By Alex Kingsbury, Washington Whispers
Contrary to a new report, National Counterterrorism Chief Michael Leiter was not shushing down the slopes on Christmas Day when the Nigerian underpants bomber struck on a Detroit-bound flight. "That's called not-so-friendly fire from the IC [intelligence community] looking for a fall guy," says one spook at the NCTC, located in Virginia near the beltway. "[Leiter] was here to the very end of the day, like me and many, many others," says another. The command center is staffed 24 hours 365 days a year.
Denis McDonough, National Security Council chief of staff, said in a statement that Leiter was "intimately involved in all aspects of the nation's response to the attempted terrorist attack—to include coordinating intelligence, examining terrorist watch-listing, and briefing Members of Congress." Only later did he head out of town. "Only after explicit consultations with both the White House and the Director of National Intelligence and considering the current threat environment did Director Leiter take six days of annual leave after the event, which again did not affect in any way his ability to remain engaged with all elements of the United States Government," he said.
The New York Daily News reported that he was skiing and didn't return to Washington.
So what about the rest of the president's intelligence team? The CIA won't say where Director Leon Panetta was. The Office of the DNI does not, as a matter of policy, comment on the location of chief Dennis Blair, but it's understood that he was in the Washington area.