THAT ‘HIGH-LEVEL BRIEFING’…. The Newsweek headline late on Friday certainly seemed provocative enough: “Exclusive: Obama Got Pre-Christmas Intelligence Briefing About Terror Threats to ‘Homeland.'” The article notes that three days before the failed Christmas-day plot, President Obama “received a high-level briefing” that reviewed a report on “key homeland threats.”
We obviously don’t know the details of the still-classified report, but Newsweek‘s sources for the article noted that the document made no reference to Yemen, a Christmas-day plot, or an imminent attack. But that didn’t stop White House detractors from pouncing on the Newsweek piece as evidence of … something.
Mike Allen did a nice job of explaining why the article may not be quite as exciting as conservative activists would like to believe.
Did the President have a briefing on December 22 on holiday threats? You bet he did. He demanded it. The holidays are traditionally a time of increased threat reporting and the President wanted to be sure his team was on top of that reporting — doing the fine work it had done, for example, on the Zazi and Headley cases earlier in the year.
In fact, the President demands regular counterterrorism and homeland security briefings that bring together the whole team representing the heads of the government agencies charged with intell and homeland security. Did the December 22 briefing include a warning of an attack? No. It did not. And despite the provocative headline on his story, the Newsweek reporter does not report that there was one. Because he couldn’t. Because there wasn’t.
About a month before 9/11, George W. Bush was briefed on the threat posed by al Qaeda, bin Laden’s intentions, etc.* The Bush White House responded by doing very little. I get the sense conservatives are still a little sensitive on this point, and would like a comparable situation with Obama.
This isn’t it.