CNS News raised an interesting point on Friday with Janet Napolitano regarding her role in briefing the President after the Christmas Day bombing attempt — albeit largely an academic one. Despite the demands of CNS News and some members of Congress, the Homeland Security chief will not specifically answer whether she was allowed to personally brief President Obama in the wake of the failed EunuchBomber attack. But does that matter — and was Napolitano’s briefing even germane to the issue?
Did President Barack Obama personally consult with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Christmas Day, when suspected al Qaeda terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate a suicide bomb aboard Northwest Flight 253? Asked that question by CNSNews.com, Napolitano initially declined to answer and then, when asked again, said “we were in contact with the president’s office” that day. …
In Jan. 20 testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, however, Napolitano testified that she had not been consulted in advance about the specific decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights—which took place on Christmas night about 10 hours after the suspected terrorist was arrested. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, FBI Director Robert Mueller and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter all told congressional committees that they were also not consulted in advance about the Christmas-Day decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab.
Later, after her meeting with Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), CNSNews.com asked Napolitano: “Before I was asking you about if you spoke to the president at all on Christmas Day about the Abdulmutallab situation–not the nature of the conversation. I just want to know if you spoke to him.”
Napolitano said: “Yes, we were in contact with the president’s office.”
The question would be what Napolitano would have had to offer on Christmas Day. DHS had no involvement in the issue until the attack occurred. After all, the US did not provide screening in either Nigeria nor Amsterdam that allowed a terrorist packing PETN in his, er, package to get on a plane bound for the US. Nor did it have anything to do with the series of errors that led to the failure to suspend Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s visa; that belongs to the State Department and the CIA. Giving Napolitano face time in that situation at the expense of the counterterrorist organizations that failed to stop Abdulmutallab could arguably have been a big waste of time.
In fact, Napolitano and DHS had little to do with the EunuchBomber until Napolitano’s appearance on talk shows two days later, in which she insisted that “the system worked” in stopping the attack. It obviously did not, and one could question whether Napolitano bothered to get briefed herself in the aftermath of the attack before offering such a ludicrous assessment. Her absence from the Congressional inquiry into the attack on the same day she appeared at the State of the Union speech angered Republicans and Democrats alike, and caused more than a few to wonder what questions Napolitano wanted to avoid answering.
I’d have expected Napolitano to get handled by White House advisers while Obama huddled with the DNI, the CIA, State, and others more directly involved in overseas counterterrorism. We should be asking why Napolitano failed to cooperate properly with the Congressional investigation and sent a flunky in her place.