Obama To Announce New Security Measures
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
President Obama has been meeting with intelligence and security advisors this afternoon in the White House situation room. They've been reviewing the attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day and they're looking to establish new safety protocols for planes flying to the U.S. from abroad. The president is expected to make a statement shortly.
NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea joins us now.
Don, the president has said intelligence agencies had bits and pieces of information that should have kept the suspected bomber off that plane. What is the sense at the White House about what exactly went wrong?
DON GONYEA: They're still trying to figure out. But here is what they talk about. They use the image of different silos of information. One represents the CIA, one represents the FBI, one represents Homeland Security, or other branches of the intelligence services. Information goes up each silo to the top but it's not shared well across from one silo to the next. And they have to figure out how to do it.
And one of the very difficult things here is these are the exact same kinds of questions that were being asked after 9/11. So, the question that is being discussed at this White House meeting today is, why? Why haven't we fixed the things that were supposed to have been fixed back then? The other thing the president, we can to expect to hear from him today, in terms of what he will say, is gathering intelligence is hard. It's hard work. It's difficult coming up with timely information that is actionable. It's one thing not to have complete information but it's another thing to have information that isn't shared. And that's what they really need (unintelligible).
NORRIS: Now President Obama talks often about accountability and Mr. Obama has promised to support intelligence agencies but he has also said that he plans to hold them accountable. Does that mean that someone in this case might get fired?
GONYEA: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked that today and he dodged the question. Yeah, the president has talked about both systemic failures here and human failures that they know took place. That's how the guy got on the plane on Christmas Day in Amsterdam. There has been a lot of talk about how to address these systemic issues, but so far no talk about whether any humans will be held accountable and perhaps lose their job.
But so far, the Homeland Security director, the president's counterterrorism advisor, the director of national intelligence that's the position that was created to have someone be able to connect the dots - that term you hear. All of those people, a confidence has been expressed. But we are going to have to see on that.
NORRIS: Don, in addition to reviewing intelligence the administration is beefing up airport security, new measures announced this week, especially as it relates to security abroad. Tell us what's happening and what else we might be seeing.
GONYEA: Well, some of the things we are not seeing and that's part of it. Some of it is being kept secret and it's not being detailed. But we do know that people with passports or merely traveling through 14 countries are now subject to automatic extra screening before they board a flight. We are not sure how enforcement on that is going but it includes Nigeria, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya so that has been put in place.
There is also a sense that existing rules need to be enforced better. Somebody buys a one-way ticket, somebody who pays cash for their ticket, those things that are supposed to be the flags, those things that have gotten people on no-fly lists and watch lists, those sorts of things have to be better coordinated and really enforced.
NORRIS: Before I let you go, what does all this mean for the president's agenda? He was expected to start the year focusing on domestic matters, jobs, finishing up health care.
GONYEA: Well, the White House says this is not a distraction for starters. And that national security is obviously the president's most important job. They also say that he has been working on specifically the situation in Yemen since well before Christmas Day. So, it's not like it's something that's brand new on his plate. That said, they did want to start focusing more on domestic issues. He will still be doing that. Health care obviously needs to be finished up. And the first thing that Robert Gibbs said at his press conference today was the president will be going to Lorain, Ohio, to talk about jobs on January 22nd, so�
NORRIS: Thank you, Don.
GONYEA: Thank you.
NORRIS: That's NPR White House correspondent, Don Gonyea.