The only real victim in the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an international flight bound for Detroit was the Department of Homeland Security. Claiming the “system worked” earned the secretary more than a few cat calls, late night jokes, and even demands for her resignation. Napolitano’s statement, however, was never the real story.

First, that statement was taken out of context. Second, none of the security failures rest at the feet of Homeland Security. As we detailed last month: “The decision to flag an individual for secondary screening or bar him from flying altogether comes from the Terrorist Watch and No-Fly lists. Lists are managed by the National Counterterrorism Center and the Terrorist Screening Center….Abdulmutallab shouldn’t have been given a visa or, if he already had one, it should have been revoked….Visas are issued by the State Department.”

Rather than let the department take the heat (for what should admittedly be regarded as a monumental blunder in battle transnational terrorism) the White House ought to be helping out the department rather than standing by and watching the pot shots being taken it.

Here is a short to do list.

  1. Go after Congress. It’s a crime that Congress has done nothing to streamline oversight of the department and let be pulled back and forth by dozens of committees and subcommittees that all claim jurisdiction over one thing or another.
  2. Take Amnesty off the Table. The administration has made the department point on supporting an immigration bill that is as wrongheaded and politically divisive as the last one. Putting the department front and center in that debate is a bad idea.
  3. Give the Department a Seat at the (other) Table. Today, Homeland Security remains mostly a customer of the intelligence community with little authority to push on the system to get anything done. Perhaps if it had more operational responsibilities, like running the Terrorist Screening center, it might be able to herd the cats a little more.
  4. Crack Some Heads. Cooperation on visas security between State and Homeland Security still stinks compared to what it could be.
  5. Let the department do its Job. Less czar-like direction (after all remember what happened to the Russian empire) and more trust in people to take the initiative and get the job done will go a long way.