Transparency: Man reviewing intel center also created and ran it

posted at 9:30 am on December 31, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

In the wake of the botched terror attack on Christmas Day, Barack Obama promised a thorough investigation into why American intelligence did not “connect the dots,” allowing Umar Abdulmutallab to board a plane from Amsterdam to Detroit.  The focus will fall in large part on the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and the use of watch lists that are supposed to prevent terrorists from boarding flights and entering the country.  However, the man chosen to run the probe, John Brennan, is also the man who designed the watch-list system and ran the NCTC:

President Barack Obama promised a “thorough review” of the government’s terrorist watch-list system after a Nigerian man reported to U.S. government officials by his father to have radicalized and gone missing last month was allowed to board a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit that he later tried to blow up without any additional security screening.

Yet the individual Obama has chosen to lead the review, White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, served for 35 years in the CIA, helped design the current watch-list system and served as interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center, whose role is under review.

In the three years before joining the Obama administration, Brennan was president and CEO of The Analysis Corp., an intelligence contracting firm that worked closely with the National Counterterrorism Center and other U.S. government intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security agencies on developing terrorism watch-lists. …

According to financial disclosures forms released by the White House, Brennan served as president and CEO of TAC from November 2005 until January 2009, when Obama named him to the White House terrorism and homeland security job. The disclosures show that Brennan reported earning a $783,000 annual salary from The Analysis Corp. in 2008.

The forms also show that Brennan sat on the board of directors for TAC’s parent company, Global Strategic Group, from August 2007 until January 2009. Brennan’s ties to the system he is now charged with reviewing could raise questions about the independence of Obama’s review. One former senior intelligence official told POLITICO it is “unsavory to see Obama put Brennan in charge of a review of this matter since it is possible that NCTC or TAC could have failed in their responsibilities.”

Why not just hire TAC to review itself?  That would follow the ACORN example, at least.  Having the man who ran and designed the system as the leader of an investigation by definition makes it anything but “independent”.  If the issue is a design problem in the NCTC or watch-list system, how likely will Brennan be to highlight those kind of failures?  If the probe finds that the problem was caused by human error, the people singled out for criticism will point fingers right back at NCTC and the watch-list systems and the people who built both, including Brennan, and none of them will have more credibility than the other.

CBS reports that design issues may well be at the heart of it — or at least organizational issues (via Geoff A):

As to why Abdulmutallab wasn’t on a no-fly list, even though his father had reported his radicalization, and he’d been turned down for a British visa, the official said that’s because the information still isn’t getting to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment or TIDE list.

The TIDE issue has become a “he said, she said “among various government agencies. My colleague Marc Ambinder reported that, according to one of his sources, the State Department thought NCTC was checking visas against the TIDE list, and NCTC thought that State was doing the checking.

“You’d be shocked how many times we still come up with this, ‘Gee I thought you were doing it,’” my source added. “Initially, our reports were that he was on no-fly list. Obviously that was wrong. This is clearly a failure of the system.”

For instance, he asks rhetorically, “Why – if he was denied British visa – why wasn’t that shared with us? I don’t know.”

That should be prompting a review from people disconnected from the design and management processes with both the NCTC and watch lists — if the administration is truly interested in an independent investigation.  The decision by the White House to use Brennan is inexplicable.  After all, both systems were built before Obama took office; he has no particular interest in protecting it if they don’t work properly.  Obama appointed Brennan to his current position, so failures in Brennan’s efforts might look bad for the appointment, but that would hardly be the worst criticism Obama has endured this year.  In fact, it wouldn’t be the worst criticism he took for the Brennan appointment itself.

Normally, this would prompt Congress to start its own probe, consonant with its oversight responsibilities over executive branch functions.  The history there, though, hardly gives one confidence in a Congressional probe, even if Harry Reid and/or Nancy Pelosi allowed one.  Let’s not forget that Congress created a similar conflict of interest in appointing Jamie Gorelick to the 9/11 Commission, which ended up reviewing Gorelick’s involvement in intensifying barriers between law-enforcement and intelligence agencies that created the same kind of miscommunication that allowed Abdulmutallab to board Northwest 253 on Christmas.

Brennan is, by most accounts, a fine public servant — but that doesn’t mean he should be investigating his own work while the White House passes it off as independent.  That would not be fair to the people who will be scrutinized by this probe, and ultimately, unfair to Brennan himself.  Obama should reconsider this decision so that the American people can have some confidence in this critical investigation.


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What else would you expect from the one creep?

OmahaConservative on December 31, 2009 at 9:33 AM

Kind of like Acorn investigating itself and finding NOTHING henkie about their organization?
Sheesh. You can’t make this crap up, can you?

HornetSting on December 31, 2009 at 9:33 AM

We can’t have someone whis unfamiliar with this system checking it for faults, that would make sense an we all know that the govt. does nothing that makes sense.

thomasaur on December 31, 2009 at 9:34 AM

whis=who is

thomasaur on December 31, 2009 at 9:35 AM

Like Ed says, this is the same crap as the Acorn review. Obama doesn’t even make an attempt to be objective anymore. He truly does not care what the ramifications of his decisions are.

Johnnyreb on December 31, 2009 at 9:37 AM

Obamateurism of the year anyone?

Mord on December 31, 2009 at 9:39 AM

You are all so quick to criticize.
You try defending the country from a tiny island vacation spot in the Pacific!
More audio statements please…

mjbrooks3 on December 31, 2009 at 9:40 AM

Obama doesn’t even make an attempt to be objective anymore. He truly does not care what the ramifications of his decisions are.

Johnnyreb on December 31, 2009 at 9:37 AM

What do you mean “anymore”? When has he ever been objective?

ladyingray on December 31, 2009 at 9:41 AM

SO, Brennan will simply find malfeasance and fire himself.

ParisParamus on December 31, 2009 at 9:41 AM

You are all so quick to criticize.
You try defending the country from a tiny island vacation spot in the Pacific!
More audio statements please…

mjbrooks3 on December 31, 2009 at 9:40 AM

And playing golf!

grapeknutz on December 31, 2009 at 9:42 AM

This is the fall guy scenario guys and gals.

tomas on December 31, 2009 at 9:45 AM

Obama doesn’t even make an attempt to be objective anymore. He truly does not care what the ramifications of his decisions are.

Johnnyreb on December 31, 2009 at 9:37 AM

When your voters are as dumb as a fencepost, you just have to go through the motions.

HornetSting on December 31, 2009 at 9:45 AM

When I read that some problem agency is going to be investigated/restructured/revitalized by someone who has spent 35 years staring as a cubicle drone/PHB in a dilbert cartoon I begin to suspect that what we need is someone who has not spent 35 years involved in creating the problem.

Skandia Recluse on December 31, 2009 at 9:46 AM

TSA response, the TSA declined to say how many people were subpoenaed.

CYA? I missed whatever Media News publicized regarding the (TSA?) federal saboteur idiot who put all pertinent information online last month to make transparent globally how to successfully terrorize American airlines bypassing all security measures.

Last night, a San Antonio talk radio host said the greatest threat to the US is our own media news organizations turned against their Constitutional duties to report truthfully. He made a solid point. Hold the records intact, and everyone accountable to the truth. Furthermore, given today’s ample information resources, news organizations including the government press releases that knowingly report fraudulent propaganda should lose their free pass, held accountable through prosecution for fraud.

maverick muse on December 31, 2009 at 9:47 AM

It’s a blue ribbon white wash ribbon panel?

ParisParamus on December 31, 2009 at 9:48 AM

This is just another failed Information System project. It’s easy to create a database, it’s entirely different changing business processes – particularly in government where all the levers of change go through……..Congress

rock the casbah on December 31, 2009 at 9:49 AM

Well, ACORN investigated itself and found nothing wrong. I suspect the same will happen here.

SouthernGent on December 31, 2009 at 9:51 AM

Yet another candidate for an Obamateurism! What a bunch of incompetent boobs. God help us.

ultracon on December 31, 2009 at 9:53 AM

Whenever you hear “failure of the system” never believe it. Systems are designed by people they don’t design themselves. At the end of the road is always a person or people responsible, a “system” can never be responsible for failure.

I’m in education and there is no worse system in place than the educational system. That’s because of who designed it and who implements it, liberals.

Mojave Mark on December 31, 2009 at 9:54 AM

Makes about as much sence as the CRU reviewing the “data” and we know how that’s turning out.

larvcom on December 31, 2009 at 9:54 AM

Heads will…nod, I tell ya…

Nod!

JetBoy on December 31, 2009 at 9:54 AM

We got the fox guarding the hen house!! I feel better already! :)

FloridaMike on December 31, 2009 at 9:56 AM

Antipathetic Obama authorized every appointment’s gilded CYA at tax payer expense costing national security. Hell, the Democrat Majority managed to ruin everything, so why should the peons care? Shut up, quit crying over spilt milk, and get in line.

What’s done is done.

maverick muse on December 31, 2009 at 9:56 AM

Surely we can come up with a good conspiracy theory about all of this.

Otis B on December 31, 2009 at 9:57 AM

Surely we can come up with a good conspiracy theory about all of this.

Otis B on December 31, 2009 at 9:57 AM

No conspiracy needed when you have this many layers of incompetence.

thomasaur on December 31, 2009 at 10:01 AM

Bloggers heads will roll.

TSA special agents served subpoenas to travel bloggers Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott, demanding that they reveal who leaked the security directive to them. The government says the directive [to increase security] was not supposed to be disclosed to the public.

Who in their right mind wouldn’t increase security at this point? Where’s the big secret that an increase in security would automatically occur following a crisis? Is Obama telling America that we can NOT think independently, but may only speak according to what is becoming his own color-coded traffic signal projecting levels of danger?

maverick muse on December 31, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Whitewash.

petefrt on December 31, 2009 at 10:05 AM

Most.Transparent.EVA!

search4truth on December 31, 2009 at 10:06 AM

How much did he donate to the Obama campaign?

albill on December 31, 2009 at 10:09 AM

It seems to me that a person denied a visa in Britain would prompt an immediate review by our State Department and the default mode should be to deny a US visa pending a review…Pretty simple stuff here. Are you listening Obama? Hillary? Janet? As John Wayne said, “Life’s tough and tougher if you are stupid.”

Nozzle on December 31, 2009 at 10:12 AM

“I want you to investigate your team,” says Obama, ” and I don’t care who you point fingers at, just as long as it isn’t me…

Vntnrse on December 31, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Bet ya a nickle he won’t find a problem with the system. I’d bet a dime but with the economy and all…

What happens if the terrorists try again while the review is being conducted? Will Big Sis move to Tucson and open a taco stand?

Kissmygrits on December 31, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Too late to put this one on the Obamateurism of the Year?

Amendment X on December 31, 2009 at 10:15 AM

I highly recommend this piece on “The Exhausted Presidency”. It well explains the Obama missteps, like this one.

MTF on December 31, 2009 at 10:30 AM

Was political correctness part of the system design?

Johan Klaus on December 31, 2009 at 10:30 AM

Words would diminish how much I hate Jamie Gorelick.

She’s Number One on my list of People I’d Fight To the Death.

I’d never hit a woman but I’ll sock a bit¢h.

radioboyatl on December 31, 2009 at 10:35 AM

John Brennan was given his position as a reward for Brennan allowing an employee in his company to access Obama’s passport 3 times, several weeks apart, while supervisors at every level suspended security protocols designed to prevent such breaches.

Obama wanted his passport accessed 3 times and rewarded the guy who made sure it got done. Either that, or he rewarded incompetence combined with willful looking away while security breaches were made.

Yes, Brennan needs further scrutiny. Obama has a history of suspending the security protocols that get in the way of his own personal agenda – which is NOT the good of the country or transparency.

justincase on December 31, 2009 at 10:40 AM

The Obama administration can’t safeguard who gets into the White House, let alone commercial aircraft.

molonlabe28 on December 31, 2009 at 10:40 AM

I highly recommend this piece on “The Exhausted Presidency”. It well explains the Obama missteps, like this one.

MTF on December 31, 2009 at 10:30 AM

The money quote from the linked article:

Someone should give President Obama sign for his desk in the Oval Office. It should read, “The buck stops here.”

Passing the buck so often can wear a guy out!

ReagansRight on December 31, 2009 at 10:44 AM

You know, I’m getting awful big. It is getting hard to see my feet. There are folds where lint collects and I can no longer reach all my nether regions. I wonder if the Biggest Loser will take me? /Uncle Sam

rhodeymark on December 31, 2009 at 10:49 AM

***
Mr. Brennan probably has a lot of pertinent knowledge on how this system is supposed to work–and where the “holes” are in it’s design. Certainly he should be giving testimony about the system. However, I think a congressional review should occur at some point–in closed session to protect classified details on the system.
***
Mr. Brennan is probably a good choice for an “in house” review by TSA / Homeland Security first–quick response and a quick fix seem to be needed first. You need the expert first.
***
John Bibb
***

rocketman on December 31, 2009 at 10:57 AM

The ballless ones strike again. get political cover to protect themselves from dick cheney.

How about we the peeeps sponser a more serious look at what happened and appoint someone with some gravitas on the situation, like dick cheney!

Lonetown on December 31, 2009 at 10:58 AM

Well, as we all know, they inherited this problem from Bush so really this is all just a formality.

Lily on December 31, 2009 at 10:59 AM

I thought this headline over at Instapundit captured a lot that was wrong with how the Obama administration has handled this latest terrorist incident:

PRIORITIES: White House takes four days to respond to terror attack, but responds to Cheney criticism in matter of hours? Obviously, they’re more scared of Dick Cheney than of terrorists.

Posted at 7:18 am by Glenn Reynolds

This is one of the main reasons why a lot of people are criticizing Obama over this incident.

It’s not politicizing a National security incident like democrats did on a daily basis during Bush’s terms. It is simply pointing out that this President is on TV 24/7 and attacks his political opponents quickly with all his resources, but somehow can’t find time to address our Nation that just had a serious terrorist incident that would have resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives.

“the system worked”…..
………..thanks for nothing Mr. Hope and Change.

Baxter Greene on December 31, 2009 at 11:03 AM

John Brennan was put in charge of passport security, if I remember correctly – after overseeing the 3-time breach of Obama’s passport. (Reward somebody with oversight of the henhouse once they’ve shown that they will allow the wolf to enter 3 times before with impunity, eh? What does that say about what Brennan was specifically rewarded for?)

If Abdulmutallab didn’t have a passport wouldn’t the question have been referred directly to Brennan’s area of “expertise”?

I know this will sound crazy also, but where Obama is concerned the only crazy thing would be to give him a free pass. Obama’s golfing buddy in Hawaii, Bobbie Titcomb, is a flight attendant for NWA.

justincase on December 31, 2009 at 11:04 AM

Next Up:

Al Gore appointed to review Global Warming.

BobMbx on December 31, 2009 at 11:10 AM

I wonder if this “thorough review” is tuned to detect lack of heart. The jihadists, though not endowed with the highest technology, are willing to give everything for their evil belief system. But we are hamstrung by political correctness and a president whose greatest fear is not to parse his grammar correctly or to fail to look debonair. Hard to see how we come out on top until we actually begin to take the battle seriously.

When one of the enemy does get through – I mean, really gets through – this country will be thrown into chaos. Then what with The Orator do? It is all so obvious that one wonders if this is not all cognizant.

paul1149 on December 31, 2009 at 11:10 AM

Gee, I wonder what they (Obama admin) will say after a successful terrorist attack. “We investigated and found nothing wrong?”

docdave on December 31, 2009 at 11:25 AM

Obama conducted an ‘internal review’ of his staffs’ involvement in the pay-to-play over his senate seat…

TN Mom on December 31, 2009 at 11:26 AM

if the administration is truly interested in an independent investigation

Hahahahahahaha! What? And find out things they DON’T want to find out?

GarandFan on December 31, 2009 at 11:37 AM

maverick muse on December 31, 2009 at 10:03 AM

If folks haven’t read the article to which maverick muse refers, they should do so. In it they’ll learn of the TSA finely-tuned powers of observation and awareness of common acronyms:

The agents searched through Frischling’s BlackBerry and iPhone and questioned him about a number of phone numbers and messages in the devices. One number listed in his phone under “ICEMOM” was a quick dial to his mother, in case of emergency. The agents misunderstood the acronym and became suspicious that it was code for his anonymous source and asked if his source worked for ICE — the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

You’ll also be thunderstruck by their god-like skills with information technology:

The agents then said they wanted to take an image of his hard drive. Frischling said they had to go to WalMart to buy a hard drive, but when they returned were unable to get it to work. Frischling said the keyboard on his laptop was no longer working after they tried to copy his files. The agents left around 11 p.m. but came back Wednesday morning and, with Frischling’s consent, seized his laptop, which they promised to return after copying the hard drive.

ya2daup on December 31, 2009 at 11:48 AM

ya2daup on December 31, 2009 at 11:48 AM

The ultimate take-home lesson of this raid? Each TSA agent will have a Sternly Worded Letter of Reprimand placed in their performance review file for having purchased something from Wal-Mart!

On such foundations our airline security rests. Sleep tight, America!

ya2daup on December 31, 2009 at 11:55 AM

Obama should reconsider this decision so that the American people can have some confidence in this critical investigation.

I don’t even think Las Vegas would give you odds on this happening.

chemman on December 31, 2009 at 12:34 PM

This is an isolated investigation…of an isolated incident…

right2bright on December 31, 2009 at 12:57 PM

A tale of two claims. Which one do you believe?

President Barack Obama promised a “thorough review” of the government’s terrorist watch-list system after a Nigerian man reported to U.S. government officials by his father to have radicalized and gone missing last month was allowed to board a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit that he later tried to blow up without any additional security screening.

Obama White House aides, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod and new White House counsel Robert Bauer, ordered staff to begin researching similar breakdowns — if any — from the Bush Administration.

“We were told that classified material involving anything related to al Qaeda operating in Yemen or Nigeria was fair game and that we’d declassify it if necessary.”

The White House, according to the source, is in full defensive spin mode. Other administration sources also say a flurry of memos were generated on December 26th, 27th, and 28th, which developed talking points about how Obama’s decision to effectively shut down the Homeland Security Council (it was merged earlier this year into the National Security Council, run by National Security Adviser James Jones) had nothing to do with what Obama called a “catastrophic” failure on Christmas Day.

DSchoen on December 31, 2009 at 2:11 PM

Someone will be investigating a government agency

Someone knows everything about it

Someone in DC is ordering a few dozen heavy -duty
confetti makers

Happy new year

macncheez on December 31, 2009 at 2:23 PM

I think a congressional review should occur at some point–in closed session to protect classified details on the system.

***

rocketman on December

“The idea was that we’d show that the Bush Administration had had far worse missteps than we ever could,” says a staffer in the counsel’s office.
“We were told that classified material involving anything related to al Qaeda operating in Yemen or Nigeria was fair game and that we’d declassify it if necessary.”

Seems Obama will declassify classified material in order to blame this on Bush.

Next!

DSchoen on December 31, 2009 at 2:24 PM

If the probe finds that the problem was caused by human error, the people singled out for criticism will point fingers right back at NCTC and the watch-list systems and the people who built both, including Brennan, and none of them will have more credibility than the other.

Ah, but the former will have more credibility. Anything done manually is subject to manual error, and anything done by computer is subject to computer error. Care to guess which is most probable to occur?

Let me put it another way. If you were building a ground station to control a satellite and its payload, would you design it to have the telemetry turned into files and manually routed by operators to the people for examination and software for processing, or would you design it to have the telemetry automatically routed by computer programs to said people and software?

unclesmrgol on December 31, 2009 at 6:51 PM