Finding a balance

January 7, 2010 1:29:15 PM PST
Balancing work and family. With all due respect to all the other pressing issues out there - and lawd knows there are a gazillion of them - it may the toughest thing facing working parents.

There are few moments that go by at work when thoughts of the child or children don't pop up; and ditto at home, when work - and all that's not getting done - invades the family space. The cliché is that parents feel they are doing nothing well.

And this is harder on moms than dads (with apologies to the growing number of two-dad families out there).

Most go about the task with quiet neurosis.

But every once in a while, the issue becomes a talker, and, rarer still, even news.

That's what's happening tonight with the director of the National Counter Terrorism Center. His name is Michael Leiter, and his agency is one of those coming under fire for missteps in the handling of the suspected terrorist accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound international flight on Christmas Day.

Contrary to one tabloid report today, Leiter was not on vacation at the time of the attempted terrorism - he was in the office in McLean, Virginia on Christmas Day, working.

But he apparently did leave the next day on vacation, and was apparently given approval by his superiors. He was reportedly in constant contact via all the usual technological devices and was able to videoconference on secure lines as details emerged - embarrassing for his agency - about the blown intelligence on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who is charged with sewing explosives in his underwear and attempting to blow up a plane with nearly 300 people on board.

Now the conundrum: Leiter is a divorced father of a 7-year-old who was spending time with his son, and wanted him to spend his birthday with his grandparents, both of whom are in their 70s.

So Leiter is now the center of a side-street-brouhaha: Should he have stayed on the job and blown his vacation and time with his son, who doesn't live with him?

Or, armed with all the wireless communications devices that make really leaving work at the office impossible, was Leiter fully engaged in the days following the bungled attempted attack?

For those with those devices, ask yourself how you behave at home. For me, I'd be embarrassed to publicly admit how many times I check emails while I'm with my family. But when there's a big story I'm working on, I'd be embarrassed to admit I didn't check.

It's all part of the search for balance. Sometimes your family enters work time, and sometimes your work enters family time. Maybe that's the balance.

As I said, it's all a sidebar to the real story here: How U.S. intelligence agencies failed to piece information together before Abdulmutallab's alleged actions.

Late this afternoon, Pres. Obama is speaking to the nation about the preliminary findings of the reviews he ordered. We're told it's a hard-line assessment of what went wrong, including the President taking ultimate responsibility for it ? a kind of buck-stops-here approach. We'll see, and have reaction, tonight at 11.

Another interesting side note to this story: The President was initially going to report to the nation about his intelligence agency reviews at 1 p.m. It was then pushed back to 3. Then to 4:30. We're told that the reason was the intelligence community scrubbing the review and making sure the unclassified version is acceptable for public release.

Is that a slight conflict of interest?

Also tonight, you'll see the video that's sparking more debate about airport security - surveillance video from Continental Airlines of a man breaching security and entering a secure area to say goodbye to a woman. A TSA guard is scene leaving his post, allowing the unauthorized entrance.

It seems clear - although we can't be sure - that the man was no threat. But he could have been anyone, and that's the potential danger.

It also seems clear that this guy isn't the brightest bulb, intentionally breaching security and clearly waiting till the guard left to limbo under the less-than-secure rope that cordons off the area.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports.

I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight after the college football game.