WASHINGTON – Two federal agencies charged with keeping potential terrorists off airplanes and out of the country have been without their top leaders for nearly a year.
It took the Obama administration more than eight months to nominate anyone to lead the Transportation Security Administration and the Customs and Border Protection agency.
The attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner has prompted a review of U.S. security policies. The acting heads of those agencies — both created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — will be at the forefront of these discussions. . .
Former U.S. attorney Alan Bersin is nominated to run CBP, and former FBI agent and police detective is the president's pick for TSA. . .
Abdulmutallab was not on the government's terrorist watch list — though he was on a less sensitive and broader database. He was able to maintain a valid U.S. visa despite warnings about him to U.S. embassy officials in Nigeria from his father. Those facts are prompting a broad review of the government's terrorist detection efforts. . .
"Running a security agency with a revolving door is a recipe for failure," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.
, who headed the Homeland Security Department in the Bush administration, said if the country is going to work on enhancing security, there needs to be permanent people in place at TSA and Customs and Border Protection. "A year is too long a time," he said. . .
U.S. officials had warning signs that Abdulmutallab might be a threat. The embassy visit in which Abdulmatallab's father said he was concerned about his son's radicalization triggered a Nov. 20 State Department cable from Nigeria to all U.S. diplomatic missions and department headquarters in Washington. It was also shared with the interagency National Counter Terrorism Center, said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.
These concerns landed Abdulmutallab among the about 550,000 names in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, known as TIDE, which is maintained by the NCTC. Other, smaller lists trigger additional airport screening or other restrictions, but intelligence officials said there wasn't enough information to move Abdulmutallab into those categories.
The NCTC, which has responsibility if any visas are to be pulled over terrorism concerns, then reviewed the information and found it was "insufficient to determine whether his visa should be revoked," Kelly said. . .
First, it seems to me that a father's concern about radicalization should be enough to trigger pulling a visa, just to check out the concerns. Yesterday I heard that our officials may not have even known that the suspect had a visa of the sort he did. If that is the case, the system is really broken.
Second, Senator Lieberman, it is insane to suggest that we do something "preemptive" in Yemem. That is resorting to "whack-a-mole," and it would only make things worse. Think, for heaven's sake.
Third, that President Obama is not in a state of high panic about this attempt to bring down a U.S. airplane is a good thing. He is a systems thinker and will find out where the security breakdown occurred.