When President Obama decided to try five accused 9/11 conspirators in a civilian court, they were reversing one of the Bush administration's most strongly-held beliefs -- that terror suspects must be tried in a military court, with fewer constitutional protections afforded other criminal defendants.
After a barrage of pressure, it seems they are changing their position, according to Washington Post, which reports that Mr. Obama's advisors will likely recommend a military trial for the self-professed mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
President Obama initially defended the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects in a New York City court as a tribute to the American justice system, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Bill Plante. But security concerns (coupled with cost estimates ranging from $100 million to $1 billion for the duration of the trial) have made standing on principle a political impossibility.
Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is continuing his battle with the White House over how the administration has handled the Christmas Day terror attack attempt, right from when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab got off the plane.
In an interview with National Review Online, Bond called for John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, to be fired, saying he is no longer "credible" and that a "drastic change in policy" is needed.
Bond in part was reacting to an op-ed Brennan wrote in USA Today yesterday which slammed critics of the administration's actions following the failed terror attack. Brennan said that such critics were "misrepresenting the facts to score political points, instead of coming together to keep us safe."
In a searing op-ed in USA Today, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser responded to critics of the administration's policies and defended its handling of the failed Christmas day bomber.
Echoing comments he also made on "Meet The Press" this past Sunday, John Brennan, the assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for homeland security, said that most critics to the president were "misrepresenting the facts to score political points, instead of coming together to keep us safe."
"Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda. Terrorists are not 100-feet tall," Brennan said.
The revelation by Christmas Day airliner bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab that radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki directed him to perpetrate the attack will put increased pressure on the U.S. military to capture or kill the alleged mastermind of the plot.
Having another Osama Bin Laden on the loose, occasionally taunting the U.S. president, inflaming Islamic extremists and eluding the sophisticated technical apparatus and massive military force of the U.S. Department of Defense, isn't the desired scenario for the war on terror.
In addition to his role in the Christmas Day attack, Al-Awlaki, reportedly the chief cleric for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was a player in the November's shootings at Ft. Hood.
The White House continues to fend off assertions that its handling of terrorist suspects and trials puts national security at further risk.
On Thursday, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), at left, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to President Obama admonishing the administration for disclosing details about recent cooperation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged Christmas Day bomber.
"I cannot understand, Mr. President, why the sudden cooperation by Abdulmutallab would be broadcast publicly to the media in detail when your intelligence chiefs are unanimously warning that another attack on our country is imminent. The release of this sensitive information has no doubt been helpful to his terrorist cohorts around the world," Bond wrote.
"FBI officials stressed the importance of not disclosing the fact of his cooperation in order to protect ongoing and follow-on operations to neutralize additional threats to the American public," he added.
Bond maintained that FBI Director Robert Mueller wanted to keep the fact of Abdulmutallab's cooperation quiet.
Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Dennis C. Blair, director of National Intelligence, appeared Wednesday morning before the Senate Homeland Security Committee to discuss the failure of the intelligence community to prevent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian who allegedly tried to blow up a jetliner on Dec. 25, from boarding a plane.
"The counterterrorism system failed," Leiter (at left) and Blair told the committee. "We didn't do things well and we didn't do things right."
"Within the Intelligence Community we had strategic intelligence that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] had the intention of taking action against the United States prior to the failed attack on December 25th, but we did not direct more resources against AQAP, nor insist that the watchlisting criteria be adjusted prior to the event. In addition, the Intelligence Community analysts who were working hard on immediate threats to Americans in Yemen did not understand the fragments of intelligence on what turned out later to be Mr. Abdulmutallab, so they did not push him onto the terrorist watchlist," Letier told the committee.
The two intelligence executives said that U.S. intelligence teams gather more than a billion bits of data and add hundreds of people to the terror watchlist daily.
On Thursday saying, "Ultimately the buck stops with me. As president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people, and when the system fails, it is my responsibility."
The president announced a series of steps he says will help intelligence officials prevent breakdowns like the one on Christmas Day. CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid reports the new measures include: assigning responsibility for investigating leads on high priority threats; wider and faster distribution of intelligence reports; strengthening the sharing of intelligence; and expanding the number people on watch lists - especially the no-fly list.
It could be said that the U.S. government can run by remote control. On the day that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a Northwest airline flight headed for Detroit, several key government players were on holiday and didn't immediately return to their posts in Washington, D.C.
President Obama was on vacation in Hawaii, golfing and enjoying time with his family. He returned to the White House on Jan. 4.
A source told CBS News that Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, was on holiday in Monterey, Calif. when Abdulmutallab was apprehended, and didn't return to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. until the weekend following Jan. 1.
The enormity of the threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is one of the most alarming pieces of information to come out of a review of the failures in the nation's security apparatus that led to the attempted Christmas Day attack, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said today at a press briefing.
He said the fact that AQAP is an extension of the core al Qaeda group coming out of Pakistan was in his view "one of the most lethal, one of the most concerning" aspects of the report.
"The fact that they had moved forward to try to execute this attack against the homeland I think demonstrated to us -- and this is what the review sort of uncovered -- that we had a strategic sense of sort of where they were going, but we didn't know they had progressed to the point of actually launching individuals here," he said. "And we have taken that lesson, and so now we're all on top of it."
President Obama indicated Thursday that he has decided, at least for now, not to fire anyone over intelligence failures that allowed a Nigerian terrorist to board a U.S.-bound airliner with an explosive and detonator.
Before the speech, there was speculation that Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, might be on the chopping block. The New York Daily News reported Thursday morning that Leiter, whose organization is tasked with coordinate intelligence to fight terror plots, declined to return from a ski vacation following the bombing.
That seems to not have been entirely true: Denis McDonough, National Security Staff Chief of Staff, released a statement later in the day saying Leiter had been at his post on December 25th and "engaged in regular, repeated, and extended classified discussions" in the following days.
"The U.S. government had the information scattered throughout the system to potentially uncover this plot and disrupt the attack," he said. "Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had."
In his remarks, the president laid out the corrective steps he has directed in response to the failure. Read his comments in full below, and watch them at left.
President Obama didn't offer much in the way of shock, as promised by White House national security adviser James Jones, in discussing the outcome of an investigation into the missed clues that potentially could have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from ever boarding the Northwest airline flight to Detroit.
The president chose to blame the system, rather than any individuals or agencies.
President Obama Thursday afternoon publicly called for the intelligence community to do better in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt. In the process, he offered a response to critics on the right who have complained that he has not used rhetoric indicating the seriousness of the situation.
"While passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let's be clear about what this moment demands," the president said. "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," he continued. "And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them."
Updated 1:39 p.m. Eastern Time
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
According to White House national security adviser James Jones, Americans will feel "a certain shock" when they read a report being put forth this afternoon about the failures that allowed a 23-year-old Nigerian man to board a U.S.-bound airliner with an explosive device despite numerous warnings that he could pose a threat.
Indeed, President Obama said Tuesday that the intelligence community "had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt" it – yet did not do so because of "a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the unclassified version of a "comprehensive" preliminary White House review of the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day will be released Thursday.
According to Gibbs, President Obama will make remarks in conjunction with the release of the review. He expected the release and comments in the early afternoon.
Officials are engaged in separate reviews of passenger screening procedures and the use of terror watch lists. The review to be released tomorrow largely relates to the watch lists, and was prepared by counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan.
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