U.S. Shuts Embassy in Yemen, Battles to Beat Back Al Qaeda Surge

"I've been right on the facts all along on this -- on the recent attacks, the connections with Yemen," he said. "I've been trying to drive this administration in a policy direction that keeps America safe."

Counterterror Official: No 'Smoking Gun' on Abdulmutallab

Just like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged with trying to blow up Flight 253, was known to the CIA and had been on a U.S. watch list before the Northwest flight, there have been other instances where the government overlooked terror threats.

Before the June 2009 Little Rock Army recruiting booth fatal shooting of one soldier and the critical injury of another, Muslim convert Abdulhakim Muhammed had been under investigation by the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force since his return from Yemen.

Similarly, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was the subject of a federal inquiry before the Fort Hood shootings.

After the failed terror attack against Flight 253 Christmas Day, the president ordered reports from the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.

But when asked on "This Week" where the system failed, the president's top counterterrorism official refused to pinpoint one government agency.

"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," Brennan said, "What we had, looking back at it now, were a number of streams of information."

Brennan said the U.S. government had "snippets" of intelligence about Abdulmutallab, but nothing connecting all of the information together.

"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," Brennan said.

Brennan, one of the architects of the National Counterterrorism Center, argued cross-agency intelligence sharing has gotten better since the Sept. 11 attacks, but admitted more work needs to be done in stitching intelligence together.

"All of the information was shared, except that there are millions upon millions of bits of data that come in on a regular basis. What we need to do is make sure the system is robust enough that we can bring that information to the surface that really is a threat concern," he said. "We need to make the system stronger. That's what the president is determined to do."

Asked why the U.S. intelligence community doesn't seem to have to the connection ability of Facebook, with its 350 million users who put out 3.5 billion pieces of content a week, Brennan said: "Well, in fact, we do have the sophistication and power of Facebook and well beyond that. That's why we're able to stop Mr. Najibullah Zazi, David Headley, other individuals from carrying out attacks -- because we were able to do that on a regular basis."

But, he added, "In this one instance, the system didn't work. There were some human errors. There were some lapses. We need to strengthen it. But day in and day out, the successes are there."

Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who has long opposed the closing of Guantanamo Bay, argued a military commission should deal with Abdulmutallab.

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