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Plane bombing plot: US intel chief admits goof-up

January 21, 2010 12:41 IST

United States' Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair has -- in a candid assessment -- revealed what went wrong before and after the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight.

He said that he had wrongly caved to external "pressure" to trim the no-fly list and even admitted the intelligence community would probably drop the ball in the future.

According to Fox News, a visibly frustrated Blair spoke Wednesday alongside other top officials in a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Blair and Michael Leiter, Director of the National Counter-terrorism Centre, both said at the outset that the system failed and they are making changes to correct it.

In one specific criticism, Blair said suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should have been questioned by the recently created High-value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG).

"We will make a new mistake. We will not make that one," he said.

It was one of several startlingly blunt remarks from the intelligence chief.

In another exchange, Blair expressed disappointment that so many leaks about who knew what when have emerged in the course of the internal review.

"I wish people would just shut the hell up," he said.

Blair also said criteria for adding people to the government's 'no fly' list was too legalistic.

Blair said analysts were being told to cast a 'very fishy eye' on including more names for 'several years before 2008'.

His assessment was essentially a repudiation of the way the United States has been processing this information for years. Since the Christmas episode, the list has been expanded, he said.

"Shame on us for giving into that pressure. I should not have given into that pressure, but it was a factor and we have certainly changed that attitude," Blair said.

Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the committee, applauded Blair for his assessment, saying the 'legal standard' for accepting names on terror watch lists has presented problems.

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