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State Department official: IC Intel guys wanted underwear bomber to come to the U.S.?

The State Department has a lot of explanations for why it didn’t matter that its Visas Viper cable to the National Counterterrorism Center about underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn’t mention that he had a visa. But this one takes the cake. In an overlooked interview on NPR last week, Under Secretary of State for ...

The State Department has a lot of explanations for why it didn't matter that its Visas Viper cable to the National Counterterrorism Center about underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn't mention that he had a visa.

But this one takes the cake. In an overlooked interview on NPR last week, Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy suggested that maybe the intelligence community sometimes lets suspected terrorists come to the country on purpose.

The State Department has a lot of explanations for why it didn’t matter that its Visas Viper cable to the National Counterterrorism Center about underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn’t mention that he had a visa.

But this one takes the cake. In an overlooked interview on NPR last week, Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy suggested that maybe the intelligence community sometimes lets suspected terrorists come to the country on purpose.

"There are cases that arise where the law enforcement or intelligence communities actually want the person to come to the United States," Kennedy told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. "They might like to arrest them. They might like to follow them."

Really? The Cable asked the State Department spokesman if this was an official position or just Kennedy’s personal view of how the intelligence community works, but there was no response.

President Obama has reportedly said that he doesn’t want to see any more "finger-pointing" by federal agencies, but Kennedy went on in the interview to continue to defend the State Department’s handling of the case, saying that once the cable was sent to the NCTC, it was up to counterterrorism officials there to make the next move and none was made.

Kennedy did acknowledge that nobody in the embassy checked to see if Abdulmutallab had a visa until the day of the bombing, but hey, that wasn’t the policy. He also didn’t say anything about the misspelling of Abdulmutallab’s name, but apparently that didn’t matter either, according to State.

UPDATE: State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley stands by Kennedy’s comments:

"Even where an individual may have some association with terrorism, that doesn’t automatocally mean that a visa should or will be revoked. There may be times when law enforcement may want to allow someone to travel so he can be watched."

"Our intent is not only to take down individuals who are involved with terrorism but to also take down the larger networks in which they operate."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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