January 8th, 2010 09:29 EST
Airline Security Measures Heightened
By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington - The United States is strengthening airline security measures and taking other corrective actions in the aftermath of a thwarted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day, President Obama announced at the White House January 7.
Obama outlined four areas that two top-level reviews have indicated need correcting to prevent a similar incident from happening. However, part of the problem, the president said, is that the U.S. intelligence community had sufficient information about the alleged terrorist and the possibility of an attack, but because of lapses and miscues, authorities did not intercept him before he boarded a flight to the United States from Europe.
"We must do better in keeping dangerous people off airplanes while still facilitating air travel," Obama said. "I`m ordering an immediate effort to strengthen the criteria used to add individuals to our terrorist watch lists, especially the no-fly list."
Obama said he is directing the U.S. intelligence community to immediately assign personnel to investigate all leads on high-priority threats and to implement wider and more rapid distribution of intelligence reports, especially those involving potential threats, and a strengthening of the analysis process to support the other measures. Because much of the recommendations involve highly classified intelligence operations, full details will not be made public.
"Taken together, these reforms will improve the intelligence community`s ability to collect, share, integrate, analyze and act on intelligence swiftly and effectively," Obama said. "They will help our intelligence community do its job even better and protect American lives."
"There is no foolproof solution," Obama said. "As we develop new screening technologies and procedures, our adversaries will seek new ways to evade them, as was shown by the Christmas attack."
The White House also released a declassified report on the incident that explains how a man with a bomb hidden in his clothes was able to elude intensified airport screening measures. The man was already on a U.S. watch list, but it was not enough to prevent him from boarding a flight in Amsterdam, U.S. officials have said.
A federal indictment issued in Michigan January 6 alleges that 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria attempted to detonate a make-shift bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25, 2009. Abdulmutallab was arrested by federal agents after the airplane with 289 passengers and crew aboard landed safely at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
In the six-count federal indictment, a grand jury charged Abdulmutallab with attempted murder on an airplane, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, willful attempt to destroy or wreck an airplane, willfully placing a destructive device on an airplane, use of a destructive device during and related to a crime of violence, and possession of a destructive device in the commission of a crime of violence, the U.S. Justice Department said.
"The charges that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab faces could imprison him for life," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "This investigation is fast-paced, global and ongoing, and it has already yielded valuable intelligence that we will follow wherever it leads. Anyone we find responsible for this alleged attack will be brought to justice using every tool, military or judicial, available to our government."
Abdulmutallab is charged in the indictment with attempting to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it was landing at the Detroit airport. The indictment said a bomb was concealed in Abdulmutallab`s clothing and was designed to allow him to detonate it at a time of his choosing. The bomb failed to detonate after Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to ignite it.
"Shortly prior to landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab [attempted to detonate] the bomb, causing a fire on board Flight 253," the indictment said. He was subdued and restrained by the passengers and crew, it said, and taken into custody by federal agents once the plane landed.
The federal indictment said the bomb components included pentaerythritol, also known as PETN, which is a high explosive, and triacetone triperoxide, also known as TATP, another high explosive, and related ingredients.
The prosecution of the case against Abdulmutallab will be handled by the U.S. Attorney`s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department`s National Security Division.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)