The culture of U.S diplomatic service failed to stop the terrorist attack

Barack Obama, SAN FRANCISCO — One group of U.S. Government employees that has not received much media scrutiny in the aftermath of the failed terrorist attack are U.S. diplomats who had issued and failed to cancel Mr. Abdulmutallab’s U.S. visa.


Robin Renèe Sanders, U.S. Ambassador to NigeriaU.S. Consular Officers at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Robin R. Sanders, and Foreign Service Officers responsible for security had a professional duty to immediately cancel Mr. Abdulmutallab’s U.S. visa after his father warned the Embassy officials of his son’s likely radicalization.


No dots with the vague CIA information from Yemen on Mr. Abdulmutallab needed to be connected by anti-terrorism experts. The whole problem could have been easily averted at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, if American diplomats had simply used common sense that most Americans would use in a similar situation.


These highly paid U.S. officials should have erred on the side of caution, not on the side of protecting the rights of individuals who are not U.S. citizens and have no automatic right to a U.S. visa.


After being told of the father’s concerns about his son, the first question from Ambassador Sanders should have been: does he have a U.S. visa? And if he does, let’s cancel it immediately.


Any of the Foreign Service Officers and other officials at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria who knew about the case should have asked the same question. They are some of the best paid U.S. government employees and supposed to be some of the smartest.


We wish the latter were really true. If they were as smart and dedicated as they should be, Americans could feel safe about their borders being protected and there would be no need to spend extra billions of dollars on airport security. Unfortunately, a culture of careerism and political correctness makes it impossible for most U.S. Foreign Service Officers to think and act primarily in the interest of the American people.


U.S. diplomats in Nigeria did nothing to prevent the most recent incident because that would have required them to make a difficult decision that could have been viewed by their bosses at the State Department in Washington as a violation of Mr. Abdulmitallab’s rights. A decision to cancel his visa might have also exposed them to criticism of engaging in profiling and undermining President Obama’s new policy of reaching out to the Muslim world.


Let’s not forget that all of the 9/11 terrorists also received American visas from U.S. Foreign Service Officers.


Each U.S. diplomat stationed abroad costs U.S. taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. But today’s U.S. Foreign Service Officers are mostly interested in protecting their considerable salaries and perks. They lack both status and courage to challenge official policies and behavior, often dictated by misguided political correctness.


It does not help that the standards for recruiting Foreign Service Officers have greatly declined over the last few decades. A U.S. diplomat who dares to make a difficult decision that could ruin his chances for career advancement is a rare exception.


If U.S. Foreign Service Officers used the right judgement and did their professional duty of protecting U.S. citizens rather than pleasing the political correctness crowd at the State Department and the White House, the 9/11 terror attack and the attempted airplane bombing over Detroit could have been prevented.


The CIA is also not off the hook. As with Foreign Service Officers, keeping a single CIA officer abroad also costs U.S. taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in salary, free housing, free education for children and freequent free travel to the U.S. The CIA station chief in Nigeria should have insisted that a Consular Officer at the Embassy or the Ambassador herself cancel Mr. Abdulmutallab’s U.S. visa. Without a U.S. visa, he would not have been able to get on the plane.


Ultimately, however, it’s not the CIA but the U.S. Ambassador who is responsible for what goes on at a U.S. embassy.


It is unlikely that the quality of U.S. Foreign Service Officers can be quickly improved in the current political environment in Washington. Intensive retraining of U.S. ambassadors, political officers, and consular officials at U.S. embassies might offer some help in the future if it is done correctly. But such retraining would certainly clash with the Obama administration’s policy assumptions about the world and the Foreign Service culture that promotes conformism.


Of course, much of the blame goes directly to President Obama and his administration’s top officials who have set the political agenda of granting people suspected of terrorism the benefit of the doubt in an naive hope that by being nice to them they would be nice to us. U.S. diplomats in Nigeria should have shown their respect for the local customs and culture by taking seriously the concerns expressed to them by Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father. They should have been nice to him. Instead, they behaved like typical Americans, assuming that the young man had the right to do what he wanted. Perhaps they thought that if they had cancelled his U.S. visa he might become anti-American and turn into a terrorist. That, after all, seems to be the essence of President Obama’s approach to the problem of terrorism.


U.S. diplomats in Nigeria were more than eager to implement this misguided agenda. The attempted airplane bombing over Detroit was a major failure of both the Obama administration and the culture of the U.S. diplomatic service. The American people deserve better than that.