In a short, stern address, US President Barack Obama sought on Thursday to assure the nation that he is moving swiftly to correct the intelligence failures that allowed a man allegedly carrying explosives to board a commercial airliner on Christmas Day.
But he also warned that threats posed by “a nimble adversary” will require more time and money to eliminate.
Obama used the word “immediate” half a dozen times in a roughly 12-minute speech made in the White House’s State Dining Room — at one point, twice in the same sentence — to convey a sense of urgency that critics say he lacked in the days after the attempted bombing. He also spoke sharply for the second time in as many days about the “systemic failures” that allowed a 23-year-old Nigerian, whose father had warned U.S. authorities about his son’s radical interpretation of Islam, to board a Detroit-bound airliner in Amsterdam, allegedly with explosives under his clothes.
Obama said he was less interested in “passing out blame” than in correcting mistakes, and he made clear that senior intelligence officials will be overseeing reforms rather than looking for new jobs.
But Obama, more than in his previous remarks about the incident, also held himself accountable as the nation’s commander-in-chief for the near catastrophe that unfolded during his Christmas vacation, saying: “Ultimately, the buck stops with me.” The set of technical reforms designed to better track suspected terrorists and enhance airline security that he outlined at the start of his speech gave way to a stark reminder that “we are at war.”
“Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans,” Obama said.
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