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Published: Friday, 1/1/2010

Obama given briefing on missteps leading to failed attack over Detroit

FROM THE BLADE'S NEWS SERVICES

HONOLULU - U.S. security chiefs briefed President Obama yesterday about missteps in the attempted Detroit jetliner bombing as lawmakers joined the White House in racing to find out what went wrong.

The Senate Intelligence Committee announced Jan. 21 hearings as part of an investigation.

Vacationing in Hawaii, Mr. Obama received a preliminary assessment ahead of meetings he is to hold in Washington next week on the nation's anti-terrorism policy.

Mr. Obama spoke with counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who announced she was dispatching senior department officials to international airports to review security procedures.

Administration officials said the system to protect the nation's skies from terrorists is deeply flawed and the government failed to follow its own directives.

The preliminary assessment is part of a continuing examination that officials said is highlighting signals that should not have been missed. One likely outcome, they said, is new requirements to review a suspicious person's visa status.

Democrats are joining a chorus led by Mr. Obama in declaring the government's intelligence procedures in need of repair.

Among them, Rep. Jane Harman (D., Calif.) said that when the government gets tipped to trouble as it did before a Nigerian man boarded a Detroit-bound jet with explosives, "someone's hair should be on fire."

Instead, his anxious father's pointed warning that 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had drifted into extremism in Yemen, an al-Qaeda hotbed, was only partially digested by the U.S. security apparatus and was not linked with a visa history.

That was one prominent lapse the review is addressing, said U.S. officials familiar with the process.

The State Department received no request to revoke Abdulmutallab's visa, spokesman Ian Kelly said.

In other developments:

•Abdulmutallab began his journey in Ghana and spent less than 30 minutes in Nigeria's Lagos airport, the Nigerian government said yesterday.

He had been thought to have started his journey on Dec. 24 in Nigeria, where he boarded a KLM flight to Amsterdam that went on to Detroit.

Nigerian and Dutch officials have said he went through the normal security screenings at both Lagos and Amsterdam.

•A Somali court acquitted and released a suspect who tried to board a plane in Mogadishu in November with chemicals and a syringe - materials similar to those used in the attempted attack against the Detroit-bound airliner.

That will hamper U.S. investigators' efforts to learn if the two attempted attacks were linked.



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