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Obama’s top counterterror official kept skiing after Christmas bomb attempt

By John Byrne
Thursday, January 7, 2010 10:07 EDT
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UPDATE: The White House is strongly disputing claims that the head of the National Counterterrorism Center stayed on the ski slopes for “several days” after the attempted Christmas Day bombing.

Contrary to a report at the New York Daily News Thursday, counter-terror chief Michael Leiter “was — throughout the events of December 25, 2009 — indeed at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia, and intimately involved in all aspects of the nation’s response to the attempted terrorist attack,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, according to ABC’s Jake Tapper.

Leiter stayed late at the NCTC on December 25, an intelligence official tells ABC News, and the next morning he held secure communications working the issue with many in the U.S. government.

He did go on vacation the day after the attempted attack, but a close associate of Leiter says that the leave was quite different than the carefree “ski trip” being depicted.

Tapper reports that Leiter, who is divorced, was taking his seven-year-old son on vacation for a presumably rare opportunity to meet his aging grandparents.

McDonough said Leiter left for vacation only “after explicit consultations with both the White House and the Director of National Intelligence.”

Original story follows below

Heckuva job.

Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter didn’t cut short a ski trip until several days after alleged Nigerian attempted bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to destroy a commercial jetliner en route to Detroit Christmas day, veteran New York Daily News intelligence correspondent James Meek reports Thursday.

Citing two intelligence officials grousing about Leiter’s continued vacation, Meek says the top counterterror boss declined to cut short his snow-struck holiday.

“People have been grumbling that he didn’t let a little terrorism interrupt his vacation,” one of the sources purportedly told Meek.

Leiter is a carryover from the Bush Administration and has been director of the National Counterterrorism Center since 2007.

In an email to Meek, Leiter’s spokesman declined to say when the counterterror chief returned to the agency’s headquarters in suburban Virginia.

“It is our policy to not make our director’s schedule available to the public,” spokesman Carl Kropf reportedly said in an e-mail.

Will Leiter go the way of former FEMA Director Michael Brown — a Bush appointee who was tossed in the wake of the federal government’s tepid response to Hurricane Katrina?

Not likely, according to AP.

“No firings over the December security debacle are expected — for now, at least,” the wire service wrote Thursday morning.

 
 
 
 
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