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Obama says 'systemic failure' allowed alleged bomber on board airplane


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 29, 2009

 

President Barack Obama said today that “;a systemic failure”; allowed the attempted Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam. He called it “;totally unacceptable.”;

The president said he wants preliminary results by Thursday from two investigations he has ordered to examine the many lapses that occurred. It will take weeks for a more comprehensive investigation into the “;catastrophic breach of security”; that allowed a 23-year-old Nigerian carrying explosives onto the flight despite the fact the suspect had possible ties to al-Qaida, Obama said.

For the second day in a row, Obama interrupted his Hawaiian holiday vacation to talk about the failed terrorism attempt.

Obama, speaking at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, said today “;it's essential we diagnosis the problems quickly.”;

The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was on one advisory list, but never made it onto more restrictive lists that would have caught the attention of U.S. counterterrorist screeners, despite his father's warnings to U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria last month. Those warnings also did not result in Abdulmutallab's U.S. visa being revoked.

On top of that, airport security equipment did not detect the bomb-making devices and materials he allegedly carried on board.

Obama said many things went right after the incident, with passengers and the flight crew subduing the man and government officials working quickly to increase security. He singled out his homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, backing her much-criticized comments that the attempted terror attack showed the aviation security system worked.

“;As Secretary Napolitano has said, once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253, after his attempt, it's clear that passengers and crew, our homeland security systems, and our aviation security took all appropriate actions,”; Obama said.

Napolitano received so much criticism for her Sunday talk show remarks that she did another round of interviews the following day to say the system did not work in preventing Abdulmutallab from getting on the plane with a bomb. But, she said, the response system did work after the man was subdued. She contends her remarks were taken out of context.

Republicans are questioning her judgment and a few have called for her resignation. The White House says her job is safe.

However, Obama said: “;What's also clear is this: When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been ... a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable.”;

Obama said deficiencies in the system allowed the suspect to get as far as he did. Obama said he wants to hear exactly what went wrong.

The two reviews, which Obama said got under way on Sunday, are looking at airport security procedures and the U.S. system of terror watchlists.

“;It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list,”; Obama said. “;Even without this one report, there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together.”;

Had that happened, he said, “;the warning signs would have triggered red flags, and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.”;

Obama also addressed the media yesterday from the Marine base, saying he had ordered the security review.

Earlier today, Obama worked out at the Semper Fit gym on the base, as he has done every morning since arriving Dec. 24.