- The Hill -
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair on Wednesday said he should not have given in to pressure to reduce the passenger no-fly list before the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
“The pressure on the no-fly list was to make them smaller … shame on us for giving in to that pressure,” Blair told the Senate Homeland Security Committee during a Wednesday hearing.
“What is prudent is to put names on just in case and take them off when it’s justified,” he said. “The pressure [before the attempted bombing] was in the other direction. I should not have given in to that pressure.”
Intelligence and homeland security agencies have faced criticism for failing to place suspected attempted bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the no-fly list even though officials knew for months that the Nigerian student had terrorist ties and his father had warned U.S. authorities about his extremist behavior.
Abdulmutallab was added to the 550,000 suspects on a watch list kept by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center in November, yet there wasn’t enough negative information about him, by intelligence standards at the time, to put him on the no-fly list.
Blair said intelligence agencies have greatly expanded the no-fly list since the Christmas attempted bombing.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) thanked Blair for acknowledging the error and making efforts to correct it.
“I can’t thank you enough for what you just said,” said Lieberman. “We were using a standard that was legalistic … but we are at war.”