The Obama administration is warning that the nation will react with “a certain shock” when the president releases a report Thursday afternoon detailing the snafus and blunders that led to the near-bombing of a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.
National security adviser James Jones told USA Today that “The man on the street … will be surprised that these correlations weren’t made.”
Administration officials initially had tried to downplay the incident. But in the past week, a litany of errors emerged that enabled a 23-year-old Nigerian with known terrorist inclinations, who paid for his ticket with cash and checked no luggage on an international flight, and who had an explosive device hidden in his underwear.
Jones said the president “is legitimately and correctly alarmed” that authorities failed to act on the available information that should have signaled a potential threat.
The president is scheduled to address the matter at 3 p.m.Thursday Eastern. But even as he prepared his remarks, new details of the incident were leaking out.
Early Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security disclosed that would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s potential ties to terrorism were discovered on Christmas Day — as Northwest Flight 253 was en route to the United States.
The department said a routine check flagged Abdulmutallab’s possible extremist connections while the plane was in the air. Officials determined that they would intercept him after the flight landed, and subject him to additional screening.
There is no indication, however, that U.S. officials attempted to alert the crew of Flight 253 that a potential security risk was abroad the aircraft.
New information emerged late Wednesday that suggests the threat of al Qaida-linked suicide bombers may be greater than initially recognized.
According to ABC News, various intelligence reports suggest there could be “more than a dozen other young men trained for suicide missions against U.S. aircraft.”
Alarm over the possibility of a wave of airborne suicide bombers would explain the unusual reaction Wednesday of law enforcement officials who told ABC that the administration is facing a “race against time.”
Since the president’s Tuesday speech promising an increase in the number of sky marshals aboard U.S. commercial flights, the Department of Homeland Security has issued internal notices to its employees that it is looking for “volunteers” to undergo rapid training for overseas sky marshal and embassy-protection positions. According to CNN, the notices advised that some jobs would be in high-risk regions of the globe.
In what appears to be a surge to get air marshals into the skies, the Department is especially interested in internal applicants who already work as agents for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division. Those agents have already undergone training that would give them a head start to fill air-marshal posts, sources say.
Heritage Foundation Homeland Security expert Jena McNeill tells Newsmax that the United States is able to neutralize a multiple-attacker scenario, but only if the correct procedures are followed.
“With the right type of information sharing and intelligence gathering in place, as well as robust partnerships with our international friends, we can do this,” McNeill tells Newsmax. “In 2006 [in] the liquid explosives plot, with help from our U.K. friends, [they] helped us bring down a plot to take down 10 airplanes at once. Twenty four suspects [were] arrested. It isn’t a matter of the number of people, it is a matter of us making sure that the right information gets into the right hands.”