Rove Backs Off His Criticism Of Counterterrorism Center, Perhaps Remembering Chief Is A Bush Holdover

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"Rove Backs Off His Criticism Of Counterterrorism Center, Perhaps Remembering Chief Is A Bush Holdover"

In recent days, attention has been turning toward Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), in the failed Christmas Day bombing. Politico’s Laura Rozen wrote that it appears that “knives [are] out” for Leiter. On Tuesday, former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove also jumped on the NCTC during an appearance on Fox News, saying that the agency was “where the problem probably occurred”:

VAN SUSTEREN: But somebody had the job, Karl, to coordinate all this information into one center place. I cannot believe that after 9/11, we didn’t figure out that we have to have some sort of central resource —

ROVE: Well, we did. We did. […]

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, who’s in charge of that?

ROVE: The counterterrorism center is where the problem probably occurred because, look, there are lots of — we know that the State Department passed on the information. We know the CIA received it. We know the counterterrorism center received it.

It was surprising that Rove pointed the finger at the NCTC, since Leiter served with him in the Bush administration. Leiter became NCTC director in 2007, and then was retained by the Obama administration. But maybe Rove forgot these details and remembered them only after his Fox News appearance, because today during another Fox interview, he tried to shift blame away from the NCTC:

ROVE: In fact, the biggest problem is not within the NCTC and the intelligence community — Look, I want to say one word of defense for them. There’s a lot of information flowing through there. It seems to me this should have been caught, but there is a lot of information flowing through there, and the expectation that human beings are going to be perfect 100 percent of the time or that the system of computers and algorithms of detection software is going to be perfect 100 percent of the time is just wrong.

In both interviews, Rove insisted that the real problem was with the Obama administration, who decided to “treat the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant” (just like the Bush administration did with the shoe bomber). Watch the two clips:

Today, the White House defended Leiter against a New York Daily News article that Leiter “did not cut short his ski vacation after the underwear bomber nearly blew up an airliner on Christmas Day.” National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough disputed the Daily News’ story, saying that Leiter was “intimately involved in all aspects of the nation’s response to the attempted terrorist attack” and took “six days of annual leave” after the event.

Today in his speech on the attack, Obama made clear that he wasn’t interested in playing the blame game. “Ultimately, the buck stops with me. … When the system fails, it is my responsibility,” he said.

Transcript:

VAN SUSTEREN: But somebody had the job, Karl, to coordinate all this information into one center place. I cannot believe that after 9/11, we didn’t figure out that we have to have some sort of central resource —

ROVE: Well, we did. We did.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, whoever’s in charge of that —

ROVE: The counterterrorism —

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, who’s in charge of that?

ROVE: The counterterrorism center is where the problem probably occurred because, look, there are lots of — we know that the State Department passed on the information. We know the CIA received it. We know the counterterrorism center received it. They get a gigantic amount of data. And the question is, How do you pick out these pieces and understand them and analyze them?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, somebody has that job!

ROVE: And someone had that job. And many people have that job because you can’t trust one person at this. And there are lots of data streams that need to be evaluated simultaneously by different people.

VAN SUSTEREN: And it’s apparently an enormously complicated job. It’s terribly difficult. But whoever had it apparently isn’t up for the job.

ROVE: Yes, and look —

VAN SUSTEREN: For whatever reason. And — and I — you know, I might have failed worse than this person on more occasions, but I don’t have that job! I haven’t accepted that job. Whoever has that job really shouldn’t be in that job.

ROVE: Well, look, no, that’s — that’s — that’s a continuing problem that every day you have to work on.

. . . .

GALLAGHER: Is it your sense, Karl, that we’re nowhere near that mindset?

ROVE: No, we aren’t. In fact, the biggest problem is not within the NCTC and the intelligence community — Look, I want to say one word of defense for them. There’s a lot of information flowing through there. It seems to me this should have been caught, but there is a lot of information flowing through there, and the expectation that human beings are going to be perfect 100 percent of the time or that the system of computers and algorithms of detection software is going to be perfect 100 percent of the time is just wrong.

We live in a dangerous world in which it is a complicated puzzle to find actors like the Christmas Day bomber. But this system clearly broke down. To me, the problems are equally in the aftermath of it. The biggest judgment failure in my mind was the immediate decision by Holder and others to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant, not as an enemy combatant.

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