Michael Leiter.

It appears National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter still enjoys President Barack Obama's support despite criticism that Leiter remained on a ski vacation after al-Qaida's Christmas Day attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner. In October, Leiter accompanied Obama during the president's visit to the NCTC. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images)

By Frank James

National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter has been publicly getting flak for not returning immediately from his ski vacation after the underpants bomber allegedly tried to down a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

But the only opinion that matters is President Barack Obama's and at this point the White House appears to be standing behind its man.

As the Associated Press reports:

The White House is throwing its support behind National Counterterrorism Director Michael Leiter, defending him against a news report that suggested he was vacationing during the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas and its aftermath.
Denis McDonough, National Security Council Chief of Staff, said Leiter was at his McLean headquarters on Dec. 25, and only left for a planned family vacation the next day after consulting with the White House and the national intelligence director. He said the travel did not affect in any way Leiter's ability to remain engaged with all elements of the U.S. government, including national security staff in Hawaii.
Leiter took his son on a six-day vacation to celebrate his 7th birthday and visit his grandparents.
Obama has promised to hold officials accountable for the intelligence failures that allowed the suspect to get on a plane in Nigeria with an undetected bomb. The bomber trained in Yemen with al-Qaida extremists, and his father raised concerns about his views and travels with the U.S. embassy in Nigeria.
The NCTC's purpose is to link together such disparate pieces of intelligence to uncover terror plots.

The New York Daily News reported Thursday that Leiter:

... Decided not to return to his agency's "bat cave" nerve center in McLean, Va., until several days after Christmas, two U.S. officials said.
"People have been grumbling that he didn't let a little terrorism interrupt his vacation," said one of the sources.

The White House, however, is clearly pushing back by saying Leiter had permission from higher ups to remain on vacation.

Leiter is a Bush Administration holdover which could help explain why he's in the crosshairs of some other administration officials.

categories: Obama Administration

4:20 - January 7, 2010