On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that in his January 5 remarks about the attempted attack on a Northwest Airlines flight, President Obama both “contradicted” an earlier statement he made about the suspect in the case and “refuted” claims his “top aides” made while discussing the aftermath of the attempted attack. In fact, the context of his aides' comments show that they are not inconsistent with Obama's; moreover, Obama's first response to the attack discussed “those plotting against us,” undermining Kilmeade's suggestion that Obama limited blame for the attempted attack to “an isolated extremist.”
Kilmeade ignored context of Brennan's “smoking gun” comment to claim Obama “refuted” his remarks
Kilmeade claimed Brennan's “smoking gun” comment “was not true” and that Obama “basically refuted that.” Kilmeade cited remarks by John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, as one of “three” comments made “over the last two weeks” that Obama either “refuted” or “contradicted” in his January 5 remarks. Kilmeade said: " 'No smoking gun.' That was not true. [Obama] basically refuted that in his remarks yesterday."
In fact, Brennan and Obama both said intelligence failed to piece key information together
Brennan said attack “was the failure to integrate and piece together those bits and pieces of information.” In a January 3 interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Brennan said, "[T]here was no smoking gun. There was no piece of intelligence that said, 'This guy's a terrorist. He's going to get on a plane.' " No, not whatsoever." He then added:
BRENNAN: It was the failure to integrate and piece together those bits and pieces of information. But it's much different than prior to 9/11. Before then, I think there was really a culture of keeping information to the individual agencies and departments.
In the review so far, there's no indication whatsoever that any agency or department was not trying to share information.
There were some lapses. There were some human errors. There were some failures of the system to allow that to happen at the speed of light. And that's what we're talking about, information that comes in to one agency or department that has to get somewhere else so that actions can be taken.
Obama also cited a failure to “connect the dots.” In a January 5 address, Obama also said the intelligence community “failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the 'no fly' list.” From his address:
The bottom line is this: The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack. But our intelligence community failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the “no fly” list.
In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had. The information was there. Agencies and analysts who needed it had access to it. And our professionals were trained to look for it and to bring it all together.
Kilmeade ignored context and explanation of Napolitano's “the system worked” comment to claim Obama “refuted” Napolitano's remarks
Kilmeade claimed Napolitano's “the system worked” comment “was not true” and that Obama “directly” refuted her remarks. The second remark made “over the last two weeks” that Kilmeade claimed Obama “refuted” was Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano's December 27 comment that “the system worked,” which she made while being interviewed about the attempted terrorist attack. Kilmeade said: " 'The system worked.' That's what Secretary Napolitano said. That was not true. [Obama] said that directly."
In fact, Obama and Napolitano were not referring to the same “system”
Napolitano said “the system worked” before discussing “the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively.” On the December 27 broadcast of CNN's State of the Union, Napolitano stated that “the system worked” before discussing the emergency notification system and response to the incident. From the December 27 edition of State of the Union:
NAPOLITANO: One thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated.
So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.
Napolitano later clarified that “the system worked” comments were in reference to the emergency response and notification system. On the December 28 edition of NBC's Today, after co-host Matt Lauer asked Napolitano to explain her remarks, Napolitano said, “I think the comment is being taken out of context. What I'm saying is once the incident occurred, moving forward, we were immediately able to notify the 128 flights in the air on protective measures to take, immediately able to notify law enforcement on the ground, airports both domestically, internationally, all carriers, all of that happening within 60 to 90 minutes.”
Obama's references to the “system” were regarding failures to prevent the attack. As the quote Kilmeade read from Obama shows, Obama was referring to the system designed to prevent terrorists from boarding planes, when he said that the “system ... failed,” not the emergency response system. Obama reportedly told top aides on January 5: “This was a screw-up that could have been disastrous. We dodged a bullet, but just barely. It was averted by brave individuals, not because the system worked, and that is not acceptable.” In separate January 5 remarks, Obama's similarly used “system” to discuss intelligence failures prior to the attempted attack. From the January 5 address [emphasis added]:
But when a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way. And it's my responsibility to find out why, and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future.
I also directed my counterterrorism and homeland security advisor John Brennan to lead a thorough review into our terrorist watch-listing system so we can fix what went wrong. As we discussed today, this ongoing review continues to reveal more about the human and systemic failures that almost cost nearly 300 lives. We will make a summary of this preliminary report public within the next few days, but let me share some of what we know so far.
In recent days, we've taken additional steps to improve security. Counterterrorism officials have reviewed and updated our terrorist watch list system, including adding more individuals to the “no fly” list. And while our review has found that our watch-listing system is not broken, the failure to add Abdulmutallab to the “no fly” list shows that this system needs to be strengthened.
Kilmeade ignored context of Obama's “isolated extremist” comment to claim Obama “contradicted” himself in later remarks
Kilmeade claimed Obama “contradicted himself” by making “clear” that attempted attack “was a plot,” not “an isolated extremist.” Kilmeade claimed that in his January 5 remarks Obama “contradicted himself. His original statements the day, three days after the attack was, an isolated extremist would have had no chance against an alert citizenry, to paraphrase. He now made it clear this was a plot, we're at war, it wasn't an isolated extremist.”
In fact, Obama did not limit blame to an “isolated extremist”
Obama discussed “those plotting against us” before highlighting the actions of “courageous citizenry” against “an isolated extremist.” In his original December 28 response to the attack, Obama never suggested that the attack was not a “plot.” Rather, he said, “We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt,” adding, "[t]hose plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as Americans. This incident, like several that have preceded it, demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist." From Obama's December 28 address:
Third, I've directed my national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country. We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will more -- do more than simply strengthen our defenses. We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.
Finally, the American people should remain vigilant, but also be confident. Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as Americans. This incident, like several that have preceded it, demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist.
From the January 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
OBAMA [video clip]: The bottom line is this: The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack. But our intelligence community failed to connect those dots, which would have placed the suspect on the “no fly” list. In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had.
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Right. That's right. The information was out there. The U.S. government had bits of it, tidbids of it -- I think that's the word Mr. Brennan used a couple of days ago -- but they simply did not connect the dots, and that's what the president of the United States said yesterday. He also said there will be no finger pointing, because he will not allow that. He also made it sound as if nobody's going to lose their jobs at this point, even though some have said, you know, shouldn't somebody be held accountable for this monumental screw-up?
KILMEADE: Yeah, well, here's a quote. He goes on to say, “This was a screw-up that could have been disastrous. We dodged a bullet but just barely. It was averted by brave individuals, not because the system worked, and that is not acceptable. While there will be a tendency for finger pointing, I will not tolerate it.”
As you mentioned, Steve, three things happened over the last two weeks. Three statements that we've discussed here to lead the show: “No smoking gun.” That was not true. He basically refuted that in his remarks yesterday. “The system worked.” That's what Secretary Napolitano said. That was not true. He said that directly. And he also contradicted himself. His original statements the day, three days after the attack was, an isolated extremist would have had no chance against an alert citizenry, to paraphrase. He now made it clear this was a plot, we're at war, it wasn't an isolated extremist.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): And many people are saying, OK, finally, we see our own president of the United States angry about the fact that somebody wants to still blow up Americans. But the big question is what are we going to do now?