Why Heads Should Roll

How courageous is Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the father of terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?  If, as it is argued, the Islamic world sees the War on Terror as a War on Islam, it must have been quite intimidating to walk into the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria. It must have been terrifying to walk to the front desk and ask to see the man in charge. It must have been a father's worst nightmare: not only to turn his son over to the authorities, but also to know that Guantanamo may have been in the boy's future. Did Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, though a wealthy and respected banker, fear that he, too, might find himself on the business end of an American rifle? One does not casually discuss actionable information on terrorism with American officials and not expect a hard look and maybe a little roughing-up.

The White House Review of the Christmas Day terrorist attack reads like a game of Clue, in reverse. From the start, we knew the killer, we knew his location, and after sixty years of aircraft hijackings and Al Qaida's record, we had a pretty good idea of the weapon of choice. We even had a motive and a witness.

The White House blames Abdulmutallab's success on a failure to "connect the dots," but, in fact, the dots were already connected. There were no dots. We already had all the information necessary to shut down Abdulmutallab. No secret missions were in order. No covert bribes in cash-stuffed briefcases needed to change hands at disused bus stops. Delta operatives didn't have to to kick down doors, and there was no need to dust off the waterboard to draw out a name.

We knew everything.

In a press conference, President Obama said that our failure to stop the terrorist incident was "not the fault of a single individual or organization." But that's not true. The minute Abdulmutallab's father walked into a U.S. Embassy with news that his son was a potential terrorist, the official in charge was duty-bound to see this through. Every scrap of paper and every byte of data on the suspect should have been called up and frozen. That's why we have embassies. When the information was passed to the first special agent at the CIA, he or she was duty bound to see it through. When the information was passed to the first administrator at the National Counterterrorism Center, he or she, too, was duty bound to see it to the end.

Everyone who read the name "Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab" prior to December 25, 2009 should be reprimanded and fired.

The White House findings state that, "Mr. Abdulmutallab possessed a U.S. visa, but this fact was not correlated with the concerns of Mr. Abdulmutallab's father about Mr. Abdulmutallab's potential radicalization." It's an embarrassing sentence of bureaucratese in its own right, but more so when considered in context. The State Department didn't revoke Abdulmutallab's visa because an office clerk misspelled his name in a database.

Presented by

David W. Brown is the coauthor of The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Generally published under the pseudonym D.B. Grady, Brown is a graduate of Louisiana State University, a former U.S. Army paratrooper, and a veteran of Afghanistan. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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