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US failed to read terror plot signals

President Obama declared on Tuesday that there had been a “systemic failure” of the nation’s security apparatus after being told about more missed signals....

Written by New York Times | Honululu |
December 31, 2009 2:48:25 am

President Obama declared on Tuesday that there had been a “systemic failure” of the nation’s security apparatus after being told about more missed signals and uncorrelated intelligence that should have prevented a would-be bomber from boarding a flight for the United States.

Obama was told during a briefing while in Hawaii that the government had information before the thwarted bombing that would have been a warning sign had it been shared among agencies,a senior official said.

Two officials said the government had intelligence from Yemen before Friday that leaders of a branch of al-Qaeda there were talking about “a Nigerian” being prepared for a terrorist attack. While the information did not include a name,officials said it would have been evident had it been compared with information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab,the 23-year-old Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit on December 25.

The government also had information about where Abdulmutallab had been and what some of his plans were. The information was partial or incomplete,the official said,but in retrospect it now appears clear that had it all been examined together it would have pointed to the attack.

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Obama,in his second public statement on the matter in two days,announced that a review already had revealed a breakdown in the intelligence system. “A systemic failure has occurred,and I consider that totally unacceptable,” Obama said. He said he had ordered government agencies to give him a preliminary report on Thursday about what happened. Obama suggested that he would overhaul the watch-list system. “We’ve achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information (on terror),” he said. “But it’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date.”

Abdulmutallab came to the attention of the American authorities when his father went to the embassy last month to report that his son had expressed radical views. Paul Gimigliano,a CIA spokesman,said was the first time the agency had heard of the Nigerian. “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 of the father’s warning.

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