January 20th, 2010
02:39 PM ET
11 years ago

Senators evaluate intelligence reforms in hearing

Washington (CNN) - A Senate committee began its assessment of intelligence reforms put in place after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, by focusing Wednesday on the foiled Christmas Day attack aboard a plane landing in Detroit, Michigan.

The chairman, Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut, said that while he believes the post-9/11 changes have "worked very well," it is "infuriating" that the December 25 suspect, Nigerian Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, was able to board the plane in the Netherlands with a U.S. visa.

The ability of the flight crew and passengers to tackle the suspect saved the approximately 290 people on board, Lieberman said.

AbdulMutallab's father in Nigeria had alerted the U.S. Embassy that he was worried about his son's increasingly extremist views.

Since the bombing attempt, various agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, have been criticized for not paying more attention to the father's warnings.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, pointed out that her department does not prepare the "watch lists" or "no-fly list" but "I share responsibility for the enterprise that has to happen to prevent this from happening again."

"He was not on the no-fly list which would've flagged him to be prevented from boarding, nor was he on the selectee list which would've flagged him for secondary screening," Napolitano said. "Furthermore, the physical screening performed by foreign authorities at airports in Nigeria and the Netherlands did not detect explosives on his body."

"As this incident underscores, aviation security is increasingly an international responsibility," she added.

She said top Homeland Security Department officials are embarking on a multicontinent tour to meet with international counterparts about airline and airport security. She said she would leave in the evening for Spain and a meeting with European Union officials.

"We dodged a bullet above the skies of Detroit on Christmas Day," said said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

The State Department should have revoked AbdulMutallab's visa, or authorities should have questioned him, she said. Collins said the government should immediately revoke the visas of people in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, a central repository of information on international terrorists.

The government uses TIDE to support its various "watch lists" or terror screening systems.

Napolitano said her department is trying to encourage other countries to beef up their screening procedures at airports they control.

"We are embarking on an international effort," she said.

Responding to a question about privacy during screening, she said, authorities consider privacy issues but their primary concern is protecting the flying public.

Napolitano said Congress can have a role in informing the public. "We are doing everything we can do" but "there is no one silver bullet," she added.

Lieberman said he believes the various layers of watch lists and no-fly lists are too complicated.

Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, agreed and said actions would be taken this week toward making changes in how people are selected for the lists. The terror watch list has about 400,000 names, officials have said.

"Umar Farooq AbdulMutallab should not have stepped onto a plane on Christmas Day," he said. "The counterterrorism system collectively failed."

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, asked those testifying why no one has been held accountable for the AbdulMutallab incident. He was told an investigation into who was responsible was still under way.

Filed under: Senate
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Maybe Lieberman can get all Muslims excluded from flying. By the way, democrats never had 60 votes in the senate, they had 59 and Lieberman. It is interesting, that in a democracy where majority rules, 41 senators can obstruct government.

    January 20, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  2. JES

    That's because the people put into place by Obama including himself don't have a clue as to what they are doing.

    January 20, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but....

    I think we need to review the senate's intelligence after the joke of a healthcare bill they came up with. Where's the reform, congress critters? Hopefully the whole US healthcare system will collapse and we'll get single-payer like the rest of the world. Have a nice day!

    January 20, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  4. in AK

    joe lieberman "The chairman, Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut, said that while he believes the post-9/11 changes have “worked very well,” it is “infuriating” that the December 25 suspect, Nigerian Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, was able to board the plane in the Netherlands with a U.S. visa. come on
    joe, his own father warned the u.s. govt. that he was dangerous and nothing was done about that!

    January 20, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  5. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    Why are we worrying about terrorists at all?

    Now that Obama is king, doesn't the world just LOVE us? Time to see through the lies.

    Dump the DNC/RNC circus.

    January 20, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |