White House Defends Counter Terrorism Chief's Vacation

The White House is defending Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter’s actions after Leiter took a beating in a New York Daily News piece talking about him staying at a ski resort after the attempted Christmas attack on a flight to Detroit.

National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough tells Fox News, “Director Leiter was… intimately involved in all aspects of the nation’s response to the attempted terrorist attack—to include coordinating intelligence, examining terrorist watchlisting, and briefing Members of Congress.”

“During the following days, Director Leiter engaged in regular, repeated, and extended classified discussions with the White House, the President’s National Security Staff located in Hawaii, the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, various members of Congress and their staffs, and of course the National Counterterrorism Center,” said McDonough.

Leiter was not the only senior U.S. official to be out of town on Christmas holiday. After all, President Obama was in Hawaii and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was in San Francisco. But McDonough explains that it was only after consultations with both the White House and the Director of National Intelligence and an assessment of the threat environment did Leiter take six days of vacation after the Christmas attempt.

At a time when Washington is watching and waiting to see if any top government officials will be fired for the breakdown in intelligence leading to a man with explosives in his underpants boarding a passenger jet heading for a U.S. city, the New York tabloid’s timing appeared ominous.