Video: President orders intel changes after ‘systemic failure’

  1. Closed captioning of: President orders intel changes after ‘systemic failure’

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    >>> good evening. it's now clear exactly how close we came to a commercial jet blowing up in the skies over detroit on christmas day. today, the president got the report he order 0ed on how it came so close to happening. he has ordered some changes here and around the world after he what he calls the systemic failure that no one person caused. he says technology's got to stay ahead of the terrorists, and he suggested the fight against it, showing strength against terrorism is something we could all get together on as americans. we have all of it covered tonight beginning with our white house chief correspondent chuck todd .

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. the fast turn around of this review is unprecedented, as the president attempts to turn the page on this near-miss disaster.

    >> for ultimately the buck stops with me.

    >> reporter: today's presidential report on the attempted christmas day bombing of northwest flight 253 painted a picture of an intelligence community that failed to use the information it already had to connect the dots in time to stop umar farouk abdul muttalab from boarding the flight.

    >> rather than the failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence we already had.

    >> reporter: the declassified report indicates the u.s. government was aware as early as the beginning of 2009 that the al qaeda offshoot in yemen had ambitions to conduct an attack on american soil. the president disclosed for the first time that intell officials didn't believe the then-fledgeling organization had the capability of pulling off that kind of attack. the report reveals the government had intelligence that this al qaeda group in yemen was looking for so-called clean individuals who could get past u.s. screening without raising any red flags , a description which fits the accused nigerian terrorist. it was not until after the failed attack the government learned abdul muttalab traveled to yemen and received the explosives and training from al qaeda .

    >> 20/20 hindsight gives you more opportunity to see it. we saw the plot was developing, but we did not know they were talking about sending mr. abdul muttalab to the united states .

    >> reporter: the report concludes it was not information sharing among agencies, but more systemic. a failure of analysis, connecting the dots, and now in hindsight, a failure to follow up on the lead that al qaeda in yemen wanted to strike the u.s. on the homeland.

    >> we must follow the leads that we get, and we must pursue them until plots are disrupted. that means assigning clear lines of responsibility.

    >> reporter: the president issued 16 new reforms he wants implemented at key agencies including state, review how u.s. visas are issued and revoked. homeland security . pursue new technologies and procedures for screening airline passengers. cia. strengthen procedures on terrorist watch lists . fbi, conduct a full review of the terrorist-screening data base . a senior state department official tells nbc news a simple misstepping of abdul muttalab's name is why no one knew he had a valid visa.

    >> the president is investing a

updated 1/7/2010 5:47:33 PM ET 2010-01-07T22:47:33

The White House offered support to National Counterterrorism Director Michael Leiter, defending Thursday him against a news report that suggested he was vacationing during the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas and its aftermath.

Denis McDonough, National Security Council Chief of Staff, said Leiter was at his McLean headquarters on Dec. 25, and only left for a planned family vacation the next day after consulting with the White House and the national intelligence director. He said the travel did not affect in any way Leiter's ability to remain engaged with all elements of the U.S. government, including national security staff in Hawaii.

Leiter took his son on a six-day vacation to celebrate his seventh birthday and visit his grandparents.

Obama has promised to hold officials accountable for the intelligence failures that allowed the suspect to get on a plane in Nigeria with an undetected bomb. The bomber trained in Yemen with al-Qaida extremists, and his father raised concerns about his views and travels with the U.S. embassy in Nigeria.

The NCTC's purpose is to link together such disparate pieces of intelligence to uncover terror plots.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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