Berry: London? Where’s London?Written by Thomas Berry | | firstname.lastname@example.org
What happens when someone upon whom the President depends for critical information publicly demonstrates that he is critically uninformed?
On December 20, police officers and agents of the British security service MI5 arrested a dozen young men in London, Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent, England, and Cardiff, Wales. The men are suspected of plotting major terror attacks on targets within the United Kingdom, and are believed to be British nationals with links to Pakistan and Bangladesh. The news media ran story after story about the arrests that day.
That evening, ABC’s Diane Sawyer interviewed Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Chief Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan in a round-table format about this incident, citing its coincidence to the failed Underwear Bomber and Times Square attacks last December.
When asked about the relevance of the U. K. arrests to threats against the United States, Secretary Napolitano replied, “As far as I know, we have not yet found any connection between those arrests and any threats to the United States.”
So far, so good. But Ms. Sawyer then asked Director Clapper, whose job includes giving the President daily updates on intelligence assessments, about the arrests: “First of all, London. How serious is it? Any implication that it was coming here?”
Director Clapper responded with nearly six seconds of obviously bewildered silence. All that was missing was the Jeopardy music in the background as sheer befuddlement played across his face. When he finally spoke, his quizzical single-word response, “London?” made it clear that he hadn’t the slightest idea what she was talking about. Ms. Sawyer and Adviser Brennan had to tell him, on-air, about the incident.
When Ms. Sawyer came back to him and expressed her surprise that he had not heard of the arrests, he did man up and admit his ignorance. Adviser Brennan then came to his defense, saying that while Ms. Sawyer had referenced London in the question, she had not specifically cited the arrests. Director Clapper’s office later issued a statement dismissing the question as ambiguous and saying that the Director’s knowledge of the terror threats in Europe is “profound and multidimensional.”
In which of these dimensions was Director Clapper’s mind operating during the interview? The context was clearly the news of the day, datelined London, of the arrest of multiple terror threats in Europe. Why on earth would he have not immediately referenced this? Former President Bush’s critics in the press seemed to think he had to learn about current events from the news media; here we have an adviser to his successor actually learning about current events from an anchorwoman!
The fun didn’t stop there. In another exchange, Adviser Brennan said, to Ms. Sawyer’s incredulity, that last December’s attacks failed because we had prevented terror suspects from training appropriately and had “degraded their capabilities,” while dismissing the luck that was obviously in play at Detroit.
Since Adviser Brennan is into context, let’s provide some. He’s the fellow who decided that the War on Terror is not to be called the war on terror, and that the world’s prime terror suspects, young male radical Islamic jihadists, are not to be identified or profiled as young male radical Islamic jihadists. And after the Underwear Bomber’s failure, Secretary Napolitano famously claimed that “the system worked” – the system that allowed a known terror suspect to board an airliner and nearly blow it out of the sky. The only system that did work was that of passenger vigilance. (In fairness, she later explained that what had worked was the post-attempt notification of airports, security personnel and airlines.)
The Party of Know asks: Why is Director Clapper still employed following an implied gross failure of his duty? After all, how can you provide a timely assessment of things you know nothing about? This embarrassing incident indicates absent-mindedness at best and sheer incompetence at worst. Neither suits the demands of a position upon which the President must depend for accurate, prompt and critical information.
More broadly, what are the implications when the people tasked with protecting us from terrorism are demonstrably more concerned with political correctness and personal ideology than with correctly identifying terrorists for who and what they are, and taking action based on that identification?
Thomas Berry, for the Children of Liberty,www.meetup.com/The-children-of-liberty.