|Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow for arraignment and a custody hearing.|
Nigerian indicted in attempted plane attack
Obama will share incident details today
DETROIT - A Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who faces life in prison if convicted, was traveling from Amsterdam when he tried to destroy the plane by injecting chemicals into a package of pentrite explosive concealed in his underwear, authorities say. The failed attack caused popping sounds and flames that passengers and crew rushed to extinguish.
The bomb was designed to detonate “at a time of his choosing,’’ the grand jury’s indictment said. There is no specific mention of terrorism in the seven-page indictment, but President Obama considers the incident an attempted strike against the United States by an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
Abdulmutallab has told investigators he received training and instructions from Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. His father warned the US Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted into extremism in Yemen. Obama said Tuesday the government had information that could have stopped the attempted attack, but intelligence agencies failed to connect the dots.
The president will speak again today, telling the public about a declassified account of the near-catastrophe on Christmas Day. The White House also plans to release a copy of the report by counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, with some detail stripped away for security reasons.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, “Anyone we find responsible for this alleged attack will be brought to justice using every tool - military or judicial - available to our government.’’
Abdulmutallab, who is being held at a federal prison in Milan, Mich., will make his first appearance in federal court tomorrow for an arraignment and a hearing to determine whether he stays in custody.
“Short of actual murder, these are some of the most serious charges in the criminal code,’’ said Lloyd Meyer, a former terrorism prosecutor at US war crimes tribunals at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The president, who also ordered reviews on airline passenger screening and on the terror watch-list system. has come under withering criticism for the Christmas incident. The administration’s initial reaction to the incident struck some as slow, and some have called for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to resign.
Today, the White House is not expected to announce the firing of any officials over the intelligence failures. It remains unclear whether any top officials from Obama’s not-quite-year-old administration will eventually lose their jobs over the debacle. No one lost his or her job or was censured after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people nine years ago in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
Denis McDonough, the National Security Council’s chief of staff, said in a nationally broadcast interview yesterday that “everybody around the table accepted responsibility’’ at a tense White House meeting Tuesday afternoon with Obama and that all involved are working “to learn the lessons of this incident so we can get to the bottom of it.’’
But Representative Peter King of New York, the leading Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and one of the administration’s harshest critics on terrorism, said, “If the situation is as bad as the president says it was . . . someone will have to go.’’
Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 commission, a bipartisan panel that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, said firings or discipline may be necessary if the investigation determines that the alleged bomber got on the plane because officials failed to do their job.
“We need to look at Christmas 2009 as a wake-up call where we dodged the bullet and should use our good fortune in that respect to improve the system and to find out why we continue to have vulnerabilities,’’ he said.
The commission made more than 40 recommendations to improve national security. Ben-Veniste said many of the recommended changes have been put in place. The problem in this instance, he said, was they were not all followed.
McDonough, appearing on several morning news shows, described the latest incident as a “stumble,’’ noting the intelligence community’s success in other recent terrorism cases.
“This was more than a stumble,’’ countered King. “This was really a glaring error. . . . I understand mistakes can be made, but this was a really glaring one.’’