Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments on the case involving the 23-year-old Nigerian's attack on the plane were her most extensive to date, and included sharp criticism of conditions in Nigeria and elsewhere that she said are generating alienation and leading some to embrace Islamic radicalism.
"The failure of the Nigerian leadership over many years to respond to the legitimate needs of their own young people, to have a government that promoted a meritocracy, that really understood that democracy can't just be given lip service, it has to be delivering services to the people, has meant there is a lot of alienation in that country and others," she said.
U.S law enforcement officials say the Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to set off an explosive device concealed in his clothing as a Northwest (Delta) Airlines plane approached Detroit on Christmas day, but that the explosives caught fire and did not detonate.
Abdulmutallab, now facing terrorism charges, was said to have received the device and training in Yemen. Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden appeared to take responsibility for the incident in an audio tape that surfaced this week.
Clinton, who spoke at a "town hall meeting" of State Department employees marking her first year in office, said Abdulmutallab may have been vulnerable for recruitment by extremists because of misgivings about the opulent lifestyle of his father, a leading Nigerian banker.
She also said Nigeria faces a threat from increasing radicalization because quality-of-life factors in the country like literacy and health care are deteriorating, and from resentment over widespread corruption.
"The corruption is unbelievable," said Clinton. "And when I did a town hall in Abuja, people were just literally standing and shouting about what it was like to live in a country where you know the elite was so dominant, where corruption was so rampant, where criminality was so pervasive, and that is an opening for extremism that offers an alternative world view," she said.
The Secretary of State, who visited Nigeria last August, said she pushes for human rights, good governance and anti-corruption action on her foreign travels not because they are American values, but because such reforms are "absolutely essential" to the survival of many of those governments.