A failure to communicate, again

December 30, 2009 1:02:07 PM PST
So what happens now, now that we know just how badly one, or two, or who-knows-how-many people messed up and didn't connect the dots that would have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, armed with a bomb, from boarding a plane bound for the U.S.

Should heads of agencies and departments be fired? I don't know - will that solve the problem?

People will always make errors, and don't we all know that. But it seems the problem is more institutional - the same kind of problem that led to huge intelligence breakdowns before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

If only Pres. Bush had read the intelligence briefing warning that Osama bin Laden was planning to have his men hijack planes and crash them into landmark buildings.

If only the guy from the CIA who met with Abdulmutallab's father had passed on the information to others - had told others that this guy was increasingly militant and fundamentalist in his thinking, and capable of violence.

How to create a situation where institutionally, no piece of information, no matter how small, goes unnoticed and undisclosed to many others - that's the challenge.

Conservatives have been quick to pounce on Pres. Obama - and there's no question his administration could have handled all this better, and faster. One also wonders that, if he had it to do over again, whether he'd pick a law enforcement type to be in charge of Homeland Security, rather than the former Governor of Arizona. (Paging Ray Kelly!)

With apologies to Cool Hand Luke, what we have here is a failure to communicate. And figuring out how to fix that should be the highest priority.

We'll have the latest on the terror scare, tonight at 11.

One more note - Delta Airlines is now offering passengers on board that frightening flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, vouchers for future Delta flights. Charming.

Questions of security now, once again, front and center 'round these parts. I remember 10 years ago tomorrow night, how the big security question was whether there'd be some sort of computer meltdown because of the millennium calendar change. Remember Y2K?

We stayed on duty in the newsroom past midnight New Year's Eve, just in case.

And we did that every New Year's Eve ever since.

How cautious are police? Today in Times Square - which will be as shut down tomorrow night as an area with a million people in it can be ? cops surrounded an old van, without license plates and with its windows covered. Buildings were evacuated, the subways bypassed the area, people weren't allowed near. Turns out the van belonged to a vendor who decided to park it there. No problem, other than it was a traffic violation.

But the cops took no chances.

Security - a big issue in Times Square - and, right now, at least, throughout the country. Again.

It would be nice if it were as simple the Y2K problem that never was.

It isn't.

Happy New Year.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers (in for Scott Clark) with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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