Obama expects accountability for 'catastrophic' breach (Roundup)
By Chris Cermak Dec 29, 2009, 22:39 GMT
US President Barack Obama gives a short statement to the travelling media at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, located at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, USA, 29 December 2009. EPA/CORY LUM / POOL
Washington - US President Barack Obama on Tuesday slammed his intelligence community for a near 'catastrophic breach' that could have brought down a US airliner on Christmas Day, and promised to hold people accountable for the failure to stop the plot.
'There was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security,' Obama said in a radio message from vacation in Hawaii. 'We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system, because our security is at stake and lives are at stake.'
Obama has ordered reviews of flight screening procedures and an investigation into how the government deals with people suspected of terrorist ties. Obama said the White House expected preliminary findings by Thursday and a fuller review in the coming weeks.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, has been charged with attempting to destroy Friday's Delta/Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam as it was near landing in Detroit. The explosives he allegedly smuggled onto the plane failed to detonate.
Obama said Abdulmutallab should never have been allowed on a plane to the United States after his father, a Nigerian businessman, warned US officials last month that his son may have become radicalized.
'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.
Abdulmutallab had been on a low-level US government database of more than 500,000 people suspected of terrorist ties, but was never placed on a much more restrictive no-fly list.
Obama warned that, as he awaits the results of the inquiries, he would 'insist on accountability at every level.' He did not say whether the failed plot would prompt any resignations.
Aside from the failure to place Abdulmutallab on a no-fly list, critics have questioned how the suspect was able to get through airport security screening in Amsterdam with PETN explosives hidden in his underwear.
One opposition Republican, Congressman Dan Burton, called Tuesday for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
It also emerged Tuesday that two former detainees of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility are among four suspected terrorists that may have plotted the failed attack in Yemen.
Muhamad Attik al-Harbi and Said Ali Shari were sent to Saudi Arabia in November 2007 and later released. They are among four suspected terrorists in Yemen that may have helped organize Friday's failed plot, ABC News reported, citing US officials and Defence Department documents. Al-Harbi has since changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, has claimed responsibility for the failed attack and Abdulmutallab has reportedly said he was trained there by al-Qaeda.
Yemen's foreign ministry said Monday that Abdulmutallab was in the country from August to early December, attending Arabic language classes.
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