Gov. Pawlenty was the guest host for Jason Lewis on KTLK last night. At the top of the three hour show, Pawlenty questioned the federal oversight of a passenger who was unsuccessful in an alleged attack on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day.
Pawlenty is latest Republican to criticize the Obama Administration for the incident. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is suspected of trying to ignite an explosive on Northwest Flight. AP says Abdulmutallab was not on the government’s terrorist watch list – though he was on a less sensitive and broader database. It also said he was able to maintain a valid U.S. visa despite his father’s warning to U.S. embassy officials in Nigeria.
Pawlenty, who has not ruled out a run for the White House in 2012, jumped into the fray suggesting that “the system did not work.” He also said he supports body imaging technology to screen for suspected terrorists and said “we have to err on the side of caution and safety” when it comes to screening, etc.
Listen to Pawlenty’s KTLK segment here:
The entire show can be heard here.
Before Pawlenty made his comments, President Obama tried to head off the criticism by saying there had been a “systemic failure” in U.S. security that led to the failed attack:
Now, the more comprehensive, formal reviews and recommendations for improvement will be completed in the coming weeks, and I’m committed to working with Congress and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country.
I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.
There appears to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We’ve achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.
Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.
The key question for both Pawlenty and Obama is whether the criticism sticks. The danger for Pawlenty is that it also opens the door for any past and future “systemic failures” within his own administration.