Washington (CNN) - To understand how the suspect in the botched terror attack was able to board a plane, you have to understand how the counterterrorism system that President Obama says failed is supposed to work.
The president says the clues were there, and that a fuller, clearer picture of 23-year-old Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab would have emerged if all the bits and pieces had been shared and put together.
"The warning signs would have triggered red flags, and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America," Obama said.
The president has ordered a top-to-bottom investigation of the failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day. The preliminary report is expected Thursday.
One of the key questions is why wasn't the suspect's visa revoked.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama wrote a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that a U.S. envoy delivered, a senior U.S. official said.
Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, delivered the letter to the North Korean leader during a three-day visit to North Korea last week, the official said.
The official declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration's first high-level direct talks with North Korea yielded no promise by Pyongyang to return to Six- Party negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear program, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nonetheless Thursday called the meeting "quite positive."
Asked about the three-day visit to North Korea by special envoy Stephen Bosworth, Clinton told reporters, "I think for a preliminary meeting it was quite positive."
Clinton said she agreed with Ambassador Bosworth that the talks were "very useful" and added: "It does remain to be seen whether and when the North Koreans will return to the Six-Party talks but the bottom line is that these were exploratory talks, not negotiations."
Clinton said the talks "were intended to do exactly what they did: reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the Six-Party process, to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and to discuss with the North Koreans their reactions to what we are asking them to do in order to move forward."
Washington (CNN) - As President Obama prepared to explain his military strategy for Afghanistan Tuesday, his secretary of state said U.S. civilian efforts are just as critical to successfully getting Afghanistan back on its feet.
At the same time, a diplomatic source says the United States is pushing for an international "special coordinator" to work in parallel with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Speaking Monday in New York to the Business Executives for National Security Gala, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington's "goals in Afghanistan include providing the government with the support that it needs to take full responsibility for its own country.
"That makes civilian efforts as vital as military operations and of longer duration," she said. "We have begun to elevate diplomacy and development alongside defense in our national security strategy, and we are certainly engaged in doing so in Afghanistan."
Clinton described the work of the State Department, USAID and other government agencies deployed in Afghanistan. She said experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are embedded with the U.S. military and "rule of law" experts are working to extend a system of justice "so that the Taliban would not offer the only form of justice in Afghanistan."
The State Department says it is tripling the number of civilian staff deployed to Afghanistan, and plans to have 974 staff members there by early 2010.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama will nominate Dr. Rajiv Shah to fill the long-vacant position as head the U.S. Agency for International Development, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN Tuesday. The official spoke on background because a public announcement has not yet been made.
Shah, a physician and former executive with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is currently under-secretary for research, education and economics, and chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He manages the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistical Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The official described Shah as leader in global development with "deep experience" in health, agriculture, water and financial services.
At the Gates Foundation, Shah helped launch the Global Development program and directly managed the foundation's nearly $1.3 billion portfolio of investments in agricultural development. He also was the founding director of the foundation's Financial Services to the Poor portfolio, and held numerous leadership roles within the Foundation Global Health program.
Shah, the official said, also helped lead, and is an important contributor to, Obama's global food security initiative.
According to the official, at the Agriculture Department Shah manages more than 10,000 federal employees and a budget of more than $2.6 billion, working with Congress, the State Department, the White House and the international development community on issues such as health and nutrition, bio-energy and climate change.
MARRAKESH, Morocco (CNN) - Two days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Palestinian leaders by praising Israel for what she called "unprecedented" steps to limit - but not fully halt - the construction of Jewish settlements, she clarified her remarks.
Reading Monday from a prepared statement, Clinton said, "They (the Israelis) will build no new settlements, expropriate no new land, allow no new construction or approvals. And let me just say, this offer falls far short of our position or what our preference would be. But if it is acted upon it will be unprecedented restrictions on settlements and would have a significant effect upon restraining their growth."
For months, the Obama administration has insisted that Israel freeze all new settlement construction. In May, Clinton said President Barack Obama "wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions."
But on Saturday, standing beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Clinton praised him for simply slowing settlement
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday questioned why Pakistani officials have not been able to capture or kill members of al Qaeda taking refuge in the country.
"Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002," she told a group of Pakistani journalists during her trip to the country.
"I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to ... Maybe that's the case," she added. "Maybe they're not gettable. I don't know."
Al Qaeda, she said, has launched attacks on Indonesia, the Philippines and many other countries, "so the world has an interest in seeing the capture and killing of the people who are the masterminds of this terrorist syndicate."
"As far as we know, they are in Pakistan."
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) - Just a few hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad, a massive car bomb exploded in a crowded market frequented by women in the northwest city of Peshawar, a two-hour drive away.
The city lies near Pakistan's tribal areas where al Qaeda and other extremist groups are believed to be hiding.
Condemning what she called "vicious attacks," Clinton called those who carry them out "cowards."
"They are not courageous, they are cowardly," she told reporters, speaking slowly and deliberately. "If the people behind these attacks were so sure of their beliefs, let them join the political process. Let them come forth to the people of Pakistan in this democracy and make their case that they don't want girls to go to school. That they want women to be kept back."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed Wednesday that the White House remains open to diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government if Tehran is serious about negotiations regarding its controversial nuclear program.
"If Iran is serious about taking practical steps to address the international community's deep concerns about (the) program, we will continue to engage both multilaterally and bilaterally to discuss the full range of issues that have divided Iran and the United States for too long," she said.
"The door is open to a better future for Iran. But the process of engagement cannot be open-ended. We are not prepared to talk just for the sake of talking."
Clinton made her remarks during a wide-ranging speech on nuclear non-proliferation at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a non-partisan think tank.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver a major address on arms control and international security at the U.S. Institute of Peace Wednesday.
While promoting President Barack Obama's goal of reducing the role of nuclear weapons in the United States' defense posture, Clinton will argue that the U.S. will retain a safe, secure and effective strategic force.
According to talking points provided to CNN by a senior administration official, Clinton will say that U.S. allies and partners "should know that we have their backs; any adversary should know we will defend ourselves."
Clinton will focus on efforts by President Obama to restore the strength of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, eliminate the potential sources of nuclear terrorism, and move toward the vision of a world without nuclear weapons.