A “systemic failure” by American intelligence allowed the alleged terrorist behind the Christmas Day airliner bomb plot to board the aircraft despite warnings about his extremist views, US President Barack Obama said last night.
Mr Obama said initial investigations into the failed attack had found the information passed on by the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was not properly shared, meaning he was not barred from flying.
“Where our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have so that this extremist boarded a plane with dangerous explosives that could have cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable,” he said.
“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,” he said in a statement from Hawaii where he is holidaying with his family.
Mr Obama said the concerns of the suspect's father, expressed to US officials in his native Nigeria, had been passed to the US authorities “weeks ago”.
“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 said.
But he said even without that warning, the US had enough material to have ensured Abdulmutallab would not have been free to fly.
“There were bits of information available within the intelligence community which could have, and should have, been pieced together. 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.”
Abdulmutallab apparently charted his descent into lonely fanaticism in hundreds of internet postings. They show a fervently religious and lonely young man who fantasised about becoming a Muslim holy warrior.
Throughout more than 300 posts, beginning in 2005, a user named ‘Farouk1986’ reflects on a growing alienation from his family, his shame over sexual urges and his hopes that a “great jihad” will take place across the world.
Although the postings have not been officially attributed to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, details from them match his personal history.
For example, the username also matches his middle name and birth year. Farouk1986 says he is from Nigeria, Abdulmutallab's home nation.
The posts show a teenager looking for a new life outside his boarding school and wealthy Nigerian family.
Most of all they paint a portrait of someone who seems lost and needs someone to hear him. The postings seem hastily written and are replete with spelling and grammatical errors.
In one, on January 28, 2005, he wrote: “I am in a situation where i do not have a friend, i have no one to speak too, no one to consult, no one to support me and i feel depressed and lonely. i do not know what to do.”