President Will Push Today for Intelligence Community to Constantly Challenge Its Assumptions

Jan 5, 2010 7:08am

President Obama convenes a meeting of national security officials in the Situation Room today to look at the events leading to Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up Northwest Flight #253 on Christmas Day.

His purpose for today’s meeting is clear: what went wrong? And how can the U.S. government make sure it never happens again?

White House sources say President Obama will present concrete reforms. ABC News has learned that one component will deal with examining and updating the assumptions of the intelligence community and making those assumptions more flexible.

An example: in 2002 a Nigerian traveling to Yemen might not have meant much to the intelligence community. But now with a considerable al Qaeda presence in West Africa and Yemen, such an event means a lot. The intelligence community’s ability to change its assumptions needs to be more supple, the president believes.

Other steps already in the midst of implementation:

• The Transportation Security Administration has already begun more stringent screening of passengers, including greater scrutiny of passengers from 14 select countries each with a serious al Qaeda presence.

• Intelligence officials have started more scrutiny of their expansive terrorist databases and adding individuals to the smaller list of passengers who must be screened before flights or to the no-fly lists.
• The State Department has started more aggressively rejecting and rescinding travel visas to the US.

In the Situation Room this afternoon the President’s meeting will begin with FBI Director Robert Mueller giving an update on the investigation, followed by Attorney General Holder who will provide details about the prosecution of Abudlmuttalab. The president will then hear the two reviews he ordered — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will present one on detecting threats to airplanes and White House Homeland Security adviser John Brennan will present his findings on intelligence failures. Each agency head will discuss the findings of their own internal reviews and progress in implementing reforms.

For more on this story, read HERE.

Watch our GMA report:

– jpt


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