Obama: U.S. Intel Needs to Shape Up
WASHINGTON - President Obama rebuked the nation's intelligence agencies Tuesday for failing to "connect the dots" and stop the Christmas Day bomb plot that could have cost nearly 300 lives. He vowed to correct problems.
"We have to do better, and we will do better, and we have to do it quickly," Obama said after meeting with 20 national security and intelligence officials. "American lives are on the line."
Obama said he would not, however, reconsider his decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, despite opposition in Congress.
Transferring terror suspects to an Illinois prison or to foreign countries could "risk sending these terrorists back into the battlefield," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said.
Bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria told authorities he received training and explosives from al-Qaeda in Yemen, according to the Associated Press. About half of 198 detainees at Guantanamo are from Yemen.
Six detainees were returned to Yemen just days before the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 bound for Detroit. Obama said no more will be sent back "at this time."
He was emphatic about closing Guantanamo because it is "a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda."
Speaking for the first time from the White House since passengers and crew helped foil Abdulmutallab's alleged effort, Obama said the government "had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the attack" but the intelligence was not properly analyzed. "That's not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it," he said.
The government so far has added names to its no-fly list of terror suspects, required new scrutiny for those traveling to the U.S. from or through 14 countries known to harbor terrorists and debated use of body-scanning machines at airports.
Obama said he soon will announce more security upgrades. The American Civil Liberties Union said new measures should not include invasive technology. "Full-body screening machines pose serious threats to privacy with uncertain benefits to our safety," said director Anthony Romero.