State Department ignored warning on Abdulmutallab

posted at 9:30 am on December 28, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Janet Napolitano has come under heavy criticism for her assertion that “the system worked” after the near-miss attack on Northwest 253, but as the Washington Post reports this morning, the failure didn’t entirely belong to Napolitano.  The State Department got a warning from the terrorist’s father that his son was up to no good just a few weeks before the flight from Amsterdam.  Not only did State ignore the warning, but the Post reports that ignorance is pretty much the norm:

When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s father in Nigeria reported concern over his son’s “radicalization” to the U.S. Embassy there last month, intelligence officials in the United States deemed the information insufficient to pursue. The young man’s name was added to the half-million entries in a computer database in McLean and largely forgotten.

The lack of attention was not unusual, according to U.S. intelligence officials, who said that thousands of similar bits of information flow into the National Counterterrorism Center each week from around the world. Only those that indicate a specific threat, or add to an existing body of knowledge about an individual, are passed along for further investigation and possible posting on airline and border watch lists. …

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) joined GOP critics in asking how the suspect was able to retain a U.S. visa — issued by the U.S. Embassy in London in 2008 — after his name appeared in the terrorist database.

“What happened after this man’s father called our embassy in Nigeria?” Lieberman asked. “What happened to that information? Was there follow-up to try to determine where this suspect was?”

White House officials struggled to explain the complicated system of centralized terrorist data and watch lists, stressing that they were put in place years ago by the Bush administration. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Obama has ordered reviews of the watch-list system and the airport explosives screening.

When Robert Gibbs started spinning this back into more BushBushBushBushBush, it became apparent that the answer to Lieberman’s question was no.  It’s one thing to get an anonymous tip about a potential terrorist suspect.  When a father feels compelled to warn the US about his own son, that should have triggered a little bit more response than “We’ll take it under advisement.”

The question on the visa is critical.  No one has a right to a visa to the US.  If we have credible information that someone constitutes a threat — and a father’s testimony should be considered at least credible enough to hoist a red flag or two — then the visa should be canceled until more investigation can take place.  It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re kicking out Anatolie Vartosu for being too successful in America while keeping Adbulmutallab’s visa in place because we’re just not sure he’s a radical jihadi.  It’s as ridiculous as doing strip-searches on Grandma while allowing a Nigerian on a watch list to pass through two sets of security without a patdown.

The State Department needs to get serious about visa management and national security.  Instead of kicking out the Vartosus, how about keeping out the jihadis?  Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration have been in place for over eleven months.  When do their failures start being their own?


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