U.S. President Barack Obama has outlined a series of new steps designed to prevent aviation terror attacks.
The new measures did not immediately yield any firings or resignations among his top intelligence and homeland security aides. "I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from mistakes," Obama said in remarks from the White House. "When the system fails, it is my responsibility."
Obama called intelligence lapses surrounding the Christmas Day failed attack on a Northwest Airlines flight approaching Detroit "a screw-up that could have been disastrous," He ordered a review of air-passenger screening and U.S. intelligence gathering and sharing.
Obama outlined four steps the U.S. intelligence community will take: assigning specific responsibility for following leads on terror threats; distributing intelligence reports more rapidly; strengthening the analytical process; and, enhancing the criteria used to add people to terror watch lists.
Obama also called for better aviation screening, which he said would require "major investments." But he did offer details regarding the means to beefed up aviation screening. Many believe additional full-body scanners will be procured and made mandatory at major airports despite civil liberties concerns. And the ranks of federal air marshals are expected to grow.
It was revealed that border patrol officers had singled out the suspected Christmas Day bomber as his flight was in the air headed for Detroit, and customs agents were preparing to question him on landing. Yet agents had no plans to arrest Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab or even subject him to the most rigorous search.
The 23-year-old suspect has reportedly said he was trained and equipped in Yemen by a group affiliated with al-Qaeda. His father, a prominent Nigerian banker, had met with the CIA to warn that his son seemed to be embracing extremist ideology. Despite this, the Nigerian national’s name was not placed on the "no-fly" list.
As Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was approaching Detroit, Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate chemical explosives that were sewn into his underwear. The plot was foiled when the bomb failed to explode and passengers subdued Abdulmutallab
The handling of the botched terrorist attack resulted from "systemic" flaws in the nation’s intelligence systems, said Obama. He said U.S. homeland security and intelligence officials failed to "connect the dots" that would have prevented the young Nigerian man from boarding the U.S. jetliner in Amsterdam. "This was not a failure to collect intelligence, it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had," Obama said.
Meanwhile, Abdulmutallab was indicted Jan. 6 on six counts, including attempted murder and the attempted detonation of a bomb aboard the Northwest flight.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued new security directives to all U.S. and international air carriers with inbound flights to the U.S. effective January 4, 2010.
The new directive includes long-term, sustainable security measures developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners.
Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening.
The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights.
As a result, citizens of 14 nations, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria who are flying to the United States, will be subjected indefinitely to beefed up screening in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing plot. Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen also face the special scrutiny.
Passengers holding passports from those nations, or taking flights that originated or passed through any of these countries, will be required to undergo a full-body pat-down and extra scrutiny of their carry-on bags before they can board a plane to the United States.