Like everyone else, I've been listening to the details about Undie-Bomber Abdulmutallab as they emerge from various sources. Here's what I know:
-- He was refused a British visa on immigration grounds. He said he wanted to study at a fictitious school. This is very odd, since he'd studied in the UK before - surely he could have put together a more convincing story.
-- His father turned him in. I can well believe that lots of fake denunciations are received by US authorities (in fact, that was my first reaction to the story), but in this case the father was surely known personally to someone at the embassy, given his status. And indeed, the embassy reported what he said, so someone there must have believed him.
-- Again, I can understand the requirement for information from more than one source before a visa is denied. But if there isn't a procedure that requires secondary screening and a personal interview for cases that don't meet the bar for visa denial, then there should be one.
-- Abdulmutallab paid for his ticket in cash and boarded without luggage. Both those factors should have triggered an alarm, quite apart from anything the father had reported.
So who's guilty? Looks to me like the problem arose from a combination of factors, so it may be hard to affix blame. But a report of a White House meeting in which agencies 'took reponsibility' for their functions is true hogwash. If they weren't 'responsible,' then what were they doing in the meeting?
I always felt one of former President Bush's biggest failings was excessive loyalty to his subordinates, some of whom he protected way too long. President Obama has already shown that he knows how to throw people under the bus. He needs to do so again, if for no other reason than to focus the attention of the rest of his team.
(Note: I deleted a paragraph saying that the father didn't know about the trip to Yemen.)