Yesterday, I joined White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan to announce recommendations that DHS has made to the President for improving the technology and procedures used to protect air travel from acts of terrorism.
The attempted attack on Northwest Flight 253 is a powerful illustration that terrorists will go to great lengths to try to defeat the security measures that have been put in place since Sept. 11, 2001. The steps I outlined yesterday will strengthen aviation security—at home and abroad—through new partnerships, technology and law enforcement efforts.
These steps include
- Re-evaluating and modifying the criteria and process used to create terrorist watch lists—including adjusting the process by which names are added to the “No-Fly” and “Selectee” lists.
- Establishing a partnership on aviation security between DHS and the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories in order to develop new and more effective technologies to deter and disrupt known threats and protect against new ways by which terrorists could seek to board an aircraft.
- Accelerating deployment of advanced imaging technology to provide greater explosives detection capabilities—and encourage foreign aviation security authorities to do the same—in order to identify materials such as those used in the attempted Dec. 25 attack. The Transportation Security Administration currently has 40 machines deployed throughout the United States, and plans to deploy 300 additional units in 2010.
- Strengthening the presence and capacity of aviation law enforcement—by deploying law enforcement officers from across DHS to serve as Federal Air Marshals to increase security aboard U.S.-bound flights.
- Working with international partners to strengthen international security measures and standards for aviation security.
Additionally, last week I dispatched Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman and other senior Department officials to meet with leaders from major international airports in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and South America to review security procedures and technology being used to screen passengers on U.S.-bound flights and work on ways to collectively bolster our tactics for defeating terrorists
Later this month, I will travel to Spain for the first of a series of global meetings with my international counterparts intended to bring about broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures.
These steps come in addition to the Department’s immediate actions following the attempted attack on Dec. 25, 2009—including enhanced security measures at domestic airports and new international security directives that mandate enhanced screening of every individual flying into the United States from or through nations that are State Sponsors of Terrorism or other countries of interest and threat-based, random enhanced screening for all other passengers traveling on U.S.-bound flights.
I want to thank the Department of Homeland Security personnel who have been working day-in and day-out to implement these security measures since Christmas—as well as the traveling public for their continued patience. The public remains one of our most valuable layers of defense against acts of terrorism.
President Barack Obama has declared "the buck stops with me" over major intelligence flaws exposed by an Al-Qaeda attack on a US passenger jet and ordered a sweeping homeland security overhaul.
Releasing two reports on the thwarted Christmas Day bombing, Obama said spy agencies did not properly "connect and understand" disparate data that could have busted the plot as it was planned by an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.
He said the probes revealed that US analysts knew alleged attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was an extremist and knew Al-Qaeda in Yemen was plotting an attack -- but could not connect the two strands of intelligence.
And as critics charge his administration is too soft on terror and slow to act after the attack, Obama said the United States is "at war with Al-Qaeda" but promised terrorists would not force Americans to adopt a "siege" mentality.
"I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer," Obama said, signaling there would be no immediate firings of top spy chiefs over the security breakdown.
"Ultimately the buck stops with me. As president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people, and when the system fails, it is my responsibility."From the Washington Post, on the use of full body imaging technology:
The United States will urge governments around the world to deploy controversial whole-body imaging scanners at airports to detect explosives and other objects hidden beneath people's clothing, President Obama said Thursday.
The announcement came as Obama and top security aides detailed intelligence failures and responses to aviation security gaps uncovered in the Dec. 25 incident in which a 23-year-old Nigerian man linked to al-Qaeda allegedly tried to blow up an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight with explosives hidden in his underwear.
On air travel screening, administration officials elaborated on decisions previously announced: ramping up the presence of federal air marshals, for example, particularly on the 2,000 daily U.S.-bound international flights, and buying 300 advanced imaging scanners, as previously planned, to augment 40 already in place and 150 set to be deployed later this year.
Obama called on U.S. intelligence and security communities to strengthen terrorist watch lists, especially the nation's no-fly list, by expanding criteria for people to be included. The president also demanded reviews that could lead to additional travelers being subjected to time-consuming secondary security checks at airports, as well as visa denials and revocations at consulates.
One sensitive debate is whether and how to expand scrutiny at airports beyond the roughly 4,000 people on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list and a "selectee" list of about 14,000 people identified for further questioning, said one senior domestic security official. Alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was never placed on those lists.There are no public events scheduled for today.
The President spoke to the American public this afternoon, outlining the details in the White House's report on the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack. The report itself focuses on the shortcomings related to intelligence collection, sharing and integration within the intelligence community. You can download a pdf copy of the report here:
Read the summary of the security review
The President simultaneously issued a directive for multiple federal departments and agencies, ordering corrective actions with respect to intelligence, screening, and watchlisting systems and programs. Relevant to this blog, the President ordered DHS to undertake the following:
- Aggressively pursue enhanced screening technology, protocols, and procedures, especially in regard to aviation and other transportation sectors, consistent with privacy rights and civil liberties; strengthen international partnerships and coordination on aviation security issues.
- Develop recommendations on long-term law enforcement requirements for aviation security in coordination with the Department of Justice.
Read the President's Directive on corrective actions (pdf).
Secretary Napolitano, Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, and Robert Gibbs briefed the press shortly after the President's statement, delving further into the report and detailing the recommendations and findings within.
The Secretary discussed the immediate steps DHS took after the attempted attack, noting that DHS strengthened screening requirements for passengers entering the United States and deployed additional law enforcement officers, behavior detection officers, and explosive detection K-9 units to airports across the country. It's worth mentioning that while these additional measures are both seen and unseen, that they add to the "layers of security" already in place at airports and on airplanes traveling to and from the United States.
The Secretary also outlined five long-term steps the department is taking to correct the shortcomings that led to the attempted attack:
- Re-evaluate and modify the process for creation and modification of terror "watchlists" - including adjusting the process by which names are added to the “No-Fly” and “Selectee” lists.
- Establish a partnership on aviation security between DHS and the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories in order to develop new and more effective technologies to deter and disrupt known threats and proactively anticipate and protect against new ways by which terrorists could seek to board an aircraft.
- Accelerate deployment of advanced imaging technology to provide greater explosives detection capabilities—and encourage foreign aviation security authorities to do the same—in order to identify materials such as those used in the attempted Dec. 25 attack. The Transportation Security Administration currently has 40 machines deployed throughout the United States, and plans to deploy at least 300 additional units in 2010.
- Strengthen the presence and capacity of aviation law enforcement—by deploying law enforcement officers from across DHS to serve as Federal Air Marshals to increase security aboard U.S.-bound flights.
- Work with the Department of State to strengthen international cooperation on aviation security measures, ensuring that we have a consistent system to screen passengers flying to the United States from countries around the world. As I write this, senior department officials - led by Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute - are on a multi-country, multi-continent mission to begin this process, and Secretary Napolitano will travel to Spain later this month to meet with her international counterparts in the first of a series of global meetings intended to bring about broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures.
We mentioned it in the morning roundup, but the Secretary will participate in a briefing this afternoon at the White House with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan to discuss the report on the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack.
You can watch the briefing live on the White House’s website at 3:45 PM EST today.
From AFP, on today's release of the attempted terrorist attack review:
The White House will on Thursday release an unclassified version of a report into intelligence failures relating to terrorist watch-lists, following the thwarted Christmas Day airliner attack.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he anticipated the public portion of the report "will be released tomorrow" after President Barack Obama receives a classified version of the data from his top anti-terror expert John Brennan.
"I think you'll see tomorrow that this is a failure that touches across the full waterfront of our intelligence agencies," Gibbs said, adding that Obama would make a public statement on the review on Thursday.
"The review will simply identify and make recommendations as to what was lacking and what needs to be strengthened," Gibbs said.
On Tuesday, Obama said that the review into the terrorist watch-listing system had revealed "human and systemic failures" that led to the attempted downing of a Northwest jet carrying 290 people on Christmas Day.
From the New York Times, on enhanced airport screening and security procedures:
As he arrived at O’Hare International airport here on Wednesday, Dennis Weyrauch, a passenger, described two hours of waiting and scrutiny at the airport in Amsterdam before his plane took off: as happened to all passengers on his flight, his carry-on bag was searched methodically by hand, the insides of bottles in his toilet kit studied and his body patted down.
“It was thorough; it was extensive; it felt like a police pat down,” said Mr. Weyrauch, who is 53 and a lawyer from Eagle, Idaho. “It seemed excessive to tell you the truth. I didn’t get any additional measure of comfort from the security measures, and I wondered, as a practical matter, how long they’re going to be able to do this.”
At airports around the country nearly two weeks after a thwarted terrorism attempt on a flight to Detroit, dozens of travelers told of remarkably different experiences with security measures. For domestic flights, many noticed little new, aside from more police dogs in terminals and, in some instances, random pat-downs and bag checks.
From the Associated Press, on the indictment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab:
A Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day was indicted Wednesday on charges including attempted murder and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction to kill nearly 300 people.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, 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 Barack Obama considers the incident an attempted strike against the United States by an affiliate of al-Qaida.
Abdulmutallab has told U.S. investigators he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. His father warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted into extremism in Yemen, but that threat was never fully digested by the U.S. security apparatus
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a briefing with Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
From the New York Times, on President Obama's meeting and subsequent remarks on the last month's attempted terrorist attack:
President Obama said Tuesday that the government had sufficient information to uncover the terror plot to bring down a commercial jetliner on Christmas Day, but that intelligence officials had "failed to connect those dots."
"This was not a failure to collect intelligence," Mr. Obama said after meeting with his national security team for nearly two hours. "It was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had."
He added: "We have to do better, we will do better, and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line."
The tone of the president's remarks on Tuesday - the sharpest of any of his statements since the incident nearly two weeks ago - underscored his anger over the lapses in intelligence as well as his efforts to minimize any political risks from his administration's response.
The president said he was suspending the transfer of detainees from the Guant?namo Bay military prison to Yemen, where a Qaeda cell has been connected to the Dec. 25 attack. While Mr. Obama also renewed his commitment to close the prison, halting the transfer underscores the difficulty he faces in closing the center and reflects the criticism Republicans have directed at the administration.
From USA Today, on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and travel to and from the Olympics:
When the 2010 Winter Olympic Games start in Vancouver on Feb. 12, they not only will draw athletes from across the globe but legions of citizens from the USA - all of whom will need to present newly-required forms of identification to cross the border.
In anticipation of that, and in the face of criticism of the increased documentation requirements and costs for cross-border travel that went into effect last June, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has launched a $2 million marketing campaign to remind people in the Northwest about identification options for border crossings.
Last month, the department began targeting Washington, Idaho and Oregon with radio, television, print and Internet ads, said Joanne Ferreira, public affairs officer with Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection office.
The ads, featuring Olympians such as skier Bill Demong, include reminders that identity documentation will be required to get back into the USA and direct people to a Homeland Security travel website -www.GetYouHome.gov -to find out about the various document options, several of which are less expensive than obtaining a passport.
"I know I'll stick my landing at the border crossing coming home," Demong says in one 30-second TV spot.
3 PM EST
NPPD Infrastructure Protection Assistant Secretary Todd Keil will discuss the Infrastructure Protection mission and the important role of resilience in a Webinar entitled “Infrastructure Resiliency: The Next Frontier in Homeland Security.” For more information: http://www.dhs.gov/critical-infrastructure
From the Associated Press, on the President's meeting with his national security team:
The government has added dozens of people to the ominous lists of suspected terrorists and those barred from U.S.-bound flights, a crackdown that comes as President Barack Obama is poised to announce changes to the nation's watchlists.
At the White House on Tuesday, Obama will speak in fresh detail about the findings of the urgent, sprawling reviews he ordered of how the government screens airline passengers and how it works to detect and track possible terrorists. Obama's remarks, to come after his meeting with top security and intelligence officials, will outline steps designed to strengthen the watchlisting effort and to thwart future terrorists attacks, the White House said.
The move comes after what officials call a botched effort by a Nigerian man to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas, one that exposed cracks in the nation's security system, which is built upon the ability of agencies to share information and connect dots.
Meanwhile, people flying to the U.S. from overseas will continue to see enhanced security. The Transportation Security Administration has directed airlines to give full-body pat-downs to U.S.-bound travelers from Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and 11 other countries the U.S. believes have terrorism activity - a move criticized by one Muslim advocacy group.
From The Los Angeles Times, on increased travel security measures:
A UC Irvine student from Bahrain and his father experience the increased screening efforts that took effect Monday in response to a Nigerian's alleged attempt to bring down a flight on Christmas.
Some international travelers faced increased scrutiny Monday from airport security officials before boarding flights bound for Los Angeles and other destinations in the United States.Flying from Saudi Arabia, a UC Irvine student and his father, both Bahraini, said they encountered more security than usual at London's Heathrow Airport, where they passed through metal detectors and, like other passengers, underwent pat-down searches.
Then, after arriving at Los Angeles International, they were questioned by authorities as they claimed their luggage at the Tom Bradley terminal, and officials searched a book bag the student was carrying. The passengers, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified for fear of being harassed, said authorities wanted to know why they were in the U.S. and where they lived.
CBP Yuma Sector Border Patrol will host a community forum at the San Luis City Council Chamber
1090 E. Union St.
San Luis, Ariz.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will dispatch senior agency officials to meet with airport executives around the world to review security and technology used to screen passengers on U.S.-bound flights, the department said.
The decision was announced late on Thursday, six days after a botched attempt by a Nigerian man to blow up a plane en route to Detroit from Amsterdam.
Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute and Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman will spearhead a broad international outreach effort at major international airports in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America, the department said in a statement.
"We are looking not only at our own processes, but also beyond our borders to ensure effective aviation security measures are in place for U.S-bound flights that originate at international airports," Napolitano said in the statement.
"I will follow up on these efforts with ministerial-level meetings within the next few weeks," she said.
From the New York Times, on increased international travel security:
Citizens of 14 nations, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, who are flying to the United States will be subjected indefinitely to the intense screening at airports worldwide that was imposed after the Christmas Day bombing plot, Obama administration officials announced Sunday.
But American citizens, and most others who are not flying through those 14 nations on their way to the United States, will no longer automatically face the full range of intensified security that was imposed after the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight, officials said.
In the immediate aftermath of the episode, officials had put in place heightened restrictions, and the change on Sunday represents an easing of that response. But the action on Sunday further establishes a global security system that treats people differently based on what country they are from, evoking protests from civil rights groups.
Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, countries that are considered "state sponsors of terrorism," as well as those of "countries of interest" - including Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen - will face the special scrutiny, officials said.
From the San Diego Union Tribune, on Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements at the nation's borders and ports of entry:
There are no public events scheduled for today.
U.S. citizens entering the United States at land or sea ports from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean must present one of these documents:
. U.S. passport or passport card
. Trusted-traveler document, such as SENTRI
. Radio-chip-enhanced driver's license available in some states, but not California
. Birth certificate or naturalization certificate for minors younger than 16
. Tribal identification
. Military identification for service members traveling under orders
In the months following the implementation of new travel-document requirements at U.S. land and sea port of entries last June, there was a spike in the number of people arrested along the southern border posing as U.S. citizens, customs officials say.
Between June 1 and the end of August, the latest period for which information is available, there was a 30 percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier in the number of people who tried to enter illegally by either declaring themselves to be U.S. citizens, posing as citizens using someone else's documents, or using phony ones.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials aren't sure why the increase has occurred, but believe it is tied to the introduction of stricter document requirements at the border that began last year. Among other things, it has been a year since oral declarations of citizenship, once an accepted practice, were ruled out and travelers were required to present some sort of identification.
President Obama will receive a report Thursday detailing how some government agencies failed to share or highlight potentially relevant information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before he allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, while others were insufficiently aggressive in seeking out what was known about him, administration officials said Wednesday.
Intelligence intercepts from Yemen beginning in early August, when Abdulmutallab arrived in that country, contained "bits and pieces about where he was, what his plans were, what he was telling people his plans were," as well as information about planning by the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen, a senior administration official said. "At first blush, not all these things appear to be related" to the 23-year-old Nigerian and the bombing attempt, he said, "but we believe they were."
Agencies under particular scrutiny include the CIA, the National Security Agency -- in charge of electronic intercepts -- and the State Department. Each possessed pieces of the puzzle, none of which was considered overly worrisome or immediately actionable -- absent the other pieces -- under existing procedures. The National Counterterrorism Center, established after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to connect the dots government-wide, did not do so.
From The Record, on increased security for the travel sector:
Bomb-sniffing dogs and gun-toting police officers will be conspicuous at the region's airports and train stations this weekend as part of a local security clampdown following a failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound jet last week.
Security measures will be stepped up at New Jersey train stations and NJ Transit facilities, including the deployment of K-9 units and additional state police personnel, Governor Corzine announced Wednesday.
Similar steps - such as the deployment of K-9 units - will be taken at the region's three major airports and the PATH transit system, all of which the Port Authority operates.
While there is no known threat in the New Jersey area, local officials will "assure the safety and security" of the hundreds of thousands of travelers who will be flying in and out of Newark Liberty International Airport or riding on local train lines this weekend, Corzine said.
"We will also increase the number of officers patrolling our roadways to be on the lookout for impaired drivers or any abnormal activity," Corzine said.
From the Associated Press, on an uncovered smuggling tunnel in Nogales:
From USA Today, on new warnings for small business that bank online:
Border Patrol agents in the Arizona border city of Nogales discovered a 36-foot smuggling tunnel Tuesday that was under construction and caused a sink hole on a street.
Agency spokesman David Jimarez says the tunnel's builders knocked a hole in a drainage system in the neighboring Mexican city of Nogales and dug out an offshoot extending 25 feet into the American sister city.
Investigators don't know where the tunnel was supposed to end because it wasn't
No arrests have been made.
A rising swarm of cyber-robberies targeting small firms, local governments, school districts, churches and non-profits has prompted an extraordinary warning. The American Bankers Association and the FBI are advising small and midsize businesses that conduct financial transactions over the Internet to dedicate a separate PC used exclusively for online banking.
The reason: Cybergangs have inundated the Internet with "banking Trojans" - malicious programs that enable them to surreptitiously access and manipulate online accounts. A dedicated PC that's never used for e-mail or Web browsing is much less likely to encounter a banking Trojan.
And the bad guys are stepping up ways to get them onto PCs at small organizations. They then use the Trojans to manipulate two distinctive, decades-old banking technologies: Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers and wire transfers.ACH and wire transfers remain at the financial nerve center of most businesses. ACH transfers typically take two days to complete and are widely used to deposit salaries, pay suppliers and receive payments from customers. Wire transfers usually come into play to move larger sums in near-real time.
"Criminals go where the money is," says Avivah Litan, banking security analyst at Gartner, a technology consulting firm. "The reason they're going here is the controls are antiquated, and a smart program can often get the money out."
There are no public events scheduled for today.