The Reviews

Dec 27, 2009 8:33pm

ABC News' Yunji de Nies reports: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced today that President Barack Obama has asked for two reviews, to figure out first, which agencies knew what about the suspected terrorist when, and second, how he was able to get explosives onto a plane.
"On our watch-listing procedures, did the government do everything that it could have with the information that they had?" Gibbs told ABC's Jake Tapper, "Did we do what we needed to with that information, and how can we revise watch listing procedures going forward to ensure that there is no clog in the bureaucratic plumbing of information that might be gathered somewhere going to the very highest levels of security in our government."
The review of current policies and procedures regarding watch-listing will cover a number of federal agencies, all involved in the watch-listing system, including the FBI-administered Terrorist Screening Center, the National Counterterrorism, the Intelligence Community, as well as the Homeland Security and the State Departments. The White House says the President wants of all the information the government had on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before December 25th, all of the decision made on why his name may or may not have been included in government databases for known or suspected terrorists.
The Intelligence Community has a central repository for information on known and suspected international terrorists called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), which currently lists 550,000 individuals. More than 400,000 of those individuals are part of the Terrorist Screening Data Base (TSBD) which is primary database that the U.S. government uses for international terrorism.  Less than 4,000 of those listed in TSDB are the “No Fly” list and another 14,000 names are on the “Selectee” list, which calls for mandatory secondary screening.  The suspect's father spoke to the U.S. Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, which resulted in a TIDE record for his son Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in November 2009.  But based on existing watch list criteria, it was determined that there there was insufficient information to add him to the terrorist watch list, the no fly list or the mandatory secondary screening list, and so Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was not “watch-listed”as of 25 December 2009. 
The second review that President Obama has asked for will focus on what may have gone wrong with the pre-flight screening.
"Obviously we have to review our detection capabilities. The President has asked the Department of Homeland Security to, quite frankly, answer the very real question about how somebody with something as dangerous as PETN could have gotten onto a plane in Amsterdam," Gibbs said.
The White House says the President has asked DHS, specifically the Transportation Security Administration, to preview its practices and capabilities. He specifically wants to understand how the explosive material was brought onto the plane, and how to make sure that cannot happen again.   "Such reviews as called for by the President are prudent steps that should be taken in the aftermath of all such incidents," explained White House Spokesman Nick Shapiro, "They do not imply that mistakes were made by the women and men who work every day to protect our country. Rather, they are part of an ongoing effort to constantly improve our security posture and take into account attempts by terrorists to circumvent existing procedures." Shapiro said that at this point there is no timeline for the reviews yet, as the White House is still determining the details and scope.

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