to mention that the facts of each case are very different. If Richard Reid had been allowed to fly even though he was on a terrorist watch list, you better believe that Bush would have taken the heat that Obama is taking right now.
What's made matters even worse for Obama are the remarks of his bungling DHS secretary. Some Obama apologists have claimed that Napolitano's “the system worked” remark has been taken out of context. She was only talking about the system working after the attack occurred, you see. Well, it turns out that the system didn't work after the attack occurred, according to the Allied Pilots Association. And, if you go and look at the transcript of her interview on CNN, Napolitano didn't specify that she was referring to the system after the attack. She made it pretty clear that she thought there was no reason Abdulmutallab should have been on the no-fly list even though his well-respected father warned the U.S. government that his son was a threat:
CROWLEY: … Let me ask you about those watch lists. Here is someone whose father came to the U.S. embassy and said I am worried about his ties, I am worried that he is becoming increasingly militant. He is on a list, but somehow no none looks at him more closely, apparently, than any other passenger. Is there some way — I mean, it seems to me there is all these computer lists, and this one has suspected ties, and that one — and this is the no-fly list. Is there not some way to merge this information so that he would have popped up someplace?
NAPOLITANO: Well, there is no suggestion that — he was on what's called a tied list, which has half-a-million-plus names on it. And there is no suggestion that that was not shared information. The issue was, was there enough information to move him to the more specific lists, which would require additional examination or indeed being on no-fly status. And to date, it does not appear that there was any such information to move him from that tied list, which was shared and everybody had it, but to a more specific list which would require different types of screening at the airport.
CROWLEY: So not even a father coming in, knowing what his son has been up to and reporting this to the U.S. embassy, is not enough? I mean, what puts you on the watch list if that is not enough?
NAPOLITANO: Well, indeed you can — let's not get into that, because for one thing, we need to ascertain exactly who said what to whom and when. But also, you have to understand that you need information that is specific and credible if you are going to actually bar someone from air travel. He was on a general list, which over half a million people, everybody had access to it. But there was not the kind of credible information, in the sense derogatory information, that would move him up the list.
As Ruth Marcus <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/12/30/red_flags_waved_–_and_ignored_99720.html" target="_blank">writes today, “Excuse me, but how much more derogatory can you get?”