Obama Releases Security Review of Attempted Bombing

Report singles out the NCTC and CIA for failures to "connect the dots."

ByABC News
January 7, 2010, 10:30 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2010— -- PPresident Obama said "a systemic failure" in the intelligence community was to blame for not uncovering the Christmas Day plane bomb plot but that any failures were ultimately his responsibility.

"This incident was not the fault of a single individual or organization, but rather a systemic failure across organizations and agencies," the president said at the White House. "Ultimately, the buck stops with me."

Obama made his remarks as his administration released a declassified version of its review of the Christmas Day plane bomb plot, which detailed the "human and systemic" failures that allegedly allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board a U.S.-bound plane with explosives and pointed a finger at two key intelligence agencies.

While the entire intelligence community has received some criticism from the administration in recent days, the report focused considerable scrutiny upon the National Counterterrorism Center and the CIA.

"Though all the information was available to all source analysts at the CIA and NCTC prior to the attempted attack, the dots were never connected," the report reads. "As a result, the problem appears to be more about a component failure to connect the dots, rather than a lack of information sharing."

The counterterrorism center, which was designed to put the nation's 16 intelligence and law enforcement agencies in one building and force them to work together, failed to take aggressive action after receiving a State Department cable in November that a prominent Nigerian businessman warned about his son being radicalized by extremists in Yemen, according to the report.

Intelligence gathered by the CIA on the Nigerian bombing suspect aboard Northwest flight 253 also was not disseminated in an urgent manner to the counterterrorism center, the review concluded.

In his remarks, Obama once again reiterated a key finding of the report and a point he made earlier this week -- that the government failed to connect the dots.

"Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had," Obama said.

Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, was candid in his analysis of the system's failures.

"I told the president that I let him down," Brennan said in a briefing at the White House. "I told him that I will do better and we will do better as a team."

Over the past year, Brennan added, the intelligence community has "done a stellar job in protecting the homeland," but, "in this one instance we did not rise to that same level of competence."

The president outlined additional steps he has ordered across multiple government agencies to correct mistakes made in the lead-up to the Christmas Day plot.

The directives included quicker and wider distribution of intelligence reports, strengthening the process by which intelligence analysts process and integrate information and strengthening the criteria used to add to terrorist watch lists.