Leading Homeland Security with Breathtaking Incompetence

By now, everyone in America has heard that two days after the terrorist attack on a Northwest Airlines flight, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, asserted, absurdly, that “the system worked.”

Secretary Napolitano now claims the media took her comment out of context.  But a review of the transcript reveals that “system worked” was only one of several stunningly dishonest, and incompetent statements in the same interview, conducted by Candy Crowley of CNN.Napolitano

Crowley opened the interview by asking if the attack was part of a larger plot, or a lone wolf.  Napolitano anssered:

Well, right now, we have no indication that it’s part of anything larger, but obviously the investigation continues…But the traveling public is very, very safe in this air environment. And while we continue to investigate the source of this incident, I think the traveling public should be confident in what we are doing now.

Really?  Why should travelers be confident?  How could she claim travelers were “very, very safe” when the investigation hadn’t yet determined if there was a larger plot?

Crowley then asked if there were any evidence of the Al Qaida ties that the suspect claimed

Right now, that is part of the criminal justice investigation that is ongoing, and I think it would be inappropriate to speculate as to whether or not he has such ties.

Of course!  Initiate a civilian criminal investigation instead of treating an enemy combatant as an enemy combatant.  Then use the investigation as a pretext for not disclosing any relevant information to “the traveling public,” except that they should be “confident.”  Ms. Napolitano continued…

What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel.

That was the second time in 60 seconds she called for confidence.

Next came the system-worked part that made so much news.  You can decide for yourself if the media quoted her out of context:

And one thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action.

“Appropriate action?”  What choice did they have?  Even though they submitted to all the petty and annoying rules, and took off their shoes in the airport, a man known to American Intelligence to be aligned with Al Qaeda, with a one-way ticket and no luggage, somehow manage to bring explosives onto the plane!  Passengers and crew did what they had to do to survive.  Now, they have to suffer the insult being patted on the head for their role in Napolitano’s dysfunctional “system.”

Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight…So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.

In his comments from Hawaii on Monday President Obama also claimed that “we made sure all flights in the air were secure and could land safely.”  But it turns out there were approximately 3,500 flights in the air over America at the time, and only 128 that were inbound from Europe received any communication.  Through their unions and associations pilots are now complaining, and federal officials now admit, that the remaining 3,371 weren’t even notified.

When asked how the terrorist could have brought explosives on the plane when passengers are forbidden to carry more than 3.4 ounces of liquid Napolitano answered:

Well, we are asking the same questions, looking at what happened in Amsterdam as he transferred flights to a flight that was U.S.-bound….We have no suggestion that he was improperly screened…

She wanted travelers to be “confident” yet she couldn’t answer the question and she claimed there was “no suggestion” that a terrorist who boarded the plane with explosives was improperly screened!  Why weren’t the explosives in his underwear a “suggestion”?

Crowley pointed out that it would not make people feel safe to hear that he was properly screened.  Napolitano’s astounding response:

Well, you know, it should. This was one individual literally of thousands that fly and thousands of flights every year. And he was stopped before any damage could be done.

He was stopped by passengers!  Is she taking credit for stopping him?  She claimed he passed “proper” screening while carrying explosives! And travelers should feel safe?  She sounded like a bureaucrat

And now the forensics are analyzing, well, what actually could have been done with whatever substance he had and whatever amount. Those are all undetermined issues right now.

Translation:  You should feel safe traveling while we try to figure out what explosive he had in his knickers and how he passed through appropriate screening.

When asked about the watch lists and no-fly lists and why the terrorist wasn’t scrutinized after his father, an educated, Nigerian government official, had warned the CIA about his connections with Al Qaeda, Napolitano continued her nearly incoherent babbling:

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…

Why does the tied list exist if no action is taken when someone’s name is on it?

Now, one of the things I think we will be doing over the next weeks is really looking at those watch lists procedures in light of this occurring and saying, OK, do those need to be changed? They have been in place for a number of years…

We are always dealing with a changing environment. But we do it and we do it really very, very quickly and very thoroughly across the entire air environment, through airports both domestically and internationally. And that has happened over this weekend.

So even though she appears to admit the list system has not been revised for “a number of years” she also claims to be dealing very quickly with a changing environment!  How can the Obama Administration tolerate such a high official so openly contradicting herself?

When asked if her Department “looked forward” to anticipate emerging threats as well as reacting after the fact to terrorist attacks Napolatino brushed aside the question and for the third time defended her system with a claim we now know was a lie, that all flights were notified:

Oh, absolutely. And that work is ongoing all the time. But we also recognize that it is important that we anticipate that someone could indeed get on a plane with intent to do harm, regardless of everything that we do. And that requires, then, everybody to know what to do when that occurs, which is what happened here, and the ability to immediately get information out to flights that are already in the air, as well as flights that are on the ground. And we exercised that.

The most charitable thing we can say about Ms. Napolitano is that she irresponsibly appeared on TV without first doing her homework to prepare for easily anticipated questions.  A more realistic assessment is that she is utterly inept, that after a year in office she knows little more about airline security than anyone who occasionally takes a flight.

2 Comments so far

  1. Drew on December 31st, 2009

    What’s worse, as I understand it Obama absolutely loves her.

    Talk about the blind leading the blind……

  2. Matt on December 31st, 2009

    Her fail level is quickly rising beyond what is theoretically possible.