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Rediff.com  » News » Obama admits to deficiencies in anti-terror system, seeks report

Obama admits to deficiencies in anti-terror system, seeks report

Last updated on: December 30, 2009 10:42 IST

US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that a "systemic failure" occurred in the intelligence network ahead of the thwarted attack on a US-bound flight from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.

"This is unacceptable," he said and asked the authorities to submit to him a preliminary report on the failed attempt by a Nigerian national to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane on December 25.

"When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred," Obama said.

"I consider that totally unacceptable," said the US president in his remarks to the press at Hawaii, where he and his family are on year-end vacation.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from Nigeria has been charged by the federal authorities with attempt to blow up the plane.

The Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attempted attack.

"The reviews I've ordered will surely tell us more. But what already is apparent is that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security.

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 said in his second statement on this issue in two consecutive days.

On Monday, Obama had issued instructions to review the terrorist watch list system and air travel screening.

On Tuesday, he issued guidelines for those reviews and directed that preliminary findings be provided to the White House by this Thursday.

"It's essential that we diagnose the problems quickly and deal with them immediately," Obama said.

"More comprehensive, formal reviews and recommendations for improvement will be completed in the coming weeks, and I'm committed to working with Congress and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country," he said.

Some of the preliminary reports appeared in the last 24 hours has raised concerns about it, he said.

"It's been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned US officials in Africa about his son's extremist views. 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.

There appears to be other deficiencies as well, said the president.

"Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together," he asserted.

"We've achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks.

But it's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have," Obama said, in his strongly worded message.

"Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged.

The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America," he said.

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