On Thursday everyone waited apprehensively for the President’s remarks, because National security adviser James Jones had warned that Americans would feel a “certain shock” when they learned of systemic failures in intelligence operations that were supposed to keep them safe. But nobody who wasn’t in a coma since the Christmas terrorist attack was shocked. He rehashed the news that was already widely reported in the media, and criticized the various National Security agencies. Then he said:
In our ever-changing world, America’s first line of defense is timely, accurate intelligence that is shared, integrated, analyzed, and acted upon quickly and effectively.
This declaration conflicts with his Administration’s handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber. Obama apparently is unconcerned that they passed up an opportunity to gather timely intelligence from Abdulmutallab. They could have subjected him to weeks in intensive interrogation, to learn more about Al Qaeda in Yemen where he prepared for his suicide mission.
But instead the Administration decided to treat him as a criminal instead of an enemy combatant, even though there is no legal or Constitutional requirement to do so. Of course an attorney showed up immediately to advise him to remain silent. This morning was Abdulmutallab’s first appearance in a Detroit court where he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
It’s difficult to have faith in the President’s commitment to do a better job with intelligence gathering when his deeds conflict with his words.
He went on to describe in vague and general terms the failures of intelligence processing that permitted Abdulmutallab to bring explosives aboard the plane. He used language that was designed to seem specific, but didn’t really disclose anything.
He promised various actions to improve security, all of which should have been standard procedure long ago.
Finally he responded to criticism from Dick Cheney and others that he appears not to appreciate the reality that America is at war.
We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.
This is encouraging in that it is more emphatic than his past statements. The Administration’s reluctance to adopt the Bush term “war on terror” was defensible in that terror is the enemy’s tactic, not the enemy itself.
But in the early months of his administration his top officials were reluctant to use the words “terror” or “war” at all, reflecting the view of the Left that terror attacks are unfortunate, occasional, criminal events, and that sending the military overseas to fight terrorist organizations is “chest thumping” and “beating the drums of war.” Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, destroyed her own credibility during her Senate confirmation hearings by refusing to say “terror attack” and substituting the the term “man-caused disasters.”
With yesterday’s more direct language Obama has taken a step in the right direction. He will likely will face some blow-back from his leftist base for openly naming the enemy and declaring that we are at war with that enemy. We can only hope his Administration transitions to an all-out commitment to action that matches the commitment of his words.