TODAY   |  December 29, 2009

Obama: Missed warning signs ‘unacceptable’

Dec. 30: In an address, President Obama blasted the mix of human and systemic failures that allowed a would-be bomber to slip onto a Northwest Airlines flight. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> i'm one of them.

>>> let's begin with what president obama considers systemic failures in american security that contributed to the attempted terror attack on a u.s.-bound passenger jet . nbc's justice correspondent pete williams has the very latest for us. good morning.

>> reporter: erin, good morning to you. from the department of homeland security here in washington, administration officials say president obama has become concerned that the u.s. had enough intelligence to put umar abdulmutallab, the man accused of the attempted bombing, on some kind of watch list . they say that would have prevented him from boarding the flight, or at the very least subjected him to more thorough screening. president obama 's second statement in two days on tuesday in hawaii was unusually blunt.

>> there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security.

>> reporter: what has alarmed the president, white house officials now say, is that the u.s. had at least three pieces of prior intelligence. one, in august, the cia learned that a man from nigeria had come to yemen looking to meet up with islamic extremists . only a fragment of the name was known, although now it appears to match part of abdulmutallab's. two, a bit of chatter suggested that al qaeda operatives in yemen were planning some kind of attack during the christmas holidays. and three, in november, a banker in nigeria told the u.s. embassy there that he suspected his son, umar abdulmutallab, was becoming radicalized and had gone to yemen .

>> had this critical information been shared, it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged.

>> reporter: while some u.s. intelligence officials believe there was nothing that would have flagged abdulmutallab, administration officials say the president now thinks there was. federal investigators also say they now believe based on new information that while abdulmutallab was in yemen , he was communicating with a radical muslim cleric there, anwar al alackie, also connected with the accused army doctor from texas. officials say they don't know what caused abdulmutallab to become radicalized. a search of his comments on a website turned out to be anguish about loneliness and the opposite sex , but in one posting, he wrote "i imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the muslims will win, allah willing, and rule the whole world and establish the greatest empire once again." the president has ordered a report by tomorrow on how air security can be improved, but one member of congress says it first needs to be fixed at overseas airports that serve the u.s.

>> if the rules are good for anyone getting on american planes on american soil, those rules should be good for any foreign citizen getting on a plane bound to america, even if they start on foreign soil.

>> reporter: the government has extended the temporary passenger restrictions for another 24 hours , but new security rules are expected to be issued later today. erin?

>> all right, thank you very much, pete. i can tell you from personal experience coming back yesterday, very inconsistent in terms of the security overseas. thanks so much to pete. it's now five past and