Obama says consequences of failure can be catastrophic.

Obama says consequences of failure can be catastrophic.

Obama says consequences of failure can be catastrophic.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, left, talks with CIA Director Leon Panetta as they leave the White House after a national security team meeting with President Barack Obama on Tuesday. AP Photo

"Just as al Qaeda and its allies are constantly evolving and adapting their efforts to strike us, we have to constantly adapt and evolve to defeat them, because, as we saw on Christmas, the margin for error is slim, and the consequences of failure can be catastrophic," Obama said in a statement after meeting his top intelligence and national security aides on Tuesday.

Obama had convened a Situation Room meeting in the aftermath of the failed Al Qaeda attempt to blow up a US plane on December 25.

"As these violent extremists pursue new havens, we intend to target al Qaeda wherever they take root, forging new partnerships to deny them sanctuary, as we are doing currently with the government in Yemen," Obama said.

"As our adversaries seek new recruits, we'll constantly review and rapidly update our intelligence and our institutions.

As they refine tactics, we'll enhance our defenses, including smarter screening and security at airports, and investing in the technologies that might have detected the kind of explosives used on Christmas," he said.

"In short, we need our intelligence, homeland security and law-enforcement systems, and the people in them, to be accountable and to work as intended, collecting, sharing, integrating, analysing and acting on intelligence as quickly and effectively as possible to save innocent lives, not just most of the time, but all of the time," Obama said.

"That's what the American people deserve. As president, that's exactly what I will demand," he said.

Referring to the Christmas Day plot, Obama said Al Qaeda and its extremist allies will stop at nothing in their efforts to kill Americans.

"We are determined not only to thwart those plans but to disrupt, dismantle and defeat their networks once and for all. Indeed over the past year, we have taken the fight to Al Qaeda and its allies wherever they plot and train, be it in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Yemen and Somalia, or in other countries around the world," he said.

"Here at home our intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement agencies have worked together with considerable success, gathering intelligence, stitching it together, and making arrests from Denver to Texas, from Illinois to New York, disrupting plots and saving American lives," he said.

These successes, he noted, have not come without a price, as seen last week in the loss of our courageous CIA officers in Afghanistan.
"But when a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day, the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way," he said.
"It's my responsibility to find out why and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future," Obama said.

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