If this were the first time top Obama officials had tried to sell a bogus narrative after an attack, perhaps they would deserve the benefit of the doubt. It’s not.
On December 28, 2009, three days after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate explosives in his underwear aboard an airliner over Detroit, President Obama told the country that the incident was the work of “an isolated extremist.” It wasn’t. Abdulmutallab was trained, directed, and financed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a fact he shared with investigators early in his interrogation.
The same thing happened less than six months later, after Faisal Shahzad attempted to blow up his Nissan Pathfinder in Times Square. Two days following the botched attack, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano took to the Sunday shows to dismiss reports of a conspiracy and insisted that the attempted bombing was just a “one-off” by a single attacker. It wasn’t. A week later, after much of the information had leaked, Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that the United States had “evidence that shows that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack. We know that they helped facilitate it, we know that they probably helped finance it and that he was working at their direction.”
In each instance, top administration officials quickly downplayed or dismissed the seriousness of the events, only to acknowledge, after the shock had worn off and the media had turned to other news, that their initial stories were incorrect. Whether it was because the attempted attacks were unsuccessful or because the media simply lost interest, the administration largely escaped serious criticism for making claims that turned out to be wrong.