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Obama Aide: No 'Smoking Gun' for Smoking Shorts Attacker

January 4, 2009
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

FADE IN . . . The camera shows a close-up of a handgun with wisps of smoke slowly rising from the barrel of a firearm.

The “smoking gun” phrase has become a euphemism for compelling proof of criminal conduct.

Now a member of the current administration, John Brennan, assistant to President Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism, has used the phrase in response to questions about the recent attempted terror attack on Christmas day that if successful would have blown Northwest Airlines Flight 253 and its 290 passengers out of the sky.

Brennan told “Fox News Sunday” that while there were “bits and pieces” of information regarding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab prior to his arrest, “there was no smoking gun” that would have stopped him from being allowed a seat on the plane.

Even a neophyte screenwriter wouldn't buy that line. Abdulmutallab had smoking underwear!

“There was no piece of intelligence that said, ‘This guy's a terrorist. He's going to get on a plane,’” Brennan said. “No, not whatsoever. It was the failure to integrate and piece together those bits and pieces of information.”

In addition to the smoldering shorts, Abdulmutallab failed to produce a valid passport, paid cash for a one-way international ticket to the U.S., and boarded the plane with no luggage. His prominent father was worried enough to warn U.S. officials of his son's extremist activities.

A smoking bazooka is more like it.

Think the would-be terror act will surface as a Hollywood movie?

Maybe, as long as scenes were limited to smoking underpants and not smoking cigarettes.

Speaking of Hollywood, a new research study concluded that, when it comes to the movie box office, sex scenes and nude scenes don’t bring people to the multiplex.

“Sex Doesn't Sell — Nor Impress!” is the title of a study that concludes sex and nudity in movies fail to generate ticket sales.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis analyzed the content of more than 900 films that were released between 2001 and 2005. Results showed that almost all of the films that did the best at the box office had almost no sex and nudity.

Professor of psychology and co-author Dean Keith Simonton told CNN that “sex did not sell, whether in the domestic or international box office.” And he explained that these were the findings “even after controlling for MPAA rating.”

“In other words, even among R[-rated] movies, less graphic sex is better," Simonton said.

Co-author Anemone Cerridwen conceived of the study after taking an acting class that raised her concern about the sexual content in scripts she was reading.

“I assumed sex sold, and wanted to know by how much,” Cerridwen explained. “I braced myself for the worst, and got quite the surprise.”

It could be that if movie studios have evidence that crude content may detrimentally impact profits, standards just may be raised.

“I do believe that there are a fair number of people in the film industry who want to make better films, and this study may give them some ammunition,” Cerridwen said.

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