31 December 2009

Morning Must Reads from DCExaminer

New York Times -- Afghan Suicide Bomber Killed C.I.A. Operatives
The deadliest day ever for the CIA comes as a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest inside a forward base where drone attacks and covert operations in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan are staged.
The rapidly deteriorating security situation in Pakistan (another suicide bombing has sent the U.N. packing) and the renewed fervor of jihadis around the globe seem to suggest that the second Obama surge in Central Asia will be met with not just the quasi-military maneuvers of the Taliban, but the rank terrorism used by Islamists around the world.
Writers Alissa Rubin and Mark Mazzetti explain:
“A NATO official said the bomber managed to elude security and reach an area near the base’s gym. It was not clear whether the bomber, who apparently died in the blast, entered the gym. Among other questions raised was whether the bomber worked at the base and had clearance, or if a security slip allowed him to gain entry, and whether other operatives had access to the base.”

New York Times -- Spy Agencies Failed to Collate Clues on Terror

The emphasis in the story from Mark Mazzetti and Eric Lipton – as with many other stories today fueled by leaks from the Obama administration – was how the security apparatus failed to pull together strands of intelligence to stop Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his explosive underwear from getting aboard a Detroit-bound flight.

Times writer Scott Shane even lays the failure at the feet of the National Counterterrorism Center for failing to put together the clues to stop Abdulmutallab.

But this wasn’t about a lack of intelligence sharing, this was about a lack of intellect.

The bomber’s father pleaded with the State Department and CIA to stop his son, showing them damning text messages Abdulmutallab had written. Then, the lad showed up with cash and no luggage to buy a ticket on a U.S.-bound flight having already been placed on double-secret airline probation and still got a seat.

The idea that this was a systemic failure that has to be addressed with another overhaul of the bureaucracy dilutes the culpability of those individuals who failed to act correctly and prudently when presented with clear evidence. Sacking those responsible (and prosecuting them if the dereliction is severe enough) would do more to snap the bureaucracy to attention than calling for a big, hazy, Obamian overhaul.

But with the administration in another political firefight with Dick Cheney after the former vice president blasted the administration for treating Abdulmutallab like other criminal defendants, expect the problems President Obama finds when he receives his security evaluation today to point to major problems with the system he inherited, not boneheaded moves by individuals.
“The father, a wealthy Nigerian businessman named Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, had urgently sought help from American and Nigerian security officials when cellphone text messages from his son revealed that he was in Yemen and had become a fervent radical.

A family cousin quoted the father as warning officials from the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency in Nigeria: ‘Look at the texts he’s sending. He’s a security threat.’
The cousin said: ‘They promised to look into it. They didn’t take him seriously.’”

Wall Street Journal -- U.S. Probes Cleric's Tie to Jetliner Bomb Plot

The American-born Yemeni cleric who provided online tech support for Maj. Nidal Hasan’s radicalization may have also been coaching up Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab while the Nigerian banker’s son was taking foreign-language training in Sana’a.

Writers Evan Perez, Margaret Coker and Siobhan Gorman look at the ties between the most recent terrorist attacks and Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

They paint the picture of a propagandist for jihad whose American ties make him well-suited to preach a murderous doctrine to western Muslims like Hasan or those who have lived lives of privilege because of access to the western system, like Abdulmutallab.

“Mr. Awlaki, 38 years old, followed a familiar path of privileged young man to radical. Born in New Mexico to an affluent father -- a former Yemeni minister of agriculture who is currently an adviser to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh -- Mr. Awlaki was educated in the U.S.

After coming under the scrutiny of U.S. and U.K. authorities following 9/11, Mr. Awlaki returned to Yemen, where he continued his religious teaching and lectured at Imam University, the head of which has been designated by the U.S. and the United Nations as a terrorist financier.”

The Hill -- State AGs request Reid, Pelosi drop Nebraska Medicaid funds from health bill

What a crafty bunch these attorneys general are. Rather than threatening a suit over the whole health bill or even the part that, for the first time in American history, requires every American to purchase a private product as a condition of citizenship, a group of 13 AGs says that Ben Nelson’s $100 million “Cornhusker Kickback” is illegal because it treats the states differently.
Nelson, who has lost 30 points in the polls at home, felt the need to pay for a pricey ad during the Cornhusker’s 33-0 beatdown of the Arizona Wildcats in the Holiday Bowl last night to explain to his constituents why paying to play is the Senate way.
By singling out Nelson, the AGs apply pressure on him at home, but also make the focus on the corrupt bargain angle in the Senate. That leaves other, bigger, legal gambits for later, when the legislation is passed.

“The fundamental unfairness of H.R. 3590 may also give rise to claims under the due process, equal protection, privileges and immunities clauses and other provisions of the Constitution. As a practical matter, the deal struck by the United States Senate on the “Nebraska Compromise” is a disadvantage to the citizens of 49 states. Every state’s tax dollars, except Nebraska’s, will be devoted to cost-sharing required by the bill, and will be therefore unavailable for other essential state programs.”

Washington Post -- Support grows for tackling nation's debt

Writers Elaine S. Povich and Eric Pianin look at what is expected to be the central piece of the Obama administration towards fiscal restraint – a commission to take the responsibility for spending away from Congress and put it in more responsible hands.
The idea, like the one Obama had about health care in Illinois and suggests for Medicare now, is that a group of experts makes budget (i.e. tax) proposals to Congress which then votes the packages up or down as a whole.

It would be a rather stunning admission of failure by Congress -- sort of like a brethalyzer lock on the car of a multi-DUI offender – to abrogate their central constitutional authority of budgetary control.

“The most vocal advocates of the idea are Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who this month jointly unveiled legislation to create an 18-member task force consisting of 16 members of Congress and two administration officials. Under the proposal, if at least 14 of the panel members reached agreement on how to rein in skyrocketing spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and reform the tax code, Congress would have to consider it immediately and give it an up or down vote, without amendment.”

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