Bombing suspect had no coat, luggage
Congress hears of missed signs in foiled attack
WASHINGTON - Bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded his Christmas Day flight in Amsterdam to frigid Detroit with no coat - perhaps the final warning sign that went unnoticed leading up to what could have been a terrorist attack.
Congress got its first behind-the-scenes look yesterday at the attempted airline bombing, and officials said the security failures were even worse than President Obama outlined last week. It remains unclear, however, how those failures will be fixed.
“He was flying into Detroit without a coat. That’s interesting if you’ve ever been in Detroit in December,’’ Representative Bill Pascrell, Democrat of New Jersey and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said after a briefing by John Brennan, presidential counterterrorism adviser.
Dennis Blair, national intelligence director, and Michael Leiter, national counterterrorism center director, briefed the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors, and Brennan took questions from the House in overlapping sessions yesterday.
Congress wants to know how Obama plans to improve an intelligence system that failed to recognize the significance of repeated warning signs that Abdulmutallab was planning an attack. Also, the Nigerian showed up at the Amsterdam airport without any luggage - another sign that officials acknowledge should have prompted more scrutiny.
Critical warning signs had emerged even earlier, in mid-October, when a National Security Agency wiretap picked up discussion out of Yemen that referred to a Nigerian being trained for a special mission, according to a House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door meeting.
Obama has ordered agencies to review and tighten their procedures but has mostly left it up to them to figure out how.
“There were more dots crying out to be connected than I realized,’’ said Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and member of the House Intelligence Committee. “If any two of the dots were connected, it would have moved the organization to quickly connect the other dots.’’
In November, Abdulmutallab’s father in Nigeria reported to the US Embassy that his son had gone to Yemen and had fallen under the influence of radicals there. Another point of failure, acknowledged last week by the White House, was that a misspelling of Abdulmutallab’s name at the US Embassy in Nigeria initially made the State Department believe he did not have a US visa and therefore was less of an immediate concern.
“A system shouldn’t get stymied by a single misspelling,’’ Holt said. “If you mistype something in
The FBI says Abdulmutallab tried to destroy
Congress is planning several hearings on the case.