Report: Officials planned to question Christmas bomber upon landing

Add another embarrassment for U.S. intelligence to the growing list coming out of the incident

By Alex Koppelman
Published January 7, 2010 2:18PM (EST)

U.S. security and intelligence officials have been repeatedly embarrassed in the wake of the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas. With each passing day, it seems, there's a new revelation of intelligence about the man who attempted to blow up the plane, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, that -- if properly put together -- could have meant that he would have been prevented from ever boarding the plane. Now, with the release of a preliminary report from reviews ordered by President Obama of those intelligence failures coming Thursday, there's a new revelation.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that "U.S. border security officials learned of the alleged extremist links of the suspect in the Christmas Day jetliner bombing attempt as he was airborne from Amsterdam to Detroit and had decided to question him when he landed."

Now, the Times has this as something that's actually a defense of the officials involved -- the information they had, the Times says, would not have been enough for them to stop him from boarding the plane in the first place. There are just too many people for that to happen at a certain level; most are just scrutinized once they land.

But even if this is even somewhat exculpatory for the intelligence community, the optics of it, obviously, aren't good. It just looks like they were a day late and a dollar short. No wonder national security advisor James Jones said Americans will feel "a certain shock" when the report is released.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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