By Tony Romm - 01/02/10 11:00 AM EST
President Barack Obama on Saturday stressed he would do "everything in
my power" to bolster national security, following the attempted bombing
of Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day.
An investigation into that terror plot and its prime suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, continues, the president said in his weekly radio address this morning. But Obama offered scant details into what the White House has learned since first launching the review last week, the results of which reached the president's desk on Thursday.
Concerns about the White House's handling of the Flight 253 attack number plenty, and the president himself has previously acknowledged the incident marks a "systemic failure" of the nation's intelligence system.
The president filled in a few of the knowledge gaps during his Saturday address. Obama confirmed that suspect Abdulmutallab had been trained by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen -- a group that previous attacked a U.S. embassy there in 2008, killing one American.
That's also where the suspect acquired his explosives and was directed to attack Flight 253, bound for Detroit, Obama added.
The president did not offer additional details, but he did stress the White House was learning more as the investigation continues. Still, Obama's reassurances may not be enough to quiet an increasingly political -- and sometimes partisan -- debate in Washington over the future of the country's homeland security architecture.
The Flight 253 attack illuminated a lingering Senate dispute over the confirmation of Erroll Southers, the White House's nominee to head up the Transportation Security Administration. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R) retains his hold on Southers' final floor vote.
And the Christmas Day plot has also revived a longstanding debate over screening procedures at airports across the country. Lawmakers are already discussing whether the attempted bombing merits the introduction of full-body screeners.
Both debates have turned partisan at times. Some Republicans have charged Democrats for failing to stop a terrorist plot before it reached the nation's borders, while Democrats have excoriated Republicans for trying to score "political points" from the ordeal.
But the president on Saturday urged lawmakers to cooperate in the coming weeks to enhance the country's security. While Obama did fire a shot across the bow at the Bush administration -- which he said neglected al-Qaeda to fight in Iraq -- he implored members of Congress to avoid giving into the "fear and cynicism" of the moment.
"Instead of succumbing to partisanship and division, let's summon the unity that this moment demands," Obama said. "Let's work together, with a seriousness of purpose, to do what must be done to keep our country safe."