by PATRICK CADDELL, 28 Oct 2012 –
At 4:22 p.m. on Friday, October 29, 2010, President Barack Obama stepped into the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House and announced some startling news: Two bombs, hidden inside printer cartridges, had been detected the previous day on a cargo plane heading from Dubai to Chicago.
The detection was obviously good news–but did it really have to be news? That is, wasn’t there much to be gained by staying mum on the news, with an eye to catching the culprits?
Even if the bombs had not exploded as the terrorists had planned, there was no need to let them know that the plot had been foiled, as opposed to the bombs having merely malfunctioned. In intelligence circles, this investigative process is called “walking back the cat”–that is, trying to reverse-engineer the process by which the security system was penetrated in the first place. And that reverse-engineering can best be done in secrecy, before the bomb-makers have a chance to scatter.
But that’s not what happened. Here’s what the President said on that Friday afternoon two years ago:
The American people should know that the counterterrorism professionals are taking this threat very seriously and are taking all necessary and prudent steps to ensure our security. And the American people should be confident that we will not waver in our resolve to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates and to root out violent extremism in all its forms.
Yes, it’s nice to know that a bomb was thwarted, but it would have been even nicer to know that the bomb-makers had been arrested or killed.
So why didn’t the President wait until he had more good news? What was the hurry on the announcement? We might note that the October 29, 2010, announcement came just four days before the 2010 midterm elections. And the President’s announcement was soon followed by five “readouts” of Obama conversations with the foreign leaders whose countries helped unravel the plot. In other words, the Obama administration worked overtime to push its counter-terrorism news to the forefront, just just before the elections.