Backchannel Chatter: Leiter makes light of ski-gate
You can say this about Michael Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center: He knows how to roll with the punches.
This week his NCTC was pummeled by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its poor performance in the case of the alleged airline underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
But last January Leiter personally had to endure waves of rage and ridicule when it was reported that he had gone on a six-day holiday ski vacation shortly after Abdulmutallab was arrested.
No matter that his boss, the departing head of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, and White House officials, had green-lighted the divorced father's long planned trip with his 7-year-old son.
Leiter was buried in an avalanche of bad publicity.
“SKI BUM” screamed the New York Daily News, which broke the story.
According to a well-placed source, however, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center soon made light of his gaffe, flourishing a coffee mug embossed with the Daily News front page.
Now the Daily News is raising questions about Leiter’s whereabouts on the night of the Times Square bombing incident.
James Gordon Meek, who covers terrorism and intelligence for the tabloid, reported today that Leiter hung around the Washington Hilton long after the White House Correspondents Association dinner had ended.
“Wasn’t that Leiter … skulking out of the Washington Hilton around 1 a.m. on May 2, hours after the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner had ended and Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner [Raymond] Kelly had already raced back to New York City to deal with the Times Square attempted carbombing?” Meek wrote on the paper’s Washington blog, Mouth of the Potomac.
“At least he was on the phone as he walked to a waiting car, no doubt getting briefed,” Meek cracked.
An administration spokesman was not amused by the pun, and would confirm only that Leiter attended the dinner.
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