Oops! Mistakes in Obama Administration's Review of Intelligence Mistakes

Was that Northwest Flight 253 or Northwest Flight 153?

January 08, 2010, 10:49 AM

Jan. 8, 2010 — -- The Obama administration's effort to address the intelligence mistakes that allowed a bomber to board a Christmas flight to Detroit contained a few intelligence mistakes of its own.

On Thursday, President Obama presented his official White House review in a national address and said, "Ultimately, the buck stops with me."

Presumably, however, Obama was not responsible for the review's misstatement of the date on which Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father met with U.S. authorities to warn them of his son's radicalism, or for Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair's subsequent misidentification of the flight that Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to bomb.

In the message sent by Blair to intelligence employees on Thursday in response to the White House review, the second paragraph refers to the flight Abdulmutallab took to Detroit on Christmas Day.

"That Mr. Abdulmutallab boarded Northwest Flight 153 for Detroit," said the message, "was a failure of the counterterrorism system."

Abdulmutallab was aboard Northwest Flight 253, not 153. The passage with the wrong number can be seen above. (The version available to the public on-line has since been updated with the right number.)


Page three of the summary of the White House review misstates the date on which the accused bomber's father, a Nigerian banker, met with U.S. officials in Nigeria to warn them that his son might post a threat to the U.S.

"For example, on November 18," says the summary, "Mr. Abdulmutallab's father met with U.S. Embassy officers in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss his concerns." The passage is seen below.

Abdulmutallab's father met with U.S. officials on November 19, not November 18, according to the State Department.


Prior to the attempted bombing, a misspelling of Abdulmutallab's name was responsible for the State Department's initial mistaken belief that he did not hold a valid U.S. visa.

In a briefing after President Obama's address, John Brennan, Obama's top counter-terrorism deputy, said, "I told the President today I let him down.

But while Brennan said there was a systemic failure to connect the dots, he praised the work of federal law enforcement and intelligence.

"In every instance over the past year," said Brennan, "the intelligence community, homeland security community and the law enforcement community has done an absolutely outstanding and stellar job. It was in this one instance that we did not rise to that same level of competence and success."

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