Bomb Plot Review

Channeling Harry Truman, President Barack Obama said "the buck stops with me" about the Christmas Day bomb plot, as he told the American people that the problems exposed in U.S. Intelligence would be fixed.

Mr. Obama though refused to finger any one agency, unit or person as being responsible for the intelligence failures that allowed a Nigerian man with a bomb in his underwear to fly a Northwest Airlines jet to Detroit.

"I am less in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer," the President said.

As Mr. Obama spoke, the White House released a six page, de-classified summary of what went wrong inside the American spy apparatus.

"The preliminary White House review of the events that led to the attempted December 25 attack highlights human errors and a series of systematic breakdowns," the report began.

It detailed failures in intelligence analysis, failures in the counterterrorism analytical community and "shortcomings" in the terrorist watch list system.

The basic finding of the White House review was that the U.S. had "sufficient information" to have stopped the December 25 attack, and failed to "connect the dots."

The President laid out a series of somewhat non-specific reforms for the Intelligence Community, to better highlight possible terrorist leads, improve analytical reviews of spy data, spread intelligence reports to more analysts and add names to the no-fly list more quickly.

"So taken together, these reforms will improve the intelligence community's ability to collect, share, integrate, analyze, and act on intelligence swiftly and effectively," said the President.

While White House officials had talked about how the report was "comprehensive" in terms of detail, and that it would "shock" Americans, that didn't really seem to play out.

The de-classified offering was not even a report - it was a summary of what must have been a much more detailed review, which was kept secret for a variety of reasons.

As I have written on other blogs, I doubt that lawmakers in the Congress will take such a broad overview at face value.

In terms of who was to blame, there were two fingers pointed, one at the CIA, the other at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), both of which were chastised for not properly analyzing the data available on the Nigerian bomber.

The State Department received only a cursory mention in the report, which did not satisy some critics, who believe U.S. diplomats should have done more with the warning from the bomber's father.  That is certain to be explored more carefully in Congressional hearings as well.

The bottom line is that the White House got its message out on Thursday, but there will be a lot more water to run under this bridge in the weeks and months ahead.