President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are calling for the federal government to revise how potential terrorists are categorized in response to the alleged attempted airplane bombing by a Nigerian man on a government watch list.
Suspected bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's name has spent about a month on a watch list of about 550,000 people - mostly foreigners - with suspected terrorist ties. Still, even after his father warned U.S. Embassy officials of his son's terrorist sympathies, he was allowed to board a Detroit-bound plane in Amsterdam, a Nigerian newspaper has reported.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said Sunday that Abdulmutallab should have been considered a great enough threat to merit extra scrutiny at the airport.
A Congressional source said Sunday those suspected of having terrorist ties are identified by U.S. intelligence agents who vet them and place them on the watch list.
Intelligence officials narrow that list down to those they deem dangerous enough to warrant extra screening. Neither are no-fly lists.
These lists are maintained by the federal Transportation Security Administration, under the Department of Homeland Security, which also keeps a "no fly" list of about 4,000 people considered to be the biggest threats, sources said.
King said Abdulmutallab's father's concerns should have elevated his status.
"It was serious enough that his father, a prominent person in that country, came forward to warn us about his son," King said. "That should be automatic that he at least be put temporarily on the secondary screening list."
Abdulmutallab's alleged actions en route to the United States have prompted Obama to call for Homeland Security to "revise watch listing going forward" and "make sure there's no clog in the bureaucratic plumbing," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on a morning news program Sunday.