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National security adviser: Airline bomber report to ‘shock'

Jan. 7, 2010 - 09:48AM   |  
By SUSAN PAGE   |   Comments
National Security Adviser James Jones says those reading the account being released of missed clues surrounding the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight will feel "a certain shock."
National Security Adviser James Jones says those reading the account being released of missed clues surrounding the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight will feel "a certain shock." (FILE PHOTO)

White House national security adviser James Jones says Americans will feel "a certain shock" when they read an account being released Thursday of the missed clues that could have prevented the alleged Christmas Day bomber from ever boarding the plane.

President Obama "is legitimately and correctly alarmed that things that were available, bits of information that were available, patterns of behavior that were available, were not acted on," Jones said in an interview Wednesday.

"That's two strikes," Obama's top White House aide on defense and foreign policy issues said, referring to the foiled bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner and the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in November. In that case, too, officials failed to act when red flags were raised about an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Hasan. He has been charged with killing 13 people.

Jones said Obama "certainly doesn't want that third strike, and neither does anybody else."

The White House plans to release an unclassified report Thursday on what went wrong in the incident involving a 23-year-old Nigerian man who tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight.

In Detroit on Wednesday, the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was indicted on charges that include attempted murder and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction to kill nearly 300 people. Abdulmutallab, who faces life in prison if convicted, is to appear for the first time in federal court on Friday.

Abdulmutallab has told investigators that he was trained and equipped in Yemen by a group affiliated with al-Qaida. His father had gone to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to warn American officials that his son seemed to be turning to extremist ideology.

Even so, Abdulmutallab's visa to the U.S. wasn't revoked and he wasn't placed on the "no-fly" list.

Jones said the remedies involve "tweaks" rather than the overhaul that followed the Sept. 11 attacks for instance, hiring for intelligence agencies so analysts aren't overwhelmed by their workload.

"We know what happened, we know what didn't happen, and we know how to fix it," Jones, a retired four-star Marine general, said in an interview in his West Wing office. "That should be an encouraging aspect. We don't have to reinvent anything to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said a "very comprehensive no-fly list" would be "the greatest protection our country has." In an interview, she said the definition of who can be included should be expanded to include anyone about whom there is "a reasonable suspicion."

Susan Page reports for USA Today.

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