On Friday, the CBS Early Show promoted President Obama’s stronger anti-terror language as correspondent Chip Reid proclaimed: “The President accepted responsibility for the attack. He said the buck stops with him. He also adopted his toughest tone yet, stressing that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda.”
Reid later cited security improvements made under the Bush administration to minimize the failures of the Obama administration: “Security expert Edward Alden says despite the Christmas day attack, U.S. intelligence has improved dramatically over the past decade.” Alden explained: “This is a difficult job and I think that we are much better placed now, by a long shot, than we were before 9/11.”
Reid concluded his report by describing Obama’s relief at being able to move on to other topics: “After two weeks of dealing with terrorism, almost around the clock, today, the President hopes to shift the focus, he’ll be giving a statement on what he’s doing to create jobs.”
Prior to Reid’s report, correspondent Dean Reynolds detailed the criminal proceedings against the would-be underwear bomber: “The 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab faces a six count indictment....It is a pretty strong case according to former prosecutors.”
Reynolds noted that: “...there are legal issues, too, should Abdulmutallab be tried in a criminal court or go before a military tribunal?” A clip was played of Wayne State University Law School professor Peter Henning arguing: “Because of the type of conduct that was involved here and where it happened, that this is where the regular courts, the regular federal courts should take over. And pursue the case.” No opposing point of view was offered.
Following both reports, co-host Harry Smith spoke with former National Intelligence Director under President Bush, John Negroponte. Negroponte gave a positive assessment of the Obama administration’s handling of the attempted terrorist attack: “I think it was good that he dealt with this so quickly, that they came up with this preliminary report so fast and that they’ve taken responsibility. I think as was suggested by one of the earlier speakers, he’s certainly moving comfortably into his commander in chief role. And so I think they’ve handled this situation well.”
Smith wondered how much really could have been done to stop the attack: “So much has been said since Christmas day about connecting the dots. The President said it again yesterday. You have lived in the reality of this business. Should we think that those dots were connectible?” Negroponte replied: “...these were fragmentary pieces of information. If we did not have the entire narrative of some kind of a plot as we have had in other instances where we disrupted these serious attacks. So it’s a judgment call.”
Here is a full transcript of the Negroponte interview:
HARRY SMITH: Ambassador John Negroponte served as Director of National Intelligence under President George W. Bush and he joins us this morning from Washington. Mr. Ambassador, good morning.
JOHN NEGROPONTE: Good morning.
SMITH: Give me your reaction to the President’s comments yesterday.
NEGROPONTE: Well, I think it was good that he dealt with this so quickly, that they came up with this preliminary report so fast and that they’ve taken responsibility. I think as was suggested by one of the earlier speakers, he’s certainly moving comfortably into his commander in chief role. And so I think they’ve handled this situation well. Clearly something went seriously wrong in not getting this individual on the watch list that would have prevented him from getting on that aircraft.
SMITH: So much has been said since Christmas day about connecting the dots. The President said it again yesterday. You have lived in the reality of this business. Should we think that those dots were connectible?
NEGROPONTE: That’s a really great question. And I still – you know, I’m thinking hard about that one because they talk about it might have prevented him – this plot from unfolding. It could have disrupted it. But these were fragmentary pieces of information. If we did not have the entire narrative of some kind of a plot as we have had in other instances where we disrupted these serious attacks.
SMITH: Let me ask-
NEGROPONTE: So it’s a judgment call.
SMITH: Yeah. Some – there is criticism that this entire mechanism or series of mechanisms that are supposed to deal with this are just too big, that the bureaucracy that is – has been empowered with dealing with this, there’s just too much of it. Is there any validity to that?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I don’t know. There’s 28 different databases. At least there were when I was director of National Intelligence, pouring information into that counterterrorism center. They’ve only got a total of 600 people, 300 of them are analysts. I don’t think that’s really out of line when you’re talking about an intelligence community of 100,000 people. Let’s not forget the traveling public is a very large public. They’re literally millions of people and hundreds of thousands of flights taking place all the time. So it’s a big – it’s a big problem and it requires a fairly big solution.
SMITH: But in your final analysis, you feel like this administration is at least heading in the right direction?
NEGROPONTE: Oh, absolutely. And I agree with those who are saying that we are safer than we were before 9/11. This is a question of tweaking the system. We dodged a bullet obviously. It was a near miss. But I think the President is taking appropriate, prompt, and corrective action.
SMITH: Mr. Ambassador, we thank you for your time this morning. Good to see you, thank you.
NEGROPONTE: Thank you, Harry.