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Obama: US Intelligence Could Have Stopped Airline Plot

VOA News 05 January 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama says U.S. intelligence agencies had enough evidence to disrupt a plot to blow up a plane on December 25, but failed to do what was needed to stop the terror attempt.

The president met his national security team Tuesday for what officials called a "candid update" after the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight.

Mr. Obama said his government has taken steps in recent days to make the American public safe, including additional screening and security at airports and a thorough update to the nation's so-called no-fly and terrorist watchlists.

Mr. Obama says he has asked for specific recommendations for reforms to fix the human and systemic failures that allowed the bomb plot to proceed.

FBI Director Robert Mueller briefed the president on the investigation, while Attorney General Eric Holder covered the prosecution of the 23-year-old suspect. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano provided a review of terrorist detection techniques.

Mr. Obama ordered the review to determine how the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, could have brought explosives onto the U.S.-bound flight, even after the suspect's father had warned U.S. officials about his son's radical views.

Tuesday, Dutch prosecutors said they did not find any evidence that Abdulmutallab had accomplices at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. The prosecutors said that after studying more than 200 hours of security camera footage, it appears the suspect already had the explosives with him when he arrived at the airport from Nigeria.

After the suspect's father warned U.S. authorities in Nigeria, Abdulmutallab, who was studying in Yemen, was placed on a U.S. terror watch list but not on the no-fly list, which would have prevented him from flying into the United States.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. State Department says it revoked the U.S. visas of a number of individuals, including the suspect in the airliner plot, Abdulmutallab. A department spokesman said the revocations were a result of the ongoing White House security review.

The U.S. government has increased security screening for people traveling "from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism," listed by the State Department as Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria - as well as "other countries of interest" - Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.

Some information for this report was provided by AP..

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