Obama: ‘Systemic Failure’ Allowed Alleged Bomber on Plane

BY Jason M. Breslow  December 29, 2009 at 9:21 PM EST

Updated: 9:30pm ET

President Obama said Tuesday a “systemic failure” is to blame for the botched Christmas Day plot to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight bound for Detroit.

President Obama

“When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted on as it should have been,” the president said, “a systemic failure has occurred, and I consider that unacceptable.”

Read the president’s full remarks here.

Speaking to reporters for the second time in as many days, the president said he has ordered government agencies to report back to him on Thursday about how 23-year-old Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with approximately 80 grams of the explosive material PETN. “It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views,” the president said. “It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.” He added: “Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.” Late Tuesday, [the New York Times reported](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/30/us/politics/30obama.html?hp) that the president was told during a private briefing that the government had a variety of information in its possession before the bombing attempt that would have been a warning sign, had it been shared among agencies. The president’s comments come just two days after Security of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said “[the system worked](http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0912/27/sotu.01.html),” prompting [Republican criticism](http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/31016.html). Napolitano later walked back the statement, saying “once the incident occurred, the system worked.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., shot back Tuesday, saying the GOP has played politics with national security by blocking President Obama’s nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration. The post remains empty, and Reid said [in a statement ](http://reid.senate.gov/newsroom/pr_122809_tsanominee.cfm)he would invoke a Senate procedure known as cloture to overcome any attempt to filibuster the nominee.