White House officials say the president has been briefed regularly and has held secured conference calls with administration officials. But he has no plans to change his travel schedule, a move that has drawn criticism from some Republicans who say the Obama administration hasn't done enough to prevent such terror attacks.
Napolitano's remarks on Sunday to CNN brought a sharp rebuke from Rep. Peter King of New York, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.
"It's not reassuring when the secretary of Homeland Security says the system worked," King said. "It failed in every respect."
The Senate Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing next month to examine U.S. security measures.
"We were very lucky this time, but we may not be so lucky next time, which is why our defenses must be strengthened," committee chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a written statement. "What we know about the Abdulmutallab case raises two big, urgent questions that we are holding this hearing to answer: Why aren't airline passengers flying into the U.S. checked against the broadest terrorist database and why isn't whole body scanning technology that can detect explosives in wider use?"
Abdulmutallab's family had warned U.S. authorities of the increased radicalization of their son, a student at a London university until 2008. His father went to the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Abuja Nov. 19 to report that he believed his son was being radicalized.
On Nov. 20, the embassy sent out a cable to U.S. embassies worldwide and to the U.S. counterterrorism community alerting them to the information that was provided by Abdulmutallab's father. An intelligence source told ABC News the cable from the State Department noted that the father expressed concern about his son's association with extremists.
There are hundreds of walk-ins to embassies reporting various threats. The State Department's cable triggered the entry into a database run and maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center, but no further threat information was entered because the State Department cable did not contain any specific information about who the son was associated with and the threat they posed.
One senior State Department official did not dispute the possibility -- but could not confirm -- that the State Department may not have realized in November that the individual already held a U.S. visa but noted that someone else in the government, such as security or counterterrorism agencies, would also have had access to that information.
Abdulmutallab has warned that there are more men like him but U.S. officials have no evidence that the incident was one in a wave of planned attacks. Officials will take Abdulmutallab's DNA sample later today, a fairly routine procedure in a case like this.
A hearing was scheduled for Abdulmutallab today, but a spokesperson for federal prosecutors said it was canceled. There will be a preliminary hearing Jan. 8.
Abdulmutallab's mission was already in full effect the moment he boarded the plane in Amsterdam, according to ABC News sources.
He had a visa to enter the United States despite his being on the terror watch list. And he paid $3,000 in cash to purchase his ticket, checking no luggage.