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Failed Dec 25 attack an intelligence failure: US media

Last Updated: Thursday, December 31, 2009 - 16:34

Washington: The US media on Thursday slammed intelligence agencies for their failure "to connect the dots" that would have prevented a Nigerian terror suspect from sneaking explosives inside a plane on Christmas Day.
Around 300 passengers aboard the Amsterdam-Detroit Northwest Airlines Plane had a miraculous escape on December 25, after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (23), failed to ignite highly flammable explosive PETN or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, which was sewed in his underwear.

Abdulmutallab, charged with attempt to blow up the US plane, is presently at a federal prison and during interrogation, he told FBI that he received PETN and training from a al Qaeda aid in Yemen. The al Qaeda in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the incident.

The Fox News reported that CIA`s Africa Desk had prepared a report on this young Nigerian man well before he allegedly tried to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day, but the report remained distributed as the analyst in-charge was waiting for pictures of the man.

This was the main reason why Obama yesterday declared a "systematic failure" had occurred in the run-up to the attack.

The Washington Post said agencies under particular scrutiny include the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA), in charge of electronic intercepts, and the State Department.

"Each possessed pieces of the puzzle, none of which was considered overly worrisome or immediately actionable... The National Counterterrorism Centre (NCC), established after attacks of September 11, 2001, to connect the dots government-wide, did not do so," the daily said.

Another daily, The New York Times said NSA four months ago intercepted conversations among leaders of al Qaeda in Yemen discussing a plot to use a Nigerian man in a terrorist attack, but American spy agencies later failed to combine the intercepts with other information.

The daily added electronic intercepts were translated and disseminated across computer networks, but analysts at NCC did not synthesise eavesdropping intelligence with information gathered in November when Abdulmutallab`s father informed US embassy in Nigeria about his son`s radicalisation.

According to another report in CBS, the CIA, which is being widely criticised for not sharing information, claimed that CIA`s information on the Nigerian was limited including his actual identity because it was coming from sub-sourcing.

The Washington Post report reflected on the blame game that has started among various wings of the administration.

"Some intelligence officials noted that while CIA has received much of the public criticism, the NSA is responsible for intercepts. Others argued that the reports on Abdulmutallab`s father submitted by CIA personnel at the embassy were written so mildly as to beg to be ignored," the daily said.


First Published: Thursday, December 31, 2009 - 16:34

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