WASHINGTON -- When a very stern President Barack Obama addressed the American people a week ago about what he termed the "systemic failure" of our security services, he could have been referring to his amusing Nov. 24 state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Actually, Mr. Obama had in mind a more serious event, to wit, the failure to prevent 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from flying into the country on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with a bomb in his underpants that could have killed 300 people.
It now appears that a "systemic failure" also took place Nov. 24. That absurdly extravagant state dinner for some 400 guests in a huge tent on the White House lawn was not only crashed by the clownish Tareq and Michaele Salahi. This week, we have been informed that there was a third gate-crasher, one Carlos Allen, a 39-year-old hustler from what he calls Hush Galleria, identified on his Web site as "an exclusive and luxurious private social club whose members enjoy unparalleled access to elite movers and shakers." I suppose the same claim could be made by the Council on Foreign Relations.
At this writing, it is not exactly clear what Hush Galleria is. Carlos' lawyer, a specialist in white-collar crime by the name of A. Scott Bolden, claims that his client is also the publisher of Hush Society Magazine, an online effort that reports on the philanthropies of "the rich and powerful." But The Washington Post reports that on Carlos' Web site, he also announces such events as "Hush Magazine Happy Hour Friday's." An April 3, 2009, event promised "cocktails and eats," "plenty of eye candy for the guys and the girls" and "networking contacts" at its "Carlos Allen's Hush Galleria Mansion," located in the district. Incidentally, Carlos is no fool. He explains that "Hush" is an acronym for "Help Us Support Humanity." The Salahis also claim humanitarian pursuits, their agency being a polo organization of doubtful authenticity.
Lest you think Carlos is a deadbeat rastaquouere on the order of the Salahis -- who have a long-standing record of not paying their bills -- lawyer Bolden hastens to add that Carlos was invited to the state dinner, unlike the Salahis, who left the dinner before it was discovered that there was no place for them to sit. "He participated in the reception. He participated in the dinner," Bolden affirmed to journalists. Yet how did he get in without an invitation? Apparently, Carlos entered the White House with a delegation of Indian businessmen who, at the behest of the Indian Embassy, were added to the guest list at the last minute. Somehow Carlos -- properly attired in tuxedo -- linked up with the hastily added Indian delegation at the Willard Hotel, from whence they were conveyed to the White House in a van -- a State Department van!
Thus, it looks at this point as if there was what the president would call a "systemic failure" extending from the State Department to the Secret Service to the White House social office. Possibly it even included the White House chef, who must have added a last-minute extra meal. Remember, lawyer Bolden insists that Carlos surpassed the Salahis. He partook of what Carlos calls the "cocktails and eats." All of this took place despite the Secret Service's announcement this week that Carlos was "not on the White House guest list." Fortunately, he did not have a bomb in his underpants.
This week, while learning on the job, our president spoke out very firmly against U.S. intelligence agencies that "failed to connect the dots." He went on to say, "In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had." Well, Mr. President, that is the kind of failure our intelligence community has suffered since Pearl Harbor, when we had an abundance of information that the Japanese were planning an attack but no central agency into which the intelligence could be jointly pooled and effectively analyzed.
The reforms of our intelligence agencies in recent years have merely added bureaucracies and damaged the efficient collation and analysis of intelligence. They have failed to achieve what our military began achieving back in the 1980s, "jointness." That is to say, having all branches operate in a way that integrates resources, planning, communications and everything else that composes a method to dominate any battlefield. Jointness needs to be adopted by our intelligence agencies, from CIA to NSA to Homeland Security, including all the agencies in between, say, FBI and TSA. It is a huge challenge that since 9/11 has eluded us. Let us get on with it and, for now, put the state dinners on the back burner. There are just too many hucksters on the make around the White House.