Tuesday, January 5, 2010

US overhauls terror watch lists

Updated on : Tuesday, January 5, 2010

WASHINGTON: US terror watch lists have been radically overhauled after a foiled attack on a US-bound jet, the White House said Monday, as President Barack Obama prepared for key talks on the security scare.

The news came as tougher screening procedures for all US-bound air travelers swung into effect in airports around the world.

Obama, who has denounced "systemic" intelligence failures in the Christmas Day plot, was preparing to meet with US intelligence chiefs and security officials on Tuesday to review the findings of two probes into the incident.

But White House spokesman Bill Burton said "safety and security measures are moving forward even as the review goes on" in a bid to plug security gaps. "There's already been a rescrubbing of all the different lists," he told journalists, referring to the lists which determine whether a person is allowed to board a US-bound flight in a foreign airport.

"Probably thousands upon thousands upon thousands of names were scrubbed, and probably dozens were moved to different lists," he added.

Obama has directly linked the Al-Qaeda network, responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, to the botched bid to blow up a Northwest jet with 290 people on board on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

In the wake of the failed attack, the administration has also ordered tight new security measures for US-bound passengers after a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, allegedly tried to bring down the jet.

All passengers heading for the United States could now face random checks, patdowns or baggage checks. And all travelers flying from or via 14 countries including Iran, Nigeria and Yemen will have to undergo mandatory enhanced screening before boarding their US-bound flights, under the new rules.

According to US prosecutors, Abdulmutallab tried to bring down Flight 253 using a device containing the explosive PETN, also known as pentaerythritol.

Stitched into his underwear, it was not spotted by traditional metal detectors. It failed to go off properly, but sparked an on-board fire that was swiftly put out when passengers intervened. Obama was Monday receiving a review into the incident from the CIA and was meeting with his top counter-terrorism advisor, John Brennan.

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