Robert Gibbs and Little Dorrit

On a Sunday morning talk show, Robert Gibbs was asked about the reasons why terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been placed on a British no-fly list, but not on US list, although he had been named months ago.

Gibbs, who defends moral cowardice as naturally as a mother duck defend her chicks said, President Obama wants “to go back and look at the protocols for how listing is done that…in some cases are several years old.”

Yep, it’s Bush’s fault. Old procedures. Not ours.

In fact, it is not.

The proper follow-up question to Gibbs should have been, “Then, is the increased slowness to respond to those procedures also the fault of Bush administration policies?”

When George Bush proposed, then instituted the Department of Homeland Security, we all warned about the dangers of adding another level of bureaucracy over national security. But to his (their) credit, they tried, (successfully, it seems) to balance the increased bureaucratic risk with a doubling of vigilance. Constant training, dry runs after dry runs, war-gaming, the troops were on a constant state of alert, for what six years?

Even when policies don’t change, people do. With the new administration, and new people, the levels of preparedness are allowed to slip, almost from the first week, until newer self-generated policies can be enacted. A kind of stand-down sets down, our resident bureucarcy-buster, RPH, tells me. Often funds are subtley re-directed in much the way Clinton raided the DoD in his terms. Most of all, on just 21 December, four days before this attack, TSA announced in a memo it had assigned a dedicated team to scrub the old policy.

Any connection? Our bureaucracy-buster cited Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit.

As a sub-plot to the main story, the hero, Arthur Clennam runs the reader through the workings, and frustations, of the British Patent Office, the “circumlocation office”, as he tries to get someone to read and approve a patent request.

Robert says, “Imagine a stack of papers, consisting of the original mission statement and procedures for an office. With each changeover at the top, imagine a new stack of papers being placed on top of the older ones, each stack slowing down the process. As the stack grows, another stack is started out aslongside it, its mission to study the old stack and to determine why it has become so ponderous and slow. In Little Dorritt I think it was a fire, but imagine the stack getting so high it collapses, and no one can re-assemble the stacks to its original order. No one involved with the original stacks can afford to report the collapse, for to do so would mean the loss of their jobs. So they just try to soldier on, from memory…until something occurs which they are sure they cannot be blamed for happens, at which time, they are charged with redesigning the whole damned thing.”

We aren’t Al Qaeda experts. In fact, we aren’t Arab or Muslim experts, unless you want to know how to quietly inject a rudimentary sense of democracy into their cultures. Been doing that for years.

But we can tell a horse from a mule, and we know how the other side will fight, when it can. For an administration that has based it’s entire grasp for power on being able to probe and study two or three levels below the normal level where politics is carried on in America, I find it amazing that it can’t tell when it is on the receiving end of the same probes.

Addendum: 12/28/09:

Something smells in Denmark. Suicidal mules are as easy to come by in Islam as the drug-toting kind south of the border. But as we all know from the teenage variety, there are as many suicidal gestures as there are genuine attempts. And in Islamo-fascist politics, for pretty much the same reasons; to get attention, or to cause a change in conduct by the parents.

There is something smelly about this kid, notwithstanding Yemen’s claim he’s theirs. He’s too nice, too cooperative, as perhaps he knew he wouldn’t/couldn’t pull it off. The shoe-bomber came off a little too gullible as well. I’m not sure who’s snookering who, but this sounds more like a probe, and as our RPH said, a probe at the various levels of the bureaucracy in DHS/TSA, and their ability to react.

The intel they got, we believe, is they aren’t as strac as they were under GWB. Not good news.