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Napolitano, Gibbs on Stepped Up Airline Security, Terror Attack: ABC's "This Week"

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Below, from ABC News

SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY JANET NAPOLITANO AND
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
ON ABC NEWS "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS,"
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2009

The transcript is available at:
http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/week-transcript-napolitano-gibbs-mcconnell/story?id=9428037

When asked to respond to a recent comment made by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, regarding the Christmas Day terror attack aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253, Secretary Napolitano said: "First of all, we are investigating, as always, going backwards to see what happened and when, who knew what and when. But I think it's important for the public to know, there are different types of databases. And there were simply, throughout the law enforcement community, never information that would put this individual on a no-fly list or a selectee list...I think the important thing to recognize here is that once this incident occurred, everything happened that should have. The passengers reacted correctly, the crew reacted correctly, within an hour to 90 minutes, all 128 flights in the air had been notified. And those flights already had taken mitigation measures on the off-chance that there was somebody else also flying with some sort of destructive intent. So the system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days."

When asked whether or not a definitive connection with al Qaeda has been established, Napolitano said: "That is now the subject of investigation. And it would be inappropriate for me to say and inappropriate to speculate. So we'll let the FBI and the criminal justice systems now do their work."

When asked if he was confident that the Obama administration is doing everything it needs to do and did so in this instance to keep the American people safe, Secretary Gibbs said: "Absolutely. The database that this individual was on contains about 550,000 names. A smaller database of about 400,000 of those names are what selectee and no-fly lists are drawn from. The selectee list has about 14,000, the no-fly list 4,000. So you can see the database that many government agencies and are concerned into is whittled down into much smaller no-fly and selectee lists. This is a database that a series of agencies enter names into, and a series of agencies draw information from. But again, the investigation will look backwards and figure out if any signs were missed, if any procedures can be changed about how names are watch-listed. But again, understanding, 550,000 are on that one database. The President wants to review some of these older procedures and see if, quite frankly, they are outdated."

When asked whether or not the President will commit to opening up the final negotiation process between the House and Senate as they debate health care to C-SPAN cameras so the American public can witness, Gibbs said: "Let's take a step back and understand that this is a process legislatively that has played out over the course of nine months. There have been a countless number of public hearings. The Senate did a lot of their voting at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning on C-SPAN. I think what the president promised and pledged was so that you could see who was fighting for their constituents and who was fighting for drug and insurance companies...Well, but the bill gets put together on the floor of the Senate. That's where the bill got augmented. And I think if you watched that debate, I don't know, I wasn't up at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning for a lot of those votes, but I think if the American public has watched the committee process play out in both the House and the Senate, watched the process play out on both the floor and the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate, you'd have seen quite a bit of public hearing and public airing, and I think quite frankly, people have a pretty good sense of who is battling on behalf of thousands of lobbyists that are trying to protect drugs profits and insurance profits, and who's fighting on behalf of middle-class Americans hoping once and for all to have access to affordable insurance and removing insurance company restrictions like discriminating against people that are sick."

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs joined Jake Tapper this morning to discuss the key issues surrounding the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane as well as the President's agenda for 2010.

Then, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joins Mr. Tapper EXCLUSIVELY to weigh in on the attempted terror attack, health care, and his party's strategy heading into a critical political year. The roundtable featured The New York Times' David Brooks, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd, Nobel prize winning economist and columnist Paul Krugman, and The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus.

A rush transcript of the Napolitano, Gibbs interview, which aired this morning, Sunday, December 27, 2009, on ABC News "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," is below. All excerpts must be attributed to ABC News "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

Ian Cameron is the executive producer of "This Week" and George Stephanopoulos is the anchor. The program airs Sundays on the ABC Television Network (check local listings).

Visit the "This Week" website to read more about the show at: www.abcnews.go.com/thisweek

From George's ABC News blog the 'Bottom Line':

Napolitano: System Like 'Clockwork' After Attack, Not So Sure About Before
http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/12/napolitano-system-like-clockwork-after-attack-not-so-sure-about-before.html

Napolitano: Possible al Qaeda Connection Subject of Investigation; Travelling Public Safe
http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/12/napolitano-possible-al-qaeda-connection-subject-of-investigation-travelling-public-safe.html

Gibbs: Senate Health Bill Closer to Obama's Goal on Abortion Funding Issue
http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/12/gibbs-senate-health-bill-closer-to-obamas-goal-on-abortion-funding-issue-.html

-ABC-

JAKE TAPPER, GUEST HOST: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): Terror in the skies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This, if nothing else, is a wake-up call.

TAPPER: How did the attempted airline bomber slip through security?
We'll ask the top cabinet official in charge of homeland security, Janet
Napolitano.

Then...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The patient protection and affordable care act is passed.

TAPPER: Finish line.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let's make 2010 the year we finally reform
health care.

TAPPER: What hurdles remain for Democrats to arrive at a final health
care bill? Can Republicans still stop it? Those questions for our
headliners, the president press secretary, Robert Gibbs, and the top
Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, only on THIS WEEK.

Plus, more debate and analysis and predictions for 2010 with our
"Roundtable.": Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman; former Bush
strategist Matthew Dowd; David Brooks of The New York Times; and Ruth
Marcus from The Washington Post.

And as always, "The Sunday Funnies."

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE JAY LENO SHOW": Meteorologists are calling this a
record blizzard, which makes sense if you think about it. I mean,
Republicans always said the Senate would pass health care when hell
freezes over. And apparently...

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: Apparently it has.

ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE
STEPHANOPOULOS, live from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, filling in
this morning, ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Good morning.

We're learning more about the 23-year-old Nigerian man the U.S.
government has charged with trying to blow up that Northwest Airlines
flight on Christmas Day. He told investigators that the explosive
material had been sown into his underwear and his name was known to U.S.
officials but it never made it onto a no-fly list. Now air travelers
will face stepped-up security measures

Joining us this morning from San Francisco, Homeland Security Secretary
Janet Napolitano.

Madam Secretary, thanks for joining us.

JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Good morning.

TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to a comment from the chairman of
the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut,
who said in a statement: "I am troubled by several aspects of this case,
including how the suspect escaped the attention of the State Department
and law enforcers when his father apparently reported concerns about his
son's extremist behavior to the U.S. embassy in Lagos, how the suspect
managed to retain a U.S. visa after such complaints, and why he was not
recognized as someone who reportedly was named in the terrorist database."

Madam Secretary, how do you answer Senator Lieberman's questions?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I think, first of all, we are investigating, as
always, going backwards to see what happened and when, who knew what and
when. But here -- I think it's important for the public to know, there
are different types of databases.

And there were simply, throughout the law enforcement community, never
information that would put this individual on a no-fly list or a
selectee list. So that's number one.

Number two, I think the important thing to recognize here is that once
this incident occurred, everything happened that should have. The
passengers reacted correctly, the crew reacted correctly, within an hour
to 90 minutes, all 128 flights in the air had been notified. And those
flights already had taken mitigation measures on the off-chance that
there was somebody else also flying with some sort of destructive intent.

So the system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of
the past several days.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you a question about intelligence-sharing. When
the suspect's father went to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and said, I'm
worried because my son is displaying extremist religious views, how was
that information shared with other parts of the U.S. government, or did
it just stay at that U.S. embassy?

NAPOLITANO: Well, again, we are going to go back and really do a
minute-by-minute, day-by-day scrub of that sort of thing. But when he
presented himself to fly, he was on a tide (ph) list. What a tide list
simply says is, his name had come up somewhere somehow.

But the no-fly and selectee list require that there be specific, what we
call, derogatory information. And that was not available throughout the
law enforcement community. He went through screening in Amsterdam as he
prepared to board a flight to the United States.

The authorities in Amsterdam are working with us to make sure that
screening was properly done. We have no suggestion that it wasn't, but
we're actually going through -- going backwards, tracing his route.

But I think important for the traveling public recognize that A,
everybody reacted as they should. We trained for this. We planned for
this. We exercised for this sort of event should it occur.

And B, we have instituted additional screening in what we call
mitigation measures that will be continuing for a while. And so we ask
people perhaps to show up a little bit earlier at the airport during
this heavy holiday season, and to recognize we're going to be doing
different things at different airports.

So don't think somebody at TSA is not on the job if they're not doing
exactly at one airport what you saw at another. There will be different
things done in different places.

TAPPER: But, Secretary Napolitano, you keep saying everybody acted the
way they were supposed to. Clearly the passengers and the crew of that
Northwest Airlines flight did. But I think there are questions about
whether everybody in the U.S. government did.

And here's a question for you, how many of -- so many of us are subject
to random security searches all the time, how come somebody who is not
on a terrorist database isn't subject to more stringent security when
they check in to a flight to the U.S.? Why does that automatically just
happen?

NAPOLITANO: Well, if he had had specific information that would have put
him on the selectee list or indeed on the no-fly list, he would not have
actually gotten on a plane.

But those numbers pyramid down. And they need to, because again, there
is lots of information that flies about this world on a lot of different
people. And what we have to do in law enforcement is not only collect
and share, but do it in the proper way.

Now once this incident occurred, everything went according to clockwork.
Not only sharing throughout the air industry, but also sharing with
state and local law enforcement, products were going out on Christmas
Day, they went out yesterday, and also to the industry to make sure that
the traveling public remains safe. .

And I would leave you with that message, the traveling public is safe.
We have instituted some additional screening and security measures in
light of this incident. But again, everybody reacted as they should, the
system -- once the incident occurred, the system worked.

TAPPER: What can you tell us about the suspect? Has a definitive
connection with Al Qaida been established yet?

NAPOLITANO: That is now the subject of investigation. And it would be
inappropriate for me to say and inappropriate to speculate. So we'll let
the FBI and the criminal justice system now do their work.

TAPPER: OK. One final question for you, Madam Secretary: An October
report from the Government Accountability Office says that almost $800
million has been spent on new screening technologies by the
Transportation Security Administration since 2002, but, quote, "since
TSA's creation, 10 passenger screening technologies have been in various
phases of research, development, test and evaluation, procurement and
deployment, but TSA had not deployed any of these technologies to
airports nationwide."

More than eight years after 9/11, an incident obviously involving
airplanes, why have these technologies not been deployed to airports
nationwide?

NAPOLITANO: Well, without going into the accuracy or inaccuracy of that
particular report, new technology has been deployed, but there is a more
important point to be made, which is that, A, technology is evolving all
the time, it's not a static situation.

And B, even with the most sophisticated technology, everybody needs to
play a part in their security. That's why I think the actions of the
passengers and the crew on this flight deserve praise. That's why the
men and women who have been working really overtime Christmas Day,
yesterday, whatever, to make sure that all other flights remain safe,
why that system is so important.

You just -- you can't rely on just one part of your security system, you
have to look at the system as a whole.

TAPPER: All right. Madam Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

TAPPER: And now we'll turn to the president's chief spokesman and close
adviser, Robert Gibbs.

Merry Christmas, and thanks for joining us.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Happy holidays. Good morning,
Jake.

TAPPER: The terrorist attack almost happened, had it not been for a
faulty detonator. Are you confident that the Obama administration is
doing everything it needs to do and did so in this instance to keep the
American people safe?

GIBBS: Absolutely, Jake. Let's touch on a few things that the secretary
just touched on. The database that this individual was on contains about
550,000 names, OK? A smaller database of about 400,000 of those names
are what selectee and no-fly lists are drawn from.

The selectee list has about 14,000, the no-fly list 4,000. So you can
see the database that many government agencies and are concerned into is
whittled down into much smaller no-fly and selectee lists.

What the president has asked for as a result of this incident are two
look-back reviews. First, on our watch-listing procedures, did the
government do everything that it could have with the information that
they had? Understanding these procedures are several years old. Did we
do what we needed to with that information, and how can we revise watch
listing procedures going forward to ensure that there is no clog in the
bureaucratic plumbing of information that might be gathered somewhere
going to the very highest levels of security in our government.

Second, obviously we have to review our detection capabilities. The
president has asked the Department of Homeland Security to, quite
frankly, answer the very real question about how somebody with something
as dangerous as PETN could have gotten onto a plane in Amsterdam. I
think those are the two things that -- two reviews that have come
directly out of this.

But Jake, the president is very confident that this government is taking
the steps that are necessary to take -- to take our fight to those that
seek to do us harm. And I'll go through a few things that he's done.
First, we're drawing down in Iraq, and focusing our resources on
Afghanistan and Pakistan, the places in the world where attacks have
previously been planned, and where this planning goes on now. We've
strengthened our partnerships and cooperation with a number of
countries, including Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, as I mentioned before,
and used all elements of our American power to seek to eliminate heads
of Al Qaida, and we've had great success in all three of those countries.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question. Knowing the president -- I've been
covering him for a few years -- I can't imagine that he would hear this
guy's father reported to the U.S. embassy that he has extremist
religious views, and within a matter of weeks, he boards an airplane
with explosives on his person and is not subject to additional security.
I can't believe that he would not hear that information and say, "that's
nuts." Why did that happen?

GIBBS: Jake, he's heard that information and heard it not long after it
was brought to the situation room. That's what has precipitated both a
watch listing review and a detection capabilities review, to ensure that
one, the information that we have goes through the process the right way
and surfaces to those that have to make those decisions. Again, we have
a watch list that this individual was on, that contains about 50 --
550,000 names. So this individual was listed in November of 2009 on that
database based on that information. The no-fly list and the selectee list...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But who's watching him? If he's on that watch list, who's
watching him?

GIBBS: Well, again, Jake, I think if you read the papers this morning,
you'll find that the name was listed, concern was brought, but the
ability...

TAPPER: Brought to who? Anybody can just write down a name. I mean...

GIBBS: No, no, this is a database that a series of agencies enter names
into, and a series of agencies draw information from. But again, Jake,
the investigation will look backwards and figure out if any signs were
missed, if any procedures can be changed about how names are
watch-listed. But again, understand there are 18,000 people on either a
selectee or a no-fly list. This is a database that contains -- I'm
sorry, 550,000 of those names. It's a huge number. We have to ensure and
the president has asked that a review be undertaken swiftly to ensure
that any information that's gathered and put into any database, that it
gets to where it needs to go, to the people that are making decisions.

But again, Jake, understanding, 550,000 are on that one database. The
president wants to review some of these older procedures and see if,
quite frankly, they are outdated...

TAPPER: They need to be updated.

GIBBS: ... (inaudible) what we're facing today.

TAPPER: I want to (inaudible), just because I want to get to health care
reform with the limited time we have left.

GIBBS: Sure.

TAPPER: There was some deal-making that went on as the legislation hit
the House and hit the Senate, especially. And that kind of deal-making
is one of the reasons that President Obama, then Senator Obama, pledged
this on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Well, have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so the people
can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who
is making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance
companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, PolitiFact labeled that a broken promise. I'm not -- I am a
little bit more generous this Christmas spirit. You still have one more
step in the negotiation process, and in fact President Obama said this
to PBS about this final reconciliation between the House bill and the
Senate bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There needs to be some more work before we get to the point where
we're not changing the status quo, and that's the goal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: In any case, it's sound of President Obama saying, we hope to
have a whole bunch of folks over here in the West Wing, I'll be rolling
up my sleeves and spending some time before the full Congress even gets
into session, because the American people need it now. So with that in
mind, will the president open up the doors for this final negotiation?
He's in charge of it. It's going to be taking place at the West Wing.
You have Democratic leaders from the House and Senate reconciling this
House and Senate bill. Will he commit to opening up that process to
C-SPAN cameras so we can see how this happens?

GIBBS: Well, Jake, first of all, let's take a step back and understand
that this is a process legislatively that has played out over the course
of nine months. There have been a countless number of public hearings.
The Senate did a lot of their voting at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning on
C-SPAN. A lot of this debate -- I think what the president promised and
pledged was so that you could see who was fighting for their
constituents and who was fighting for drug and insurance companies...

TAPPER: But he was talking about negotiations, not voting.

GIBBS: Well...

TAPPER: The bill being put together.

GIBBS: Well, but the bill gets put together on the floor of the Senate.
That's where the bill got augmented. And I think if you watched that
debate -- I don't know -- I wasn't up at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning for
a lot of those votes, but I think if the American public had watched --
has watched the committee process play out in both the House and the
Senate, watched the process play out on both the floor and the -- the
floor of the House and the floor of the Senate, you'd have seen quite a
bit of public hearing and public airing, and I think quite frankly,
people have a pretty good sense of who is battling on behalf of
thousands of lobbyists that are trying to protect drugs profits and
insurance profits, and who's fighting on behalf of middle-class
Americans hoping once and for all to have access to affordable insurance
and removing insurance company restrictions like discriminating against
people that are sick.

TAPPER: All right, Robert Gibbs, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks so
much for joining us. Happy holidays and good luck.

GIBBS: Happy holidays and to you, your family and to all your viewers,
happy new year.

TAPPER: Thank you.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 27, 2009 10:33 AM.

Obama, First Lady Michelle, invite Edith Childs--she coined "fired up, ready to go"--to White House was the previous entry in this blog.

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