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Obama: Agencies Failed to 'Connect' Intelligence on Failed Airline Plot

VOA News 07 January 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama says U.S. agencies failed to "connect and understand" intelligence that could have kept an alleged bomber off a jetliner that flew to Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.

Speaking to the nation Thursday, President Obama said America's first line of defense is intelligence shared and acted on quickly and effectively. But Mr. Obama said shortcomings occurred in this incident and that ultimately he, the president, is responsible when the system fails.

The president said he is less interested in passing out blame than learning from and correcting these mistakes.

President Obama said he has ordered changes in the way information on potential threats is handled, and is telling the intelligence community to assign what he called "clear lines of responsibility" for immediately pursuing leads on those threats.

He said he also wants to strengthen the way people are added to the U.S. terror watch and no-fly lists.

He spoke as the White House released a summary of its preliminary review of the attempted terrorist attack. Authorities are looking into how the suspect, a Nigerian man with alleged extremist links, was able to bring explosives on board and travel to the United States, even after the U.S. had intelligence on him.

The preliminary review says the preponderance of the intelligence related to the plot was available broadly to the intelligence community.

The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was charged Wednesday in Michigan with six criminal counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder. He is accused of trying to blow up the Northwest Airlines plane with explosives concealed in his underwear.

Attorney General Eric Holder says the investigation is fast-paced and global, and has yielded valuable intelligence.

Abdulmutallab's name was included in a broad database of individuals who are suspected of having some link to terrorism. But he was not on higher-profile watch lists that might have caught the attention of security screeners. This has raised questions about communication among government agencies and among countries.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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