Obama to meet security chiefs in wake of Detroit plot
One day after returning from a winter vacation in Hawaii, US President Barack Obama was to host a critical meeting Tuesday with his top security chiefs at the White House, dpa reported.
Obama will gather leading officials from intelligence agencies, homeland security, justice and others to discuss policy changes in the aftermath of the Christmas Day plot to blow up an airliner over Detroit.
Obama returned to Washington on Monday after a two-week break in Hawaii, the state he once called home. The president last week received preliminary security reviews designed to learn the lessons of the December 25 attempt, in which a Nigerian man allegedly tried to detonate explosives on board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
Some security changes are already in effect. Starting Monday, the Obama administration said US-bound flight passengers from more than a dozen countries will automatically face tougher security measures.
Passengers arriving from or travelling through nations on a government list of state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be subject to mandatory enhanced security screenings, such as pat downs and more thorough luggage screening, the Transportation Safety Administration announced Sunday.
In addition, all travellers on international flights will randomly face the more thorough screenings, the agency said.
"I will do everything in my power to make sure our hard-working men and women in our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities have the tools and resources they need to keep America safe," Obama said in a weekly address on Saturday.
"This includes making sure these communities - and the people in them - are coordinating effectively and are held accountable at every level," he said.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged with attempting to blow up the airliner, faces his first court hearing on Friday in Detroit.
The Obama administration has faced criticism from some Republicans for choosing to prosecute him in federal court, instead of military tribunals like those set up for inmates of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
Obama has sharply criticized the intelligence community for "systemic failures" that prevented them from halting the attack. Airport screening is also under scrutiny after Abdulmutallab apparently succeeded in smuggling PETN explosives through security.
US intelligence officials reportedly knew three months ago that a Nigerian was being trained in Yemen for an attack on the United States. But they failed to connect the dots with Abdulmutallab, whose father in November warned US officials in Nigeria that he feared his son had become radicalized.
Al-Qaeda's arm in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the Detroit plot. Obama on Saturday confirmed that the terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula appeared to have trained, equipped and ordered Abdulmutallab to attack the US-bound plane.
"All those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know: You too will be held to account," Obama said.