By Rowan Scarborough
In New York’s Time Square, it was a hot dog vendor who spotted a bomb-laden Nissan SUV. The man who parked it there, Faisal Shahzad, was able to board a Persian Gulf-bound jet many hours after Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of airport screening, knew his identity.
In an airliner over Detroit, passengers prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from igniting an underwear bomb. The bomber was known to DHS as a potential saboteur, but was able to board the U.S.-to-Amsterdam flight on Christmas Day.
A month earlier, base police stopped Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, a radical Islamist, after he killed 13 of his Army colleagues. Hasan’s growing extremism and links to a fanatic al Qaeda preacher in Yemen were not acted on by the Obama Administration, including DHS.
Throughout these DHS failings, Secretary Napolitano, the highest ranking civilian responsible for protecting U.S. citizens, showed a reluctance to face up to who the enemy really is.
• Napolitano told a German magazine she preferred the term “man-caused disaster” rather than terrorism. She does not seem to know her own department’s priorities.
• She will not allow immigration agencies to increase deportation of illegal aliens.
• She allowed the release of a DHS report that said the real homeland threats were war veterans, pro-life activists and gun owners.
“The Obama Administration is just adopting the wrong priorities,” said Danny Gonzales, spokesman for the pro-military group MoveAmericaForward.org. “Janet Napolitano is one of the worst. The Department of Homeland Security report where they were talking about supposed right-wing extremists and saying our military could be recruited by far-right racist Christian groups—that was obviously a huge major flaw in priorities. Here we are fighting a war against Islamic terrorism with many plots going on at the same time against America and here they are pulling over people who have bumper stickers they don’t like. If you look at the lexicon of that report, people who are strongly pro-life—that was something they were telling people to watch out for and possibly pull them over to question them.”
After Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, gunned down innocents at Fort Hood, Napolitano declared, “The number one issue, I think right now, is that Major Hasan be brought to justice.”
That was not DHS’s No. 1 priority. He was in custody. His court case belonged to the Justice Department, not DHS. Her first priority was to find out how such a radical figure was allowed to remain in the U.S. Army and why DHS, the FBI and other agencies did not intervene to stop him.
Napolitano believed her other post-Fort Hood priority was to soothe American Muslims. She told United Arab Emirates students her agency was working to make sure there was no American backlash against U.S. Muslims. Since there has been little, or no, such blacklash, after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, it seems the secretary announced another misplaced priority.
After passengers subdued the underwear bomber and turned him over to authorities, Napolitano went on national television to proclaim, “The system worked.”
Whether this was the du jour White House spin, or her own perception, the utterance was dead wrong. In a subsequent White House report, National Security Adviser John Brennan fessed up to a number of human errors. The administration knew enough about Abdulmutallab to stop him, but it did not.
In the latest al Qaeda-inspired attack—the Times Square plot—Napolitano dubbed it a “one-off.” Such imprecise language even stumped some journalists schooled in Washington’s arcane language. Did she mean Shahzad was a “lone wolf”—a favorite administration branding for Hasan and Abdulmutallab? Or did she mean the Nissan Pathfinder bomb was not part of a larger attack plan?
Regardless, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder finally acknowledged something this White House does not like to acknowledge: Shahzad is indeed a terrorist, trained by the Pakistan Taliban in his home country.
Since Napolitano’s confirmation, Gonzales said, “We’ve had massive failures of security. And every time it happens, the administration says, ‘You got us that time. We’ll do better.’ It just keeps happening over and over again. They keep acting like that was the last time.”
James Jay Carafano, a national security analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said Napolitano sometimes gets blamed for plots the CIA should have uncovered.
“After Detroit, everybody went after Napolitano,” he said. “After Times Square, every one went after Napolitano. But to me, the great failure in both of those cases was these were plots that came from overseas. They should have been stopped overseas. They were known tactics from known threats using known networks….They are not calling the CIA on the carpet. They’re going after Napolitano mainly because it says homeland security on her name plate.”
But he added, “At the end of the day, I think she’s a politician. I’m not getting the sense, though she claims to be a law enforcement officer, that the administration is really treating the job as a non-partisan job… She definitely has not captured the art of the Washington sound bite, which is very weird for a professional politician. She does manage to say the wrong things. Maybe the administration likes her because she sucks up all the darts for everybody else.”
Carafano is critical of Napolitano’s stances on immigration and protecting the border.
The former Arizona governor has condemned her state’s get-tough law on illegal aliens to combat a skyrocketing crime rate. But at the same time she has opposed DHS stepping up deportations, despite requests from her own enforcers.
“She makes this ridiculous case that amnesty is good for national security,” Carafano said.