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Obama Takes Responsibility For Security Lapses in Failed Airliner Attack

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U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States will take steps to ensure the intelligence and security failures that led to the Christmas Day attempted attack on a Detroit-bound airliner do not happen again.  The president says ultimately, responsibility for the nation's security rests with him.

President Obama says no one person or agency is responsible for the lapses that cleared the way for the attempted attack. "I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting mistakes to make us safer…for ultimately, the buck stops with me.  As president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people.  And when the system fails, it is my responsibility," he said.

Mr. Obama spoke as the White House released an initial report on the failings in the system that allowed a Nigerian man to board the plane in Amsterdam and allegedly try to blow it up as it prepared to land in Detroit.

The president says those failings are being addressed.  "In the never ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary.  That is what these steps are designed to do," he said.

The intelligence community will adopt new procedures to make information sharing faster and more efficient. John Brennan, the president's counter-terrorism advisor, says in the case of the attempted airline attack, two sets of intelligence were not put together. "We saw the plot was developing but at the time we did not know in fact that they were talking about sending Mr. Abdulmutallab to the United States," he said.

President Obama says there was enough intelligence in the system to potentially uncover the plot and disrupt the attack. "Rather than a failure to collect and share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had," he said.

There will be reforms in more than intelligence.   Airport security will see further enhancements, and the computerized lists used to identify individuals who pose a risk will be revised. 

The president says the United States will strengthen its defenses, but will not succumb to a siege mentality. "Great and proud nations do not hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust.  That is exactly what our adversaries want," he said.

Mr. Obama says Americans will define the character of their country, not the terrorists. 

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