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Friday, January 08, 2010

Obama announces enhanced air security guidelines after completion of review
Andrew Morgan at 11:42 AM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Thursday called for stricter airline security measures as he announced [press release] the conclusion of two security reviews he ordered [JURIST report] after the failed attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 last month. According to an unclassified summary [text, PDF], the reviews found that the US counter-terrorism community had sufficient information about Abdulmutallab and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula [Al Jazeera backgrounder], the terrorist group with which he was affiliated, to disrupt the plot but failed to "identify, correlate, and fuse into a coherent story all of the discrete pieces of intelligence" held by US intelligence agencies. Saying that the failure to disrupt the plot "was not the fault of a single individual or organization, but rather a systemic failure across organizations and agencies," Obama outlined [remarks] a series of directives [text, PDF] he authorized to address the security lapses identified by the reviews. He said he had ordered the intelligence community to assign "specific responsibility for investigating all leads on high-priority threats," to rapidly and widely distribute intelligence reports, to rework their analytical processes to ensure integration of intelligence, and to "strengthen the criteria used to add individuals to our terrorist watchlists." At a joint press conference [transcript] Thursday, assistant to the president for counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said that the systemic failures at issue in the December 25 attempt were distinct from the failure to share information between agencies outlined by the 9/11 Commission [official website] as contributing to the success of those attacks. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano [official profile] described the use of watchlists as "the cornerstone of our efforts to prevent suspected terrorists from boarding airplanes bound for the United States" and said that her department would be working with the broader intelligence community to re-evaluate the procedures which trigger placement on the no-fly list [JURIST news archive], and increasing efforts to strengthen international aviation security standards.

On Wednesday, Abdulmutallab was indicted [JURIST report] on six counts for allegedly attempting to set off an explosive device concealed on his person on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. On Monday, civil rights groups opposed [JURIST report] stricter screening procedures [TSA press release] for passengers entering the US from 14 countries, calling the measures unconstitutional. The enhanced screening procedures will affect travelers entering the US from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Abdulmutallab was charged [JURIST report] last month with willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft or aircraft facilities in violation of 18 USC § 32 [text].

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