Fri, Jan 08, 2010 - Page 7 News List

US charges Nigerian amid planned security revamp

EXPLOSIVE The White House yesterday planned to release a declassified account of the alleged plot to blow up a passenger jet in Detroit on Christmas Day

AFP AND AP , WASHINGTON

A young Nigerian has been charged with attempted murder and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction aboard a US plane, as under-fire security chiefs vow to revamp intelligence services.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, was indicted on Wednesday by a grand jury on six counts arising from a botched Christmas Day attempt to blow up an airliner carrying 279 passengers and 11 crew as it approached Detroit, Michigan.

Michigan district court documents accused him of “carrying a concealed bomb” inside his clothing on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam.

“The bomb consisted of a device containing pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and other ingredients,” the charge sheet said, adding that both substances were highly explosive.

“The bomb was designed to ­allow defendant Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate it at a time of his choosing, and to thereby cause an explosion aboard Flight 253,” the documents added.

If convicted of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, Abdulmutallab faces life imprisonment, the Department of Justice said in a statement. The attempted murder charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years, while two charges of possession and use of a firearm or destructive device carry a mandatory 30 years in prison.

“This investigation is fast-paced, global and ongoing, and it has already yielded valuable intelligence that we will follow wherever it leads,” US Attorney-General Eric Holder said in the statement.

Meanwhile, the public is getting its clearest look at the government missteps that allowed Abdulmutallab to slip through security.

The White House yesterday planned to make public a declassified account of the incident, and US President Barack Obama was to address the country about its findings and recommendations. Obama, too, was to reveal new steps intended to thwart terrorist attacks, as he promised earlier in the week. No firings over the security debacle are expected for now.

For an administration rocked by the breach of security, the day was meant to be a pivot point from an incident that has dominated attention.

“In many ways, this will be the close of this part of the investigation,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Wednesday.

Still, whatever details and improvements were to be revealed, questions were likely to remain and Senate committees plan to hold hearings later this month.

Two legislative officials familiar with intelligence matters, one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate, said on Wednesday that it appeared unlikely that anyone in the Obama administration would be fired over the incident. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Obama’s comments yesterday were to be his sixth on the incident, encompassing two statements to reporters during his Hawaii vacation and two more from the White House, a written statement on New Year’s Eve and his radio address last weekend.

The president blistered the intelligence community earlier this week, saying flatly that the government had enough information to uncover the plot and disrupt the attack.

“It was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had,” Obama said.

Charlie Allen, the former head of collection at CIA, said the government suffers from a shortage of experienced intelligence analysts.

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