Archive for the ‘Suspicious Packages From Yemen (13)’ Category

Who’s Saying “The System Worked” Now?

Posted By Mike Levine On October 30, 2010 @ 3:09 PM In Terrorism, Uncategorized | 22 Comments


Janet Napolitano


The phrase has been taboo for nearly a year. Politicians and U.S. officials have steered clear of saying anything remotely like, “The system worked.” But ever since authorities on Friday uncovered a plot to ship explosives-filled packages into the United States, the phrase has been revived by Democrats, Republicans, and even Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“The system worked pretty well,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News on Saturday. “It looks like we had intelligence that we could identify these packages. We had the right intelligence resources in place.”

At a White House briefing on Friday, President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, expressed similar sentiments.

“I think American people should feel particularly good that since 9/11, the U.S. government has built up a very, very capable and robust intelligence, law enforcement [and] homeland security system,” he said. “As a result of the strength of that system, information became available that we were able to act upon very quickly … The system worked very, very well.”

Napolitano echoed that Saturday morning, touting the federal government’s “good information-sharing partnerships” with countries abroad and with law enforcement and businesses at home.

“We view this as showing how the system actually works,” she said during an interview on CNN.

Ten months earlier, after Umar F. Abdulmutallab of Nigeria tried to detonate his explosives-laden underwear over Detroit, Napolitano became a lightning rod for criticism when she said, “The system worked” — though she seemed to be praising her department’s reaction to the incident not the larger intelligence community’s actions beforehand.

“Once this incident occurred, everything went according to clockwork,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Dec. 27, 2009. “Not only sharing throughout the air industry, but also sharing with the state and local law enforcement. … Everybody reacted as they should. The system, once the incident occurred, the system worked.”

Napolitano went into greater detail on CNN, saying that morning, “One thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked.”

“Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated. So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.”

Within days, Hoekstra issued a statement saying, “The system didn’t ‘work’ here. Far from it! It is insulting that the Obama administration would make such a claim.”

Hoekstra, however, praised the administration’s most recent efforts, noting that it’s still important to understand “America’s at risk, especially as we enter 2011,” the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“America is fighting a three-prong war,” the Michigan native said. “There’s the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we got an external threat that wants to attack the United States … emanating out of Yemen. Then we’ve got homegrown terrorism.”

In general, the administration has received high marks for its handling of the latest Yemen-based threat, even from some of its toughest critics on national security matters. Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., told Fox News the administration “has done a fine, outstanding job” so far.

Still, during several interviews on Saturday, Napolitano was asked what might have happened if Saudi Arabian intelligence forces never told their U.S. counterparts that two explosives-laden packages from Yemen were being sent to Jewish institutions in the Chicago area.

Napolitano declined to answer, insisting she doesn’t “play the ‘what if’ game” and saying the U.S. counterterrorism system is a “multi-layered” one with no “silver bullet.”

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