Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, took to the airwaves Sunday to acknowledge the system failed in connecting the dots in the case of Abdulmutallab, but he also insisted that no obvious plot was missed.
"There was no single piece of intelligence, a smoking gun, if you will, that said that Mr. Abdulmutallab was going to carry out his attack against that aircraft. What we had, looking back at it now, were a number of streams of information," Brennan said on "This Week" Sunday.
"We may have had a partial name, we might have had an indication of a Nigerian, but there was nothing that brought it all together."
Today, Clinton also acknowledged the failure of connecting the dots in the case of Abdulmutallab, but also defended the State Department's actions. The U.S. embassy in Nigeria sent a memo to various agencies after the terror suspect's father approached Americans with concerns that his son may be getting increasingly radicalized.
"We are not satisfied. We are conducting an internal review," Clinton told reporters. "Based on what we know now, the State Department fully complied with the requirements set forth."
Republicans were less charitable with their criticism.
"There are probably a number of people who screwed up," GOP Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri said on "Fox News Sunday."
"We may need more I.T., better information systems. But with ... all of the leads dangling out there, somebody screwed up on not reporting it."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others have accused the Obama administration of not taking the fight against terrorism seriously enough.
Woodward said the administration, which is coming up on its first full year, has probably done more than its predecessors to address the growing threat of al Qaeda.
"You can't become president a year ago, as he did, and not realize we're at war. It's part of the fabric of life there, of the decisions of the intelligence briefings," Woodward said. "The information that I have about that it's very clear that the new administration has taken a very aggressive stance on these matters and are perhaps -- even more than the Bush administration -- doing more about the al Qaeda sanctuaries in places like Yemen, and again this is the key."
But, Woodward said, U.S. agencies should've at least checked if Abdulmutallab had a U.S. visa after they received intelligence from his father in Nigeria that he was being radicalized, and put him on the "no-fly" list. And security, Woodward said, should be focused on airlines but the threat could be everywhere.
"All the focus on airline security, obviously, it's a big deal but al Qaeda has capabilities to do other things -- how about trains, how about buses," Woodward said. "The administration has to worry about being like the generals fighting the last war, you can't fight the last terrorist attack it could come anywhere, any place."
White House Officials have aggressively pushed back against criticism that the administration is not focused on al Qaeda, pointing to how much more attention and resources they have sent to places such as Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan than the prior administration.
"Throughout this year, the president has urged greater focus on and investment in the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and on support for the government of Yemen and other regional partners' efforts against those extremists," a senior administration official said.