U.S revoking visas after plane bombing attempt, revamping procedures

08:05, January 06, 2010      

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The United States has revoked visas of those suspected of terrorism links after a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner on Dec. 25, and steps are being taken to revamp the procedures, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Tuesday.

Crowley said after the Christmas Day terror plot, the State Department and law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security have scrubbed their databases, and "additional visas have been revoked for people that we believe have suspected ties to terrorism."

He refused to tell how many visas were revoked post-Dec. 25, but said the suspect in the plane bombing plot, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, had his visa revoked. Mutallab is now in the custody of U.S. authorities.

Mutallab retained a valid visa to the United States even after his father raised Mutallab's radicalization with the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. Mutallab's name was added to a terrorist watch list called TIDE, which stands for Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, but was not added to the no-fly list.

The lapse caused intense finger-pointing and a major blame game among U.S. agencies. President Barack Obama admitted a mix of human and systemic failures have contributed to the occurrence of the incident on Christmas Day, and he ordered reviews into the incident.

However, John Brennan, Obama's top advisor on counter-terrorism affairs, said later that the U.S. intelligence community did not miss a "smoking gun" leading to the plot, noting "there was no single piece of intelligence that said, 'this guy is going to get on a plane.'" He conceded "lapses" and errors existed in intelligence sharing.

Crowley said on Tuesday that the government is "taking action ... adjusting the criteria through which we decide who's on a watch list, who's on a no-fly list, and who might have a visa that should have it revoked."

"In light of what happened on Dec. 25, along with the rest of government, we're going over what were the criteria that were used in assessing this particular threat. Do those ... criteria need to be adjusted in any way? And that's part of the process that is ongoing," he explained at a daily department briefing.

Crowley cited one change made in the Visas Viper cables, which was created after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York for the State Department and U.S. diplomats to discuss terrorist suspects. He said the cable must now specify whether the individual in question has a current U.S. visa or not.

Mutallab's information was passed back to Washington in a Visas Viper cable on Nov. 20. But the cable didn't contain supplementary information, such as the fact that Mutallab held a valid U.S. visa.

Source: Xinhua
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