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Crotch Bombers, Obama, Blair, Brown, and War

Mr. Abdulmutallab had his first day in court on the same day as President Obama's address, and a plea of not guilty was entered for him.

President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, has said Abdulmutallab would be offered a plea deal in exchange for valuable information about his contacts in Yemen and elsewhere.

A perceptive analysis of the loss of critical intelligence which probably resulted from the decision to proceed in a civilian criminal court is presented here. If the underwear bomber is a confirmed jihadist, anxious to immolate himself, or at least to roast his genitals, for the cause, the chances that he will provide any useful information in exchange for a reduced sentence are slim at best. His principal attorney, Miriam Siefer, will doubtless do the best she can for him since that is her job. She seems to be very good at it.

Nevertheless, the eyewitness testimony and physical evidence seem, at the moment, to be overwhelming; in flawed Western eyes, bargaining (gently) in a civilian criminal proceeding for potentially high-value information in exchange for a light sentence would be the right thing to do. That may be difficult, not the least because Mr. Abdulmutallab may be uncooperative and prefer to turn the legal proceeding into a prolonged farce, as did Zacarias Moussaoui.

The January 7 presidential proclamation that we are at war must have meant something more, and maybe it did. It was praised highly -- rather more highly than the White House praised Mr. Blair's January 20 testimony. National Security Adviser James Jones stated complacently:

We know what happened, we know what didn't happen, and we know how to fix it. That should be an encouraging aspect. We don't have to reinvent anything to make sure it doesn't happen again.

However, President Obama told us, clearly and decisively, that lots will have to be done. He has initiated the following reforms:

First, he ordered the intelligence community to assign responsibility to individuals to pursue leads on specific high-priority threats. Previously, specific low and high priority threats must have been assigned indiscriminately to amorphous groups. That will be fixed.

Second, intelligence reports will be distributed more widely and quickly.

That's nice, even though it's also a bit of a no-brainer.

Third, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair will overhaul existing intelligence analytical efforts.

If that's the case, nap times and coffee breaks in the intelligence community may have to be shortened, something far worse than the winter retreat from North Korea over snowy mountains during the police action there in 1950, which wasn't even a real "war." Fortunately, Mr. Blair seems to have done some pondering since January 7, as reflected in his January 20 testimony noted above. Unfortunately, he may have to continue his pondering as a private citizen.

Fourth, the government will strengthen the criteria used to add people to no-fly lists.

Elderly Methodist bishops and tea party activists, watch out. At least with TSA nominee Erroll Southers no longer in the picture, there will be less pressure than had been anticipated to unionize the TSA.

However, this was also reported:

Obama didn't tell intelligence officials to change what they're doing. Instead, he told them to just do it better, and faster. He left it to them to figure out how.

While Obama promised improved security, his solutions were laced with bureaucratic reshuffling.

But ... but that's what bureaucrats do; now they must do it better and faster, but they better know their place and not stray from the path of administrative righteousness.

Still, added together, this must all amount to a clearly stated and decisive effort actually to win the war, expeditiously and cleverly, because President Obama told us so. Unlike the stupid and ineffective doings of the Bush administration, and the stupid and misinformed comments of Mr. Blair, it is the smartest and most effective way to proceed. Even though there seems to be nothing in the works to reverse the substantial damage done to the intelligence community during President Obama's nearly one year in office.

Man-caused disasters have finally got President Obama's attention and so has his director of national intelligence; both are very bad. So, apparently, have complaints about holding terrorist trials in New York got his attention. It's the "not in my backyard" syndrome, but has nothing to do with whether terrorists should be tried in civilian courts.

Since we are now at war, we can all look forward to a prompt declaration of victory, no matter what or how loudly Allah may squawk. Then our government will be able to get on with the important business of the nation, despite the lessons of the January 19 Massachusetts election. It is still very important that what's left of the economy be destroyed and that health care and card check legislation be enacted. We must no longer be distracted even briefly by annoying difficulties, all of which are President Obama's unfortunate inheritance from former President Bush. Onward and upward forever!