"It seems that the president," Wolffe said, "is leaning very much towards thinking this was a systemic failure by individuals who maybe had an alternative agenda." What agenda? Well, Wolffe said, it might be "a case of the agencies having so much rivalry between them that they were more determined to stymy each other or the centralized system rather than the terrorist threat."
This is about as lame an explanation as when the White House ended up dismissing the Air Force One fly-by over Manhattan last April as a "publicity stunt." They might just as well have blamed it on a hair in Louis Caldera's underpants, since he graciously took the blame even though the official report makes it perfectly clear that it was an Air Force operation from start to finish. (See "Was the Air Force One Flyover a Warning to Obama?")
Commentators more accustomed to thinking outside their underpants, like Barry Grey, Bill Van Auken, and Patrick Martin of wsws.org, Webster Tarpley, Wayne Madsen, Tom Burghardt, Pete Johnson, Michael Collins, and Paul Craig Roberts, have picked up the ball in the meantime where Obama predictably dropped it ("our intelligence community failed to connect those dots") and see the incident as another false-flag operation, strikingly similar to 9/11, designed to justify ratcheting up the war on "terror" in the Middle East and at home (the Patriot Act is up for renewal).
But does this make any more sense? Surely if the "intelligence community" wanted to create a false-flag incident, they would be able to do so without leaving true flags all over the place pointing to themselves. Some will say I underestimate the stupidity of spooks, who no matter how much money and power you give them are still more like Maxwell Smart than James Bond, but I do not buy into Stupidity Theory. This is what is sold by the mainstream media, of course. If no plausible lie can be found, the affair is dismissed as "failing to connect the dots," to use the latest expression. This is the official explanation of 9/11 (the alternative, that 19 Arabs beat the crap out of the US Air Force, being less plausible), of the Manhattan fly-by, of Gen. McChrystal's blatant disregard of the chain of command in announcing troop requirements in Afghanistan, and of the underpants incident. Even wars can be sent down the rabbit hole this way; e.g., Vietnam was a "well-intentioned mistake," and despite all the evidence to the contrary, much clearer now than in the case of Vietnam, Iraq/Afghanistan is already getting the same treatment.
Transparency Theory makes more sense. In 2008 I wrote an essay redubbing it MITOP (Made It Transparent On Purpose) in relation to 9/11, because the acronym fits well with and is actually the logical extension of LIHOP (Let It Happen On Purpose) and MIHOP (Made It Happen On Purpose), a distinction which now seems to have dissipated and never made much sense anyway.
I think MITOP applies to the underpants bomber as well: Yes, Big Brother did it, and he wants us to know it.
A good theory, in science, is one that explains more facts better than others. It fulfills the requirements of explanatory power and simplicity, or Occam's razor. In other words, if the walking, talking, and quacking is duck-like, most likely we're dealing with a duck. We might not want it to be a duck, or we might be terrified that it will turn out to be a duck, but this is not science, and not rational. The facts will most often quack for themselves, if we allow them to.
I have always maintained that the best evidence that 9/11 was an inside job is the fact that it happened at all. This is the prima facie case: it could not have happened otherwise. 19 aeronautically-challenged Arabs with box-cutters could not have defeated the US Air Force unless the US Air Force wanted it to happen. By the same simple and transparent logic, if indeed the official fairy tale were true, it would have been proven to everyone's satisfaction long ago. (The Pentagon videos would have been released, the plane and building debris found and examined, etc., etc.)
The thing about being logical is, once you start, you have to finish. You can't just say the most logical explanation for 9/11, or for Abdulmutallab's explosive underpants, is that it was an inside job because it is obviously and transparently so. You have to go further. You have to ask why it was obvious and transparent. Webster Tarpley, Wayne Madsen and the other conspiracy theorists should ask themselves this question. It is not the same question as "Why did they do it?" The question is "Why did they make it so obvious that they did it?"
I tried to answer this question in a previous essay, "MITOP and the Double Bind," by offering some amateur psychological analysis, and I'm glad to see that a professional, Bruce Levine, has written something along much the same lines ("Are Americans a Broken People? Why We've Stopped Fighting Back Against the Forces of Oppression"). I called it a double bind; he calls it "abuse syndrome." Orwell and Huxley called it love of slavery, of one's own chains, in the one case because of fear and in the other because of soma-induced pleasure. The abuser, the oppressor, can also be variously characterized, as Big Brother, Mustapha Mond, or in the non-fictional world, the secret government, national security state, ruling elite, military-industrial complex (Eisenhower), "deep state" (Peter Dale Scott), "rogue network or invisible government of treasonous and subversive moles inside the US government" (Tarpley), the "Unspeakable" (Jim Douglass, after Thomas Merton), etc. I prefer the term "Big Brother" because it avoids the logical pitfalls inherent in the other terms (see "Deep State Doublethink"), and I think on the whole we are closer to Orwell's dystopia than to Huxley's.
Where is the hope in this view of reality, or as Levine calls it, the morale? Well, two points. First, BB may be a reality, but he is not Orwell's BB. He may wish to be, or something more "benevolent" like Huxley's Mustapha Mond, but he is not. We are not fictional, either. The story is far from over. The situation is bleak, but there is wriggle room. And when, after all, in the history of mankind, has it ever been any different? The struggle against oppression, in one form or another, has been going on forever.
Secondly, our BB, the real BB, unlike the one in the book, is flawed, precisely because he is real, like ourselves. He may be able to pull off one 9/11, and maybe a second one, and then put the big lid on -- declare martial law, shut down the internet, jail all the dissidents -- which would be terrible, but what then? He must know this doesn't work in the long run (the Nazis tried it), and the soma solution is totally untested and even riskier. The Inner Party is not completely unified (e.g., some want war with Iran, some don't), so chances are he will stay with what has worked so far ("If it ain't broke, don't fix it"), and apart from having to tolerate articles like this, everything is going fine, from his point of view. The "war on terror" (i.e., for global control) is going well. Thanks to Abdulmutallab, BB can extend the war to Yemen and, most likely, renew the Patriot Act.
The more we become aware of what is going on, the better our chances. Noam Chomsky, whose work often seems to allow little room for optimism, cites the progress we have made since the 60s thanks to the grassroots work of antiwar, civil rights, feminist, and environmental activists, as well as democratic movements in Latin America (e.g., Bolivia, Venezuela), as hopeful signs, and I would add to that the fact that we now have not only Chomsky and Zinn et al. but also people like Paul Craig Roberts on our side. I can't imagine the former Wall Street Journal columnist and "father of Reaganomics" talking about Big Brother and our loss of liberty and the rule of law and writing things like this too many years ago: "In truth, government represents private interests, those of the office holders themselves and those of the lobby groups that finance their political campaigns. The public is in the dark as to the real agendas."
Things are getting better. Yes, it is true that the Abdulmutallab incident serves to remind us of how far we have to go. If the bomb had exploded, how many of us then would be able to bear the fury of the backlash, which would fall not only on Yemen or "al-Qaeda" but equally if not more so on anyone attempting to "exonerate" them by suggesting "outrageous conspiracy theories" such as the possibility of an inside job? The bigger the catastrophe, the harder it will be to oppose the forces screaming for the blood of the designated enemy. Still, the better we understand this, the better off we will be.