President Obama received a high-level briefing regarding the possibility of holiday attacks on the U.S. only days before the failed terror plot aboard Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253, Newsweek reported Friday.
A senior administration official told Newsweek that the briefing held December 22 was part of regularly-scheduled sessions with counterterrorism officials and revolved around an intelligence report titled "Key Homeland Threats."
The official said the report did not mention Yemen, whose Al Qaeda affiliate is believed to have been behind Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s unsuccessful attack attempt on the airliner. Unknown is whether Yemen was part of any oral discussions in the briefing.
Meanwhile, Obama has pledged to quickly address what the government did wrong leading up to the attempted jet bombing on Christmas when he returns to Washington next week, as lawmakers open the door for hard-hitting hearings examining the same issues.
He received a preliminary assessment Thursday that consisted of briefings and conference calls with top security officials. He'll continue to review the developing information as he rounds out his vacation in Hawaii, in anticipation of a meeting Tuesday in Washington with agency heads to discuss ways to improve intelligence-sharing and security procedures.
The Obama administration has attributed the close call aboard the Northwest flight to "human and systemic failures." The president said this week that he intends to hold officials accountable.
"Intelligence itself and collection thereof is always going to be difficult and not always going to result in complete information and (Obama) understands that," a senior administration official said Thursday. "But, by the same token, when we do have information and when we have good information -- and we often, do given how good our intel professionals are -- the failure to share that information is not going to be tolerated."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that she is dispatching senior officials to meet with leaders from international airports to discuss security enhancements. The Amsterdam airport where the Nigerian suspect boarded has since announced that it will use full-body scanners for U.S.-bound flights.
The Transportation Security Administration is also preparing to expand the use of the scanners in 2010 despite privacy concerns.