President Barack Obama yesterday publicly outlined the intelligence failures that allowed a Nigerian man to board Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas with high explosives and attempt to detonate the mixture in-flight.
"In sum, the U.S. government had the information -- scattered throughout the system -- to potentially uncover this plot and disrupt the attack," President Obama said, addressing the nation. "Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had."
In response to the botched Christmas Day attack by 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, President Obama said he has initiated four broad-based reforms to discover, disrupt, and deter future terrorist attacks.
First, I'm directing that our intelligence community immediately begin assigning specific responsibility for investigating all leads on high-priority threats so that these leads are pursued and acted upon aggressively -- not just most of the time, but all of the time. We must follow the leads that we get. And we must pursue them until plots are disrupted. And that mean assigning clear lines of responsibility.
Second, I'm directing that intelligence reports, especially those involving potential threats to the United States, be distributed more rapidly and more widely. We can't sit on information that could protect the American people.
Third, I'm directing that we strengthen the analytical process, how our analysis -- how our analysts process and integrate the intelligence that they receive. My Director of National Intelligence, Denny Blair, will take the lead in improving our day-to-day efforts. My Intelligence Advisory Board will examine the longer-term challenge of sifting through vast universes of intelligence and data in our Information Age.
And finally, I'm ordering an immediate effort to strengthen the criteria used to add individuals to our terrorist watchlists, especially the "no fly" list. We must do better in keeping dangerous people off airplanes, while still facilitating air travel.
So taken together, these reforms will improve the intelligence community's ability to collect, share, integrate, analyze, and act on intelligence swiftly and effectively. In short, they will help our intelligence community do its job even better and protect American lives.
After the President addressed the nation, a slew of reports and press releases were released dissecting what went wrong leading up to Christmas Day and what the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security will do in the future to protect the lives of Americans and those traveling to the United States.
♦ Photo of President Obama by The White House