Countdown: Detroit bomber intel failure: ‘Conspiracy or cock up?’
By Diana Sweet
Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

On Monday evening's edition of MSNBC's Countdown with host Keith Olbermann, guest Richard Wolffe discusses the nation's intelligence community gathering associated with the Flight 253 'underpants bomber,' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and serious questions that have risen about whether or not there was foul play, information intentionally withheld, or a conspiracy involved.

Olbermann begins by asking, "What is the focus here right now? Is it the push back, borders at other airports? Is it the indication that the intelligence such as what the NSA knew about Al Qaeda in Yemen using a Nigerian man for an attack was not maybe is not being utilized? Where is the focus right now?"

"Well I was speaking to White House folks earlier today," explains Wolffe, "and it's clear the president is still deeply concerned and troubled even angry at the intelligence lapses but they see this more as an intelligence lapse more than as a situation of airport security faults. So the question is why didn't the centralized system of intelligence that was set up after 9/11, why didn't it work? Is it conspiracy or cock up? Is it a case of the agencies having so much rivalry between them that they were more determined to stymy each other or the centralized system rather than the terrorist threat or was it just that there were so many dots no one could connect them because it was just all too random to figure out. It seems that the president is leaning very much towards thinking this was a systemic failure by individuals who maybe had an alternative agenda."

"If airport security is the fail safe in that equation," queries Olbermann, "what was behind the Bush adminstration's failure to establish the secondary checks overseas? Why are we suddenly rushing to this idea now? When did Mr. Bush and, I presume, Mr. Chertoff, drop that ball?"

"Well there are more smart, more efficient ways to protect the country than to defend every airport because we know from our own airport system in this country that there are no failsafe methods, even with all the extra methods that you have out there - people take off their shoes because of the shoe bomber, and then terrorists try and put the same explosives on another part of their body or another part of their clothing," continues Wolffe. "The question here is why wasn't the intelligence directed at countries where Al Qaeda was reconstituting or establishing itself anew. That gets you to a strategic question which, unfortunately, the last administration failed to see because it was diverted, most classically, into Iraq."

The Countdown host returns to the question "Cock up or conspiracy?" "Was there a reason these agencies were at war with each other that prevented that intelligence from being shared? Olbermann then asks the big question of the evening, "Is the implication there that there is at least a possibility that somebody understood how serious this could be and yet withheld information in order to make some other part of the counterterrorism system look bad?"

Wolffe then brings up the White House internal inquirty, "That has got to be an area that the White House is looking into and, you know, motives can be hard to assess because it's not clear that this person was easily identified as a terrorist. Even with the father coming forward saying they had concerns, was that more of a family concern or were there enough fingerprints here about the radicalization of this individual to suggest that it should have been taken to a different level - at the very least a security level beyond more than a nominal sharing of information. That's where this inquiry, this internal inquiry, for the moment, has to go."

"You can defend every airport as much as you like, in the end though the most efficient, safest, border line for security has got to be human intelligence. There seems to have been plenty of human intelligence in this case," he concludes.

President Obama is scheduled to meet with his top security officials today to discuss the terror plot, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano according to a report from CNN News.

Obama is then to speak to the public to discuss his findings, and announce new airline safety measures.

The following YouTube video is from MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann that originally aired on Jan. 4, 2010: