Wednesday’s Headlines: U.S. Had Prior Intelligence on ‘Nigerian’ Plot

BY jbreslow  December 30, 2009 at 9:00 AM EDT

The United States had a variety of information that could have prevented a would-be bomber from boarding a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, but failed to share it properly among its intelligence agencies, according to multiple reports out Wednesday morning.

Two officials who spoke to the New York Times said the government had prior intelligence from Yemen indicating that leaders from a branch of al-Qaida in Yemen were discussing “a Nigerian” being prepared for a terrorist attack. The information did not include a name. However, officials said a connection would have been evident if compared with warnings about the 23-year-old Nigerian accused of the plot, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Abdulmutallab’s father met with CIA officials at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on Nov. 19 to discuss his son’s radical views, prompting a meeting the following day with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the FBI. “But U.S. officials said it isn’t clear whether intelligence officials in Washington charged with coordinating such intelligence activities effectively distributed the information gathered in Nigeria,” according to the Journal.

“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,” President Barack Obama told reporters Tuesday from his [vacation](http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/bunker-mentality) in Hawaii. “The warning signs would have triggered red flags, and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America,” the president said. Meantime, [despite privacy concerns](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec09/tradeoff_12-29.html), airports in the Netherlands will immediately [start using full body scanners](http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122047481) to screen passengers traveling to the United States. The fallout from the failed attack has placed new emphasis on [Yemen](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/terrorism/july-dec09/yemen2_12-29.html), where an al-Qaida affiliate claimed responsibility Monday for the bombing attempt. The group, “al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula,” includes several former Guantanamo Bay detainees released to Saudi Arabia under the Bush administration. The United States is now considering boosting its counter-terrorism support to Yemen to as much as $190 million in 2010, from $70 million, [according to the Journal](http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126211787251809321.html). The counter-terror effort in Yemen is complicated, however. As Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post [told Jeffrey Brown on Tuesday's NewsHour](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/july-dec09/yemen1_12-29.html), Yemen’s government is dealing with a crumbling economy, a civil war in the north, and a secessionist movement in the south. On top of which, the country has huge swaths of ungoverned land, “which provides a perfect haven and recruiting ground for al-Qaida militants.” * At least [23 people have been killed](http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8434455.stm), and another 60 injured, in a pair of suicide blasts in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. * GMAC Inc., the home and auto lender, is close to getting approximately [$3.5 billion in additional aid](http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=ap0H4JFsSyTs&pos=4) from the U.S. government, on top of the $13.5 billion it has already received since December 2008. * [The Associated Press is reporting](http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122044192) that Iran is nearing a deal to import 1,350 tons of uranium, heightening international concerns about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.