White House Intel Review Scrub, Scrub, Scrubbed

The unclassified summary of the White House review of intelligence failures leading to the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack was supposed to be released to the public at 1 pm EST Thursday. Amid concerns from intelligence officials that the summary disclosed too much information, that was pushed to 3 pm EST. Then it was re-rescheduled to 4:30 pm EST.

When the unclassified summary was finally released to the public -- posted on the White House website at 4:36 pm EST -- it didn't contain much information that anyone paying attention to the story didn't already know. It certainly didn’t live up to the hype promised by National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.), who told USA Today the day before that Americans will feel "a certain shock" when they read it.

Not in the review: any specific mentions of the fact that intelligence had heard of a man identified as "the Nigerian" as part of a terrorist plot (though there was an allusion to having obtained “information about an individual now believed to be Mr. Abdulmuttalab and his association with AQAP and its attack planning").

Or that White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan had traveled to Saudi Arabia in September to learn more about an underwear bomb that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula used -- unsuccessfully -- to try to kill Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief.

Or that Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab boarded his winter flight from Lagos to Amsterdam to Detroit with no checked luggage.

Or that the UK had rejected Abdulmutallab's visa application earlier in 2009.

And on and on.

There's a difference between when information is leaked to reporters, of course, and when the White House puts out an official document. As is stated in the review's first footnote: "sensitive intelligence data was removed from this public report to protect sources and methods."

The review provided some larger, candid admissions, most significantly that the "U.S. Government had sufficient information prior to the attempted December 25 attack to have potentially disrupted the AQAP" plot -- i.e., by identifying Mr. Abdulmuttalab as a likely operative of AQAP and potentially preventing him from boarding flight 253.”

And other information was disclosed, most notably that while intelligence analysts in December were focused on “imminent attacks on Americans and American interests in Yemen" the "Intelligence Community leadership did not increase analytic resources working on the full AQAP threat.”

Still, the review lacked basic information that anyone with access to abcnews.com could have already known.

Except of course the detail, on page three of the review, that Abdulmutallab's father visited the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to warn the U.S. about his son's extremist behavior on November 18.

That's because that detail is wrong. That visit was on the 19th.

-- jpt

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