'... a systemic failure has occurred'
KANEOHE BAY MARINE BASE, KANEOHE, Hawaii -- (Monday) I updated the Amer-ican people on the immediate steps we took -- the increas-ed screening and security of air travel -- to keep our coun-try safe in the wake of the at-tempted ter-rorist attack on Christmas Day. And I an-nounced two reviews -- a re-view of our terrorist watch list system and a review of our air travel screening, so we can find out what went wrong, fix it and prevent future attacks.
Those reviews began on Sunday and are now under-way. Earlier (Tues)day I issued the (formal) guidelines for those reviews and directed that preliminary findings be provided to the White House by this Thursday. It's essential that we diagnose the prob-lems quickly and deal with them immediately.
Now, the more comprehen-sive, formal reviews and rec-ommendations for improve-ment will be completed in the coming weeks, and I'm com-mitted to working with Con-gress and our intelligence, law enforcement and home-land security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country.
I wanted to speak to the Am-erican people again today be-cause some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. 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. It now appears that weeks ago this in-formation was passed to a com-ponent of our intelligence com-munity, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list.
There appears to be other deficiencies as well. Even with-out this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence com-munity that could have and should have been pieced to-gether. We've achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collect-ing information that relates to terrorists and potential terror-ist attacks. But it's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.
Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelli-gence and a fuller, clearer pic-ture 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.
The professionalism of the men and women in our intelligence, counterterrorism and law enforcement and homeland security communi-ties is extraordinary. They are some of the most hardwork-ing, most dedicated Ameri-cans that I've ever met. In pursuit of our security here at home they risk their lives, day in and day out, in this country and around the world.
Few Americans see their work, but all Americans are safer because of their succes-ses. They have targeted and taken out violent extremists, they have disrupted plots and saved countless American lives; they are making real and daily progress in our mission to disrupt, dismantle and de-feat al-Qaeda and other extre-mist networks around the world. And for this every Am-erican owes them a profound and lasting debt of gratitude.
Moreover, as Secretary Napolitano has said, once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253 -- after his attempt it's clear that passen-gers and crew, our homeland security systems and our avia-tion security took all appro-priate actions. But what's also clear is this: When our govern-ment has information on a known extremist and that in-formation is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with danger-ous explosives that could cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. And I con-sider that totally unacceptable.
The reviews I've ordered will surely tell us more. But what already is apparent is that there was a mix of hu-man and systemic failures that contributed to this poten-tial catastrophic breach of se-curity. We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system, because our security is at stake and lives are at stake.
I fully understand that even when every person charged with ensuring our security does what they are trained to do, even when every system works exactly as intended there is still no 100 percent guarantee of success. Yet, this should only compel us to work even harder, to be even more innovative and relentless in our efforts.
As president I will do every-thing in my power to support the men and women in intelli-gence, law enforcement and homeland security to make sure they've got the tools and resources they need to keep America safe. But it's also my job to ensure that our intelli-gence, law enforcement and homeland security systems and the people in them are working effectively and held accountable. I intend to fulfill that responsibility and insist on accountability at every level.
That's the spirit guiding our reviews into the attempted attack on Christmas Day. That's the spirit that will guide all our efforts in the days and years ahead.
Remarks President Barack Obama made Tuesday.