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Page last updated at 21:12 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Obama briefed on plane bomb security lapses

President Barack Obama in Hawaii on 28 December 2009
Obama ordered the reports after denouncing "systemic" security failures

US President Barack Obama has received reports on the security lapses that allegedly allowed a Nigerian to smuggle a bomb onto a transatlantic airliner.

He ordered the reviews after denouncing "systemic" failures in the handling of the alleged bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day.

They are expected to say agencies failed to share key information.

The US was reportedly aware weeks ago that "a Nigerian" in Yemen was preparing an attack.

Mr Obama said he would study the preliminary reports on Friday and over the weekend before meeting security chiefs on Tuesday.

'Different path'

Nigerian officials say Mr Abdulmutallab had begun his journey in Ghana and spent less than half an hour in Nigeria before boarding a flight to Amsterdam.

There he changed planes for a US-bound flight with 289 people aboard.

Photograph of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab supplied by US officials (28 December 2009)
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged over the incident

He was tackled by passengers and crew as he allegedly tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear using a liquid-filled syringe, shortly before Northwest Airlines Flight 253 landed in Detroit.

He has been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft and is being held at a federal prison in Michigan.

The US news website Politico quoted officials involved in the security reviews as saying information that could have prevented the failed attack had been "vague but available" to intelligence agencies.

The Washington Post reported that agencies under scrutiny include the CIA, the National Security Agency, the State Department, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) - which was established after the September 2001 attacks on the US to collate and connect intelligence sharing efforts.

"The right information did not get to the right people - there's no question about that," a senior intelligence official told the newspaper.

"If all known information had been provided, we would have been down a different path."

Father's warning

After the attempt, Mr Obama acknowledged that security failures had allowed the 23-year-old to fly to the US despite family members warning officials in November that he had extremist views.

US FLIGHT ADVICE
Only one item of hand luggage, including items bought airside
BA and Virgin Atlantic not charging to check in extra hand luggage
Check in wrapped presents
Passengers subject to "pat-down" searches before boarding, on top of usual security checks
Customers to remain seated during final hour of flight
No access to hand luggage and a ban on leaving possessions or blankets on laps during this hour

The US president said he wanted to know why the warning from Mr Abdulmutallab's father did not lead to the accused being placed on a no-fly list.

"Had this critical information been shared... the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America," said Mr Obama.

Mr Abdulmutallab's father visited the US embassy in Nigeria in November to seek help in finding his son, whom he said had gone to Yemen - a known recruiting and training ground for al-Qaeda.

The father's warning was passed on by the US Department of State on 20 November.

It went not only to all US diplomatic missions and to the State Department in Washington, as well as the NCTC.

However, Mr Abdulmutallab's existing US tourist visa - giving him multiple entry rights for two years from June 2008 - was not revoked.

'No concerns'

A group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the botched attack.

Mr Abdulmutallab has reportedly told investigators that he trained in Yemen with al-Qaeda from August to early December, after an earlier visit to the country in 2004-2005.

Map

Unnamed Yemeni security officials said he had stayed on in Yemen illegally after his visa expired three months ago and should have been prevented from leaving the country, AP reports.

He had a visa to study Arabic at an institute in the capital, Sanaa, officials were quoted as telling the agency, but his student visa expired on 21 September.



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