Obama: 'Human and Systemic Failures' to Blame in the Terror Plot

Supporters say the president reacted appropriately in ordering security reviews.

ByABC News via logo
December 29, 2009, 7:37 AM

Dec. 29, 2009— -- President Obama bluntly admitted today that "human and systemic failures" in the U.S. security system led a 23-year-old Nigerian man to get on board U.S.-bound Flight 253 in an attempt to blow it up Christmas Day.

The president said the preliminary information from the reviews he has ordered "raises some serious concerns," and he said intelligence agencies need to act quickly to fix those flaws.

The warning that was provided by the father of terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was not effectively distributed, so his name was not added to the no-fly list.

"There were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together," the president said.

The president's tone was markedly different from yesterday, when he addressed the incident for the first time. On Monday, Obama spoke cautiously about the reviews he had ordered and praised the passengers who stopped the attack, but today he was tougher, saying frankly that there were deficiencies in the security system that should have been pieced together.

"When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occcurred, and I consider that totally unacceptable," the president said from Hawaii.

"The system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have," he said.

While the president acknowledged the lapse in security, he praised security professionals for keeping Americans safe.

A preliminary report on the two reviews Obama ordered will be completed by this Thursday and a more comprehensive review will be completed in the coming weeks, the president said. Obama had called for two security reviews: one to assess terror-watch list procedures and another to determine how the suspect was able to get explosives onto the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The Obama administration has come under fire from critics who said the president waited too long to address the nation publicly about the Christmas Day terror plot and that his administration has not been tough enough on terrorism.

The mostly partisan attacks came after Friday's attempt by a Nigerian national to blow up Northwest Flight 253 as it approached Detroit. Terror plots in the past have tended to unite the two parties, but recent attacks have departed from that norm.