national security

Obama's Statement on the Secruity Reviews

There was so much in this text I fould interesting I've decided to include the whole thing:

Good afternoon, everybody.  I just concluded a meeting with members of my national security team, including those from our intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement agencies involved in the security reviews that I ordered after the failed attack on Christmas Day.

I called these leaders to the White House because we face a challenge of the utmost urgency.  As we saw on Christmas, al Qaeda and its extremist allies will stop at nothing in their efforts to kill Americans.  And we are determined not only to thwart those plans, but to disrupt, dismantle and defeat their networks once and for all. 

Indeed, over the past year, we've taken the fight to al Qaeda and its allies wherever they plot and train, be it in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Yemen and Somalia, or in other countries around the world.

Here at home, our intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement agencies have worked together with considerable success:  gathering intelligence, stitching it together, and making arrests -- from Denver to Texas, from Illinois to New York -- disrupting plots and saving American lives.  And these successes have not come without a price, as we saw last week in the loss of our courageous CIA officers in Afghanistan.

But when a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way.  And it's my responsibility to find out why, and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future.

And that's why, shortly after the attempted bombing over Detroit, I ordered two reviews.  I directed Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to review aviation screening, technology and procedures.  She briefed me on her initial findings today, and I'm pleased that this review is drawing on the best science and technology, including the expertise of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and his department.

I also directed my counterterrorism and homeland security advisor John Brennan to lead a thorough review into our terrorist watch-listing system so we can fix what went wrong.  As we discussed today, this ongoing review continues to reveal more about the human and systemic failures that almost cost nearly 300 lives.  We will make a summary of this preliminary report public within the next few days, but let me share some of what we know so far.

As I described over the weekend, elements of our intelligence community knew that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had traveled to Yemen and joined up with extremists there.  It now turns out that our intelligence community knew of other red flags -- that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sought to strike not only American targets in Yemen, but the United States itself.  And we had information that this group was working with an individual who was known -- who we now know was in fact the individual involved in the Christmas attack.

The bottom line is this:  The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack.  But our intelligence community failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the "no fly" list.

In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had.  The information was there.  Agencies and analysts who needed it had access to it.  And our professionals were trained to look for it and to bring it all together. 

Now, I will accept that intelligence, by its nature, is imperfect, but it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged.  That's not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it.  Time and again, we've learned that quickly piecing together information and taking swift action is critical to staying one step ahead of a nimble adversary.

So we have to do better -- and we will do better.  And we have to do it quickly.  American lives are on the line.  So I made it clear today to my team:  I want our initial reviews completed this week.  I want specific recommendations for corrective actions to fix what went wrong.  I want those reforms implemented immediately, so that this doesn't happen again and so we can prevent future attacks.  And I know that every member of my team that I met with today understands the urgency of getting this right.  And I appreciate that each of them took responsibility for the shortfalls within their own agencies.

Immediately after the attack, I ordered concrete steps to protect the American people:  new screening and security for all flights, domestic and international; more explosive detection teams at airports; more air marshals on flights; and deepening cooperation with international partners.

In recent days, we've taken additional steps to improve security.  Counterterrorism officials have reviewed and updated our terrorist watch list system, including adding more individuals to the "no fly" list.  And while our review has found that our watch-listing system is not broken, the failure to add Abdulmutallab to the "no fly" list shows that this system needs to be strengthened.  

The State Department is now requiring embassies and consulates to include current visa information in their warning on individuals with terrorist or suspected terrorist connections.  As of yesterday, the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, is requiring enhanced screening for passengers flying into the United States from, or flying through, nations on our list of state sponsors of terrorism, or other countries of interest.  And in the days ahead, I will announce further steps to disrupt attacks, including better integration of information and enhanced passenger screening for air travel.

Finally, some have suggested that the events on Christmas Day should cause us to revisit the decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  So let me be clear.  It was always our intent to transfer detainees to other countries only under conditions that provide assurances that our security is being protected. 

With respect to Yemen in particular, there's an ongoing security situation which we have been confronting for some time, along with our Yemeni partner.  Given the unsettled situation, I've spoken to the Attorney General and we've agreed that we will not be transferring additional detainees back to Yemen at this time.

But make no mistake:  We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda.  In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  And, as I've always said, we will do so -- we will close the prison in a manner that keeps the American people safe and secure. 

Our reviews -- and the steps that we've taken and will continue to take -- go to the heart of the kind of intelligence and homeland security we need in the 21st century.  Just as al Qaeda and its allies are constantly evolving and adapting their efforts to strike us, we have to constantly adapt and evolve to defeat them, because as we saw on Christmas, the margin for error is slim and the consequences of failure can be catastrophic.

As these violent extremists pursue new havens, we intend to target al Qaeda wherever they take root, forging new partnerships to deny them sanctuary, as we are doing currently with the government in Yemen.  As our adversaries seek new recruits, we'll constantly review and rapidly update our intelligence and our institutions.  As they refine our tactics, we'll enhance our defenses, including smarter screening and security at airports, and investing in the technologies that might have detected the kind of explosives used on Christmas.

In short, we need our intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement systems -- and the people in them -- to be accountable and to work as intended:  collecting, sharing, integrating, analyzing, and acting on intelligence as quickly and effectively as possible to save innocent lives -- not just most of the time, but all the time.  That's what the American people deserve.  As President, that's exactly what I will demand. 

Thank you very much.

Cheney Again

The Times breaks a big story:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

Is Cheney Tied Up Somewhere?

Austin, TX - The Administration agrees to a "time horizon" for removing our troops from Iraq. A senior diplomat is sitting down with an Iran nuclear negotiator. Secretary Gates publically calls for troops to be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan. The EPA releases a report confirming the very real and imminent threat of climate change. Bush agrees to cut greenhouse emissions at the G8. Taken together, this seems like an across-the-board repudiation of many fiercely held Bush Administation positions, all closely associated with the Vice President.

Where's Dick and his team of neocons in all this? There are of course many areas where the Administration seems deeply dug in, but change has come to the White House. Why, for what reasons, this is all happening now, it is too soon to tell. But change nevertheless has come to the White House in the final months of the Bush Administration.

1030am - Lots of talk here about Maliki's endorsement of Obama's timetable for withdrawal. What an extraordinary moment in what has been a remarkable political year, and what will no doubt be an important, even historic, trip abroad by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. Even Maliki has joined the neocon repudiation chorus.

1035am - Speaker Pelosi is doing a remarkable job here at Netroots Nation. I am very proud of her for recognizing the importance of this gathering, and her thoughtful and powerful presence here this morning.

1050am - Asked about her agenda, the Speaker said health care, her innovation agenda, infrastructure and green energy. And throughout her 10-ten talk, her language was modern, her understanding of the issues detailed, her ability to weave a narrative compelling. I'm not sure too many politicians of either Party could have done as good as a job as she is doing this morning.

1120am - Gore has arrived, and is just knocking the ball out of the park.  He is as good as I've ever seen him.  He has captured the room, and I have to believe has now officially engaged/involved the netroots in his crusade.  This is an important day in the development of a national movement to solve the climate crisis. 

Amazingly, Gore and Pelosi are now just sitting and taking questions. This has been a great morning.  Kudos to Gina for her stage management of this powerful session. 

3 New Political Ads Plus 1 Web Video for a Healthy Dose of Brevity

San Francisco — Yesterday we saw the release of a whole slew of political video (thanks to Mark Halprin's The Page for always keeping me up to date). Here's a look at a few of them.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's campaign will begin airing "Changing World," another national security ad (you can watch the previous one here). In 30 seconds the ad goes from defining the problem, to highlighting the candidate's record on the problem, to outlining solutions. As someone into all things tech, I was particularly happy to hear that "cyber attacks" made the list as one of the threats we face, reminding me once again of the enormous technology gap between the two leading presidential candidates (see Maggie Barker's recent post for U.S. Sen. John McCain's latest luddite internet comment). Also, I found the tenor of his solutions particularly refreshing. Signaling a departure from the brutish militarism that has most recently been the pillar of our national security strategy, the ad invokes an emphasis on multilateral engagement as well as a change in energy policy as means to address the external threats that face our country. And while I realize this isn't necessarily a new policy stance for the candidate, the ad does a good job of instantiating some of the change Obama is promising.

The ad will begin airing on national cable today. Have a look:



MoveOn.org and Planned Parenthood are set to air ads both of which target John McCain. In a $100,000 national cable buy, MoveOn.org continues to focus on the war in Iraq, hammering McCain on his opposition to a timeline for withdrawal. You can watch the ad here. The centerpiece of Planned Parenthood's ad is a video clip featuring a beleaguered looking McCain taking painfully long to provide a non-answer to the question, "It's unfaiir health insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control. Do you have an opinion on that?" Watch the ad here.

JibJab, the same people that brought us the wonderful web video "Our Land!" in 2004, released a new parody set to the tune of Bob Dylan's "The Times They are a Changin'." It's good for quite a few laughs regardless of your political preference. Take a look:

Old Man McCain: Updated, Revised and Worrisome

Over the last several months, I've written a series of essays about how U.S. Sen. John McCain was turning out to be one of the worst candidates we've ever seen run for President (for the latest see here and here). His montrous flip flops, the serial mistatements about enormous issues like the difference between Sunni and Shiite, the number of troops in Iraq, his position on Social Security, his vote on the 1986 Immigration Act, his position on Immigration Reform today, his admission that he doesn't know how to use a computer. The list seems endless now.

Add that he loaded up his campaign with active lobbyists, certain to draw negative attention, his bumbling of the rehiring of Mike Murphy, and the new extraordinary set of things this week - well chronicled here by Max Bergman on the Huffington Post - and it all adds up to a man simply not up to the job of running for -- or actually being -- President of the United States. In a recent appearance, I even surmised that the GOP would become so concerned with his performance that there would start to be a quiet movement to replace him at the Convention with another candidate. This moment may be upon us as the media, and the public now has no choice but to confront that there is a man running for President who seems so out of touch with basic facts, reality, his own voting record that one might even conjucture that it would be a grave risk for the United States to put him in charge of the country.

After a Republican era where governing always played 2nd fiddle to politics and power - resulting in one of the worst governments in our history - we all hoped McCain would represent a break from the truly disapointing politics of the Bush era. But his performance these last few months shows that his lack of seriousness and knowledge about policy - even running an ad saying that his energy and drilling proposals would immediately address high gas prices when everyone knows this to be, let us say, not true - shows that the McCain candidacy has itself become an extension of this awful Republican era that did so much to harm the national interests of the United States, leaving us less prosperous, less powerful in the world and certainly less free here at home.

In putting Steve Schmidt, a Bush/Rove protege, in charge of his campaign, McCain has told us all exactly what kind of man he has become, and what kind of Presidency we can expect.

Beinart on the New Politics of Foreign Policy

Peter Beinart, from a nifty op-ed in the Washington Post:

In "The Best and the Brightest," David Halberstam chronicles Lyndon Johnson's absolute terror of appearing soft on Communism. Having seen fellow Democrats destroyed in the early 1950s because they tolerated a Communist victory in China, Johnson swore that he would not let the story replay itself in Vietnam, and thus pushed America into war. The awful irony, Halberstam argues, is that Johnson's fears were unfounded. The mid-1960s were not the early 1950s. The Red Scare was over. But because it lived on in Johnson's mind, he could not grasp the realities of a new day.

In this way, 2008 is a lot like 1964. On foreign policy, many Democrats live in terror of being called soft, of provoking the kind of conservative assault that has damaged so many of their presidential nominees since Vietnam. But that fear reflects memories of the past, not the realities of today. When Democrats worry about the backlash that awaits Barack Obama if he defends civil liberties, or endorses withdrawal from Iraq, or proposes unconditional negotiations with Iran, they are seeing ghosts. Fundamentally, the politics of foreign policy have changed.

Hersh's "Preparing the Battlefield"

A link to the New Yorker story everyone is talking about.

Broder on Old Man McCain and his nutty worldview

David Broder takes a deeper look at John McCain's dangerously stupid comments about the nature of the Sunni-Shiite struggle and the overall geopolitics of the Middle East.

We weighed in about his astonishing statements yesterday. Watch the video of his remarks here.

More on the Canadian intervention in the American election

Should the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ask the Canadian PM to come to DC and explain the Canadian governments intervention in an American election?

It sure appears that the multiple leaks out of the Canadian government were targeted to tank Barack Obama. The GOP in Washington would much prefer to run against Senator Clinton, and these leaks appear to be an effort by conservatives in Canada to help their ideological cousins in the US by hurting Obama at a critical point in the election.

Josh Marshall has new information showing definitively that the Canadian leaks were designed to hurt Obama. New news accounts show the Clinton camp had similar conversations with the Canadians as the Obama camp - but only the Obama conversations were leaked. What makes this particularly gauling is that Senator Clinton has been much more critical of NAFTA than the junior Senator from Illinois.

So, Senator Biden, what to make of all this?

Gaza and the Bush legacy in the Middle East

Lots of news reports today about renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

As I wrote in a recent essay, the Bush Legacy in the Middle East, the people of Israel and the emerging Palestinian state continue to pay the price for the horrendeous Bush decision to allow Hamas to participate in the recent PA elections without giving up their arms, and recognizing the right of Israel to exist. As long as Hamas is in Gaza, and as long as it continues to deny the legitimacy of the Israeli state, it is hard to see how peace will come in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While no one can be happy with what is happening in Gaza today, the world cannot expect Israel to sit by and allow regular rocket attacks against its people from a neighnboring power bent on its destruction. Progress and peace require an immediate cessation of the rocket attacks from Gaza.

Sunday update: On Sunday, the fighting spread, and escalated.

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