Congress grills terror officials on security lapses

Senior US counter-terrorism officials briefed lawmakers Wednesday on the Christmas bomb plot, amid congressional efforts to toughen aviation security in response to the thwarted attack.

Director for National Intelligence Dennis Blair, National Counter-Terrorism Center chief Mike Leiter, and President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism aide John Brennan held closed-door question and answer sessions at the Capitol.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes said the briefing to his panel aimed to provide “a complete accounting of the intelligence we had prior to the incident, as well as provide more detail on the failures identified in the president’s preliminary report” on the incident.

Reyes said lawmakers and the White House will have to cooperate to bolster US counter-terrorism capabilities and that he backed “imminent” changes that Blair outlined in the briefing.

The briefings came ahead of a wave of hearings by a collection of US congressional committees roughly 10 months before November mid-term elections that will decide control of the Senate and House of Representatives.

US lawmakers have been sharply critical of the failures that allowed a young Nigerian man to get aboard a crowded US-bound airliner, allegedly looking to blow it up with a potent explosive sewn into his underwear.

And they have scrambled to find ways to tighten air travel security, some eight years after Al-Qaeda extremists used hijacked airliners as guided missiles in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“Technology is only one part of what is going to keep us safe. Additional resources, additional technology, additional cooperation from countries throughout the world and a comprehensive strategy to incorporate all of those would be needed,” he added.

And US intelligence will have to “make a concerted commitment to becoming a more flexible, integrated, and proactive organization,” said Reyes.

“There is no question to my mind that this was not a technological error this was a human error,” said Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell.

“I think it was a information sharing problem and human error in judgement to make the determination not revoke his visa in the first place,” said Republican Representative Michael McCaul.

Democratic Representative Nita Lowey signaled she might support the use of controversial full-body scanners, which have drawn criticism from civil liberties and privacy advocates.

“I think we have to do everything possible to keep people safe,” she said.

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