This is real comforting.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, in a candid assessment of what went wrong before and after the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas, said he had wrongly caved to external “pressure” to trim the no-fly list and even admitted the intelligence community would probably drop the ball in the future.
The visibly frustrated director spoke Wednesday alongside other top officials in a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The intelligence director as well as Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, both said at the outset that the system failed and they are making changes to correct it.
In one specific criticism, Blair said suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should have been questioned by the recently created High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. As he explained the need to use the interrogation unit for such cases in the future, he made an offhand remark that carried a touch of defeatism.
“We’ll make a new mistake. We won’t make that one,” he said.
It was one of several startlingly blunt remarks from the intelligence chief.
In another exchange, Blair expressed disappointment that so many leaks about who knew what when have emerged in the course of the internal review.
“I wish people would just shut the hell up,” he said.
Blair also said criteria for adding people to the government’s “no fly” list was too legalistic. He said that in recent years there has been pressure to shrink rather than expand the list because of a cascade of complaints from people getting “hassled” by authorities.
“Why are you searching grandmothers?” was a too-common refrain, he said.
Blair never specified the “external pressure”, nor did he answer the question: “Why are you searching grandmothers?” With all of the legitmate reasons to scrutinize Middle Eastern males 18-35 coming into the country, you’d think the TSA/DHS would adjust its focus. Blair puts the blame on “external” causes, when the real blame rests on an intel community that cannot pass the common sense test. Political correctness, which Blair avoids mention of, clearly plays a role in the hesitency to profile.
There will certainly be more mistakes because they refuse to rectify the ones already made.