Obama Vows to Disrupt and Dismantle Terrorists in Wake of US Plane Incident
Jim Malone | Washington 28 December 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States will use every element of its national power to thwart and defeat enemies seeking to launch terror attacks. Mr. Obama's remarks came in the wake of Friday's foiled bomb attack on a U.S. airliner.
President Obama made a brief statement in Hawaii where he and his family are vacationing for the Christmas holiday.
The president outlined a series of steps designed to enhance airline security in the wake of Friday's incident in which a Nigerian national allegedly tried to detonate explosives aboard a Northwest Airlines jet en route from Amsterdam to Detroit.
Mr. Obama sought to reassure Americans in the wake of the incident that the government is doing all it can to protect citizens from terrorist attacks and to keep up the pressure on those who would attack the United States.
"We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us -- whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland," Mr. Obama said.
A group known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the airline attack in an Internet statement on Monday. There was no independent verification of the claim by the group, which said the bombing attempt on the airliner was in response to U.S. efforts targeting al-Qaida in Yemen.
President Obama said he has ordered a review of the process of how terror suspects are added to the government's terror watch list and the so-called no fly list.
The suspect being held in connection with the attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was listed in a government intelligence database that includes those with possible links to terrorism. But he was not included on the terror watch list or the no fly list.
Abdulmutallab is charged with trying to detonate explosives aboard the Northwest Airlines flight. The suspect suffered burns as he attempted to ignite an explosive material known as PETN. Abdulmutallab was restrained by passengers and crew. He is now being held in a prison in Michigan.
Abdulmutallab bought his plane ticket with cash and traveled with little luggage -- indications that often trigger the attention of security officials. He did have a valid U.S. visa, even though his name was in a government database of people who might have terrorist ties. That is one of several aspects of the case that U.S. officials are investigating.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke on NBC television's "Today" program.
"How did this individual get on the plane? Why wasn't the explosive material detected? What do we need to do to change perhaps the rules that have been in place since 2006 for moving somebody from the generic TIDE [i.e., Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment] data base to a more elevated status? All of that is under review right now," Napolitano said.
Abdulmutallab's family says their son cut off contact with them months ago. And the suspect's father raised concerns with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria that his son was becoming radicalized.
Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says that should have raised concerns about Abdulmutallab's visa status.
"There was a point in the last month that this individual's father came to the embassy and gave them some information. At that point, I think, someone should have looked at the visa that had been previously given and suspended it," Chertoff said.
Government prosecutors want to obtain a DNA sample from the suspect, but a federal judge has postponed a hearing to consider that request until January 8.
In the wake of the incident, airline and airport security measures have been tightened in the U.S. and abroad.
This woman arrived in the United States on Monday from Europe and described what she went through with security checks.
"He went through each person's carry-on baggage. They did pat you down. An hour before we landed, we could not get up out of our seats and everything that we had had to be stowed," she said.
Security experts say more precise imaging machines may have detected the explosive material that Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to ignite, but those machines are costly and are in limited use at most airports.
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