WASHINGTON – US intelligence agencies have made progress since 2001 but they still have to do better after an attack on an airliner was narrowly averted, the top US military officer said on Wednesday.
Since the September 11 attacks of 2001, there has an been "extraordinary change" in how intelligence agencies have tracked terror threats and collaborated, Admiral Mike Mullen told a conference at George Washington University.
Information is shared among spy agencies more "rapidly" and "transparently" than in the past, said Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We've made an awful lot of progress to focus on these terrorists and, yet, we certainly had the incident on the 25th of December which has been front and center," said Mullen, referring to a thwarted attempt to blow up a Northwest airliner bound for Detroit from Amsterdam.
Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, is accused of trying to bring down the Northwest jet with explosives sewn into his underwear.
President Barack Obama issued a sharp rebuke to US spy chiefs on Tuesday, accusing them of an intelligence "screw-up" that left the airliner vulnerable to an Al-Qaeda attack.
"It's not a perfect system," Mullen said.
"We endeavor, and there are an awful lot of tremendous people who work to make it perfect, but there's a human factor here that's in play in all these systems," he said.
"We know, based on this incident and certainly the direction we've all received from the president, we have to learn these lessons and make it better."
Mullen added that Obama was "not patient about this at all, these changes have to be made immediately."
© AFP 2013