How 12/25 was like 9/11

In the days since the attempted Christmas Day airplane bombing, many officials, including the White House’s counterterrorism director, John Brennan, have insisted that the Detroit incident was “not like 9/11.” In many respects, we agree. But the government’s handling of the intelligence leading up to the attack was eerily reminiscent of one of the most shocking – and relatively underreported – revelations to come out of the 9/11 commission’s hearings.

The commission, having been informed that before 9/11 the State Department maintained a list of known or suspected terrorists whose travel should be restricted, asked Federal Aviation Administration officials how many of that list’s 61,000 names were on the F.A.A.’s “no fly” registry. The answer supplied by senior aviation administration officials was astonishing in two respects. First, the commission was told, the no-fly list had not 61,000 names but only 12, and included none of the 9/11 hijackers, even though the F.B.I. was searching actively for two of them before the attack.

Then came the bombshell: the F.A.A. security officials were unaware – until the commission asked its question at a hearing – that the State Department maintained a terrorist watch list at all.

In the hearing, Tim Roemer, a commission member, was stunned, telling the F.A.A. officials: “There’s a difference of 60,988 names between what’s been accumulated at the State Department as dangerous people, shouldn’t be flying, and what you have with your 12 people. Now, I can’t understand why there are not more efforts in liaison activities to reach out to State Department and start to bring some of those names over and prevent those people from flying.”

Today, the no-fly list has grown to 4,000 people, but the name of the man accused of the Christmas bombing attempt, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was not on it. Critical information concerning Mr. Abdulmutallab’s growing estrangement from his family and his Islamic radicalization in Yemen, according to an understandably exasperated President Obama, “was passed to a component of our intelligence community but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.”

Others in the intelligence community, according to Mr. Brennan, were aware that Al Qaeda in Yemen was training a Nigerian, perhaps named Umar Farouk, to carry out an attack.—-daily.pk

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