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Obama Cites Intel Failures In Attempted Airline Attack

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States had enough information to uncover the plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, but failed to put all the bits and pieces of intelligence together.  Mr. Obama spoke after a long meeting with his Cabinet and national security team.

President Obama says the U.S. intelligence community had information leading to a possible terrorist strike on American targets.   But he says no one put all the elements together.

"The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and to potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack," said President Obama. "But our intelligence community failed to connect those dots."

He says the intelligence community must and will do better, saying American lives are at stake.

"I will accept that intelligence by its nature is imperfect," said Mr. Obama. "But it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged.  That is not acceptable. And I will not tolerate it."

The president spoke after a lengthy meeting with key cabinet and agency heads involved in all aspects of aviation security and counter-terrorism.

He said they looked at results of two studies he ordered shortly after the attempted attack: a review of airline screening procedures and another on the computerized government lists of individuals who might pose a security risk.

"I made it clear today to my team that I want our initial reviews completed this week," said President Obama. "I want specific recommendations for corrective actions to fix what went wrong.  I want those reforms implemented immediately so that this doesn't happen again and so we can prevent future attacks."

The president has said those responsible for security lapses will be held accountable.  But in his brief comments at the White House, he made no mention of any punitive action.   

Earlier, spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked if the president still has full confidence in Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair.

"He does and those agencies will continue to take part in this review process and we'll continue to find out what happened," said Robert Gibbs.

White House officials have also made clear they will not revisit plans to close the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Several detainees returned to Yemen from Guantanamo Bay are now known to have links to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has been linked to the attempted airline attack.   President Obama said there will be no further transfers to Yemen for now, but Guantanamo will be shut down.

"Make no mistake," said Mr. Obama. "We will close Guantanamo prison which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaida."

The president vowed once again to defeat, dismantle and destroy al-Qaida.  He said just as the terrorists adapt to changing conditions, so will the United States.

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