Obama demands quicker handling of threats
(AP) - President Barack Obama suggested Thursday hewould not fire anyone for the attempted Christmas Day airlineattack, saying it appears the security lapses that led to thenear-disaster were not the fault of a single individual orinstitution. The commander in chief said ultimately he isresponsible for national security.
He declared anew that the government had the information toprevent the botched attack but failed to piece it together. Heannounced a range of changes designed to fix that, including widerand quicker distribution of intelligence reports, stronger analysisof them and new terror watch list rules.
But, added Obama, "When the system fails, it is myresponsibility."
His remarks were delayed twice as officials scrambled todeclassify a report on the failures. That report was releasedimmediately after he spoke.
The White House is anxious to resolve and move beyond the issue,which threatens to damage the president politically in an electionyear and distract further from his agenda.
The unclassified six-page summary of the report given to Obamastated that U.S. intelligence officials had received unspecified"discrete pieces of intelligence" to identify 23-year-oldNigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as an al-Qaida operative andkeep him off the plane. Officials received fragments of informationas early as October, according to the report.
Although intelligence officials knew that an al-Qaida operativein Yemen posed a threat to U.S. security, officials did notincrease their focus on that threat and did not pull togetherfragments of data needed to foil the scheme, said the summary.
While the administration's report notes problems in pursuingseparate pieces of intelligence gathered before the attemptedattack, it concludes "the watch listing system is not broken" anda reorganization of the nation's counterterrorism system is notnecessary. The report, instead, calls for strengthening the processused to add suspected terrorists to watch lists.
According to the report, "a series of human errors" occurred,including a delay in the dissemination of a completed intelligencereport and the failure of CIA and counterterrorism officers tosearch all available databases for information that could have beentied to Abdulmutallab.
Unlike the run-up to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,intelligence officials shared information. But authorities did notunderstand what they had.