'We did not know': 9 times the Obama administration was blindsided

The unfolding sectarian violence in Iraq is just the latest crisis where the Obama administration seemingly has been caught off guard. From the Veterans Affairs scandal to Russia's swift annexation of Crimea, news of the world somehow keeps taking the commander-in-chief and his team by surprise. 

The following is a refresher of major domestic and foreign policy developments that, apparently, were news to the White House

1. Islamist militants gaining in Iraq

This image posted on a militant website on Saturday, June 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, appears to show militants from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking aim at captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq. The Islamic militant group that seized much of northern Iraq has posted photos that appear to show its fighters shooting dead dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers in a province north of the capital Baghdad. Iraq's top military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi confirmed the photos’ authenticity on Sunday and said he was aware of cases of mass murder of Iraqi soldiers. (AP Photo via militant website)

 (AP)

The New Yorker (1/27/2014): "In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been 'decimated.' I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Fallujah, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too. 

'The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,' Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. 'I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.'" 

The Wall Street Journal (6/11/2014): Iraq Drama Catches US Off Guard

2. Russia's intervention in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier takes position during a battle with pro-Russian separatist fighters in Slovyansk, Ukraine, Saturday, May 31, 2014. The Ukrainian Acting Defence Minister said on Friday that troops had ousted separatists from southern and western parts of the Donetsk region and north of the Luhansk region. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

 (AP)

Politico.com (3/4/14): "A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Obama was satisfied with the intelligence he received on Russian intentions in Ukraine. But spokesmen for the U.S. intelligence community defended its work. 

The Central Intelligence Agency says it’s always noted the possibility of aggressive military action. 

'Prior to and throughout the situation in Ukraine, the intelligence community has provided timely and valuable information that has helped policy makers understand the situation on the ground and make informed decisions. That continues to be the case today,' said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. 'Any suggestion that there were intelligence shortcomings related to the situation in Ukraine are uninformed and misleading.'

... While officials appear to disagree about the insights offered by U.S. intelligence, it’s beyond dispute that a lot of public commentary pundits offered as the Ukraine crisis unfolded was less than clairvoyant."

3. NSA spying on foreign leaders

FILE - This June 6, 2013, file photo shows the sign outside the National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md. A presidential advisory panel has recommended dozens of changes to the government's surveillance programs, including stripping the NSA of its ability to store Americans' telephone records and requiring a court to sign off on the individual searches of phone and Internet data. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

 (AP)

Wall Street Journal (10/28/2013): "Obama was unaware for the last 5 years, the NSA had been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other members of world leaders. Only after an internal Obama administration review in 2013 did the White House know of the spying."

President Obama news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan (5/16/2013): "I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the I.G. report before the I.G. report had been leaked through press -- through the press."

4. VA waiting list scandal

The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix is seen Wednesday May 28, 2014.  About 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off the official waiting list at the Phoenix veterans hospital, the Veterans Affairs watchdog said Wednesday.  (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Michael Chow)  MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES

 (AP)

Jay Carney during a White House press briefing (5/19/2014):  

JIM ACOSTA, CNN: "When was the president first made aware of these problems? Of these fraudulent lists that were being kept to hide the wait times, when was he first made aware of those problems? And when did other White House officials, top White House officials, become aware of these problems?" 

JAY CARNEY: "When you say these problems, the fact that there have been bureaucracies --" 

ACOSTA: "The delays have been known for some time." 

CARNEY: "You mean the specific allegations that I think were reported first by your news network out of Phoenix, I believe. We learned about them through the reports. I will double check if that is not the case. But that is when we learned about them and that is when I understand Secretary Shinseki learned about them, and he immediately took the action that he has taken."

5. IRS targeting scandal

FILE - This May 22, 2013 file photo shows Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner on Capitol Hill in Washington. The IRS says it has lost a trove of emails to and from a central figure in the agency's tea party controversy. The IRS told congressional investigators Friday it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed that year. Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups. The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from 2009 to 2011 because Lerner had copied in other IRS employees. But an untold number are gone. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

 (AP)

President Obama in a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Cameron (May 13, 2013): "Well, let me take the IRS situation first. I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday."

6. HealthCare.gov failing

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this October 2, 2013 photo illustration. The federal government's portal logged over 2.8 million visitors by afternoon October 2, largely in an attempt to sign up for Obamacare.  REUTERS/Mike Segar  (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY POLITICS) - RTR3FIUH

 (Reuters)

Remarks by President Obama on HealthCare.gov (10/21/2013): "Of course, you've probably heard that HealthCare.gov -- the new website where people can apply for health insurance and browse and buy affordable plans in most states -- hasn't worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work. And the number of people who visit the site has been overwhelming which has aggravated some of these underlying problems." 

Jay Carney during a White House press briefing (10/23/2013): "While we knew that there would be some glitches and actually said publicly that we expected some problems, we did not know until the problems manifested themselves after the launch that they would be as significant as they have turned out to be."

7. DOJ obtaining AP phone records

July 25, 2013: Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the National Urban League annual conference.

 (AP)

Jay Carney during a White House press briefing (5/14/2013):  

QUESTION: "When did the president find out about the Department of Justice's subpoenas for the Associated Press?" 

CARNEY: "Yesterday. Let me just be clear. We don’t have any independent knowledge of that. He found out about the news reports yesterday on the road." 

QUESTION: "What was his reaction to that? Does he believe that this was an overreach?" 

CARNEY: "All I can tell you is that I cannot and he cannot comment specifically on an ongoing criminal investigation or actions that investigators at the Department of Justice may or may not have taken. It would be wholly inappropriate. And if we did comment on it, or if we did have insight into it, you would appropriately ask why and is that correct procedure, because it would not be."

8. Fast and Furious scandal

This Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011 picture shows part of a cache of seized weapons displayed at a news conference in Phoenix. The ATF is under fire over a Phoenix-based gun-trafficking investigation called "Fast and Furious," in which agents allowed hundreds of guns into the hands of straw purchasers in hopes of making a bigger case. Two of those weapons were found in December at the fatal shooting of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, igniting a scandal that has resulted in a congressional investigation and review by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General. (AP Photo/Matt York)

 (AP)

Jay Carney during a White House press briefing (6/27/2012): "The president did not know about this tactic until he heard about it through the media; the attorney general did not know about it."

9. Air Force One flyover in Manhattan

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One to depart for a trip to Pennsylvania and Florida, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, October 11, 2011.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

 (Reuters)

President Obama during media availability on arrival at FBI headquarters (4/28/2009): 

QUESTION: "Sir, what do think of the Air Force One incident --"

THE PRESIDENT: "No -- no questions --"

QUESTION: "-- over New York City yesterday, sir?"

QUESTION: "Are you concerned about New York City yesterday, sir, with the Air Force plane?"

THE PRESIDENT: "It was a mistake, as was -- as was stated. It was something we found out about along with all of you and it will not happen again. Thank you."