First, although our intelligence community had learned a great deal about the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, that we knew that they sought to strike the United States and that they were recruiting operatives to do so, the intelligence community did not aggressively follow up on and prioritize particular streams of intelligence related to a possible attack against the homeland.
Second, this contributed to a larger failure of analysis, a failure to connect the dots of intelligence that existed across our intelligence community and which together could have revealed that [Umar Farouk] AbdulMutallab was planning an attack.
Third, this in turn fed into shortcomings in the watch-listing system which resulted in this person not being placed on the no-fly list, thereby allowing him to board that plane in Amsterdam for Detroit.
In sum, the U.S. government had the information scattered throughout the system to potentially uncover this plot and disrupt the attack. Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.
Now, that’s why we took swift action in the immediate days following Christmas, including reviewing and updating the terrorist watch list system and adding more individuals to the no-fly list, and directing our embassies and consulates to include current visa information in their warnings of individuals with terrorist or suspected terrorist ties.
Today, I’m directing a series of additional corrective steps across multiple agencies. Broadly speaking, they fall into four areas.
First, I’m directing that our intelligence community immediately begin assigning specific responsibility for investigating all leads on high-priority threats so that these leads are pursued and acted upon aggressively not just most of the time, but all of the time.
We must follow the leads that we get, and we must pursue them until plots are disrupted. And that means assigning clear lines of responsibility.
Second, I’m directing that intelligence reports, especially those involving potential threats to the United States, be distributed more rapidly and more widely. We can’t sit on information that could protect the American people.