Obama summons intelligence chiefs to W.House meeting

Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:44pm GMT
 

KANEOHE, Hawaii (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has summoned the heads of U.S. intelligence agencies for a meeting on Tuesday to discuss ways of preventing a repeat of the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on December 25.

Seeking to counter criticism of his administration over an intelligence breakdown, Obama on Thursday said he expected to receive assessments from several intelligence agencies Thursday evening and would review them during the weekend.

Obama had ordered an immediate review of what he called "human and systemic failures" that allowed the accused bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian with alleged links to Islamic militants, to board the plane in Amsterdam for a trans-Atlantic flight.

"On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations," Obama said in a statement issued while on vacation in Hawaii.

The preliminary report is expected to detail the intelligence lapses that allowed Abdulmutallab to board the Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit on Christmas Day with what authorities said were explosives sewn into his clothes.

The Nigerian suspect flew from Africa to Amsterdam, where he boarded the Northwest flight to Detroit.

The report will also make recommendations on improving the sharing of information between the United States' 16 intelligence agencies.

The director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, said earlier this week that gaps remained despite dramatic improvements in the sharing of information since the September 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks on the United States.

Obama, a Democrat, is under pressure from opposition Republicans, who fault his administration for not preventing the attack and the president for keeping silent about it for three days while on vacation in Hawaii.

Republicans portrayed Obama as weak on national security even as he campaigned for last year's presidential election, and have sought to push that point before mid-term elections in November, when they will challenge the Democrats' control of both houses of the U.S. Congress.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, writing by Ross Colvin and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Paul Simao)

<p>Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is shown in this booking photograph released by the U.S. Marshals Service December 28, 2009. REUTERS/US Marshals Service/Handout</p>
 
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