Obama: We Will Do Everything Possible to Keep America Safe

Updated 4:05 p.m. ET

President Obama pledged to do everything possible to keep America safe in his first public comments since a Christmas Day attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 as it was landing in Detroit.

"As a nation, we will do everything in our power to protect our country," Mr. Obama said. (watch the full statement at left)

"This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland," he added. "Had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane, it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their families and friends."

Mr. Obama made the 10-minute remarks from Hawaii where he is currently on vacation. The president had faced criticism from Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and others that he had not been visible enough in the aftermath of the attempted attack.

"This is a teaching moment, to use the president's term. And I believe that he or the secretary or the vice president or the attorney general should be out there reminding the American people, saying this shows how deadly this enemy is," CBS' "Face the Nation.". "This shows how real this threat is and why we have to do whatever we possibly can to protect the American people." (Read more about King's statements.>)

In his remarks, Mr. Obama was clear to point out that he had been in contact and working even though he is in Hawaii, noting that he spoke to senior officials this morning and that he told them to "continue monitoring the situation to keep the American people and members of Congress informed."

Mr. Obama also outlined the steps his administration was taking over the short and long term in the wake of the incident.

"A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism, and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable," Mr. Obama said.

A 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been charged in the attempted attack. Just prior to the president's remarks, an al Qaeda branch in Yemen claimed responsibility in an Internet posting.

The president also said he directed his national security team to "keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country."

"We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses," he said. "We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland."

CBS' Juan Zarate: Yemen Ties Could be "Game Changer"
Watch Zarate's Analysis on "Face the Nation"
Al Qaeda's Yemen Branch Rising in Stature

As for steps to ensure the safety of air travel, the president said he ordered "immediate steps to ensure the safety of the traveling public."

"We made sure that all flights still in the air were secure and could land safely," he said. "We immediately enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. We added federal air marshals to flights entering and leaving the United States."

(CBS)
Mr. Obama then discussed the two reviews he ordered after the incident – one which will look at the watch list system and another which examines airport screening "policies, technologies and procedures."

"We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks," he said.

The president also had a message for the American people to not only "remain vigilant" but also to "be confident."

"Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as Americans," he said. "This incident, like several that have preceded it, demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist."

Mr. Obama added: "As Americans, we will never give in to fear or division. We will be guided by our hopes, our unity, and our deeply held values. That's who we are as Americans; that's what our brave men and women in uniform are standing up for as they spend the holidays in harm's way. And we will continue to do everything that we can to keep America safe in the new year and beyond."

Following his remarks on the attempted terror attack, Mr. Obama also addressed Sunday's Iranian government crackdown of protesters in which at least eight people were killed.

"The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even death," he said. (Read more on Mr. Obama's comments about Iran>)

More Coverage of the Attempted Terror Attack from CBSNews.com:

Al Qaeda: We Planned Flight 253 Bombing
Officials: In-Flight Restrictions Eased
Tracing Bomb Suspect's Journey to Detroit
Expert: New Security Steps a Smokescreen
Many Questions, Few Answers in Terror Case
U.S. Failed to Catch Suspect's Active Visa
Abdulmutallab Shocks Family, Friends
Would-Be Bomber Used Powerful Explosive
Who Is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?
Tightening Security in U.S.
Washington Unplugged: What Lies Ahead for Air Travel

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.