Negroponte: We Are Safer Than Before 9/11

The former Director of National Intelligence under President George W. Bush said today that President Obama has taken appropriate steps following the failed attempt to bomb a plane on Christmas Day and the intelligence failures that allowed suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board a Northwest Airlines jet.

On Thursday saying, "Ultimately the buck stops with me. As president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people, and when the system fails, it is my responsibility."

The president announced a series of steps he says will help intelligence officials prevent breakdowns like the one on Christmas Day. CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid reports the new measures include: assigning responsibility for investigating leads on high priority threats; wider and faster distribution of intelligence reports; strengthening the sharing of intelligence; and expanding the number people on watch lists - especially the no-fly list.

The White House also released a declassified a report on the Christmas Day bombing attempt.

Summary of White House Review
Directive from President Obama
Special Report: The Christmas Day Terror Attack

"Well, I think it was good that he dealt with this so quickly, that they came up with this preliminary report so fast and that they've taken responsibility," John Negroponte, who also served as U.S. representative to the United Nations and as Ambassador to Iraq, said on CBS' "Early Show."

Negroponte said that Mr. Obama is "certainly moving comfortably into his commander in chief role."

"I think they've handled this situation well," he said. "Clearly something went seriously wrong in not getting this individual on the watch list that would have prevented him from getting on that aircraft."

When asked by anchor Harry Smith whether the dots involving Abdulmutallab were, in fact, connectable, Negroponte said, "That's a really great question — I'm thinking hard about that one because they talk about it might have prevented this plot from unfolding, it could have disrupted it. But these were fragmentary pieces of information. We did not have the entire narrative of some kind of a plot, as we have had in other instances where we disrupted the serious attacks. So it's a judgment call.

Negroponte said the size of the traveling public — "literally millions of people and hundreds of thousands of flights taking place all the time" — requires a fairly big solution to the problem of coordinating information about terror threats on 28 different databases.

But he did not think the hundreds of people involved in disseminating information at the National Counterterrorism Center constituted a bureaucracy whose vastness was counterproductive: "They've only got a total of 600 people, 300 of them are analysts. I don't think that's really out of line when you're talking about an intelligence community of 100,000 people," Negroponte said.

Smith asked Negroponte if he felt the Obama administration was heading in the right direction on its intelligence system.

"Oh, absolutely. And I agree with those who are saying that we are safer than we were before 9/11. This is a question of tweaking a system. We dodged a bullet obviously; it was a near-miss. But I think the president is taking appropriate, prompt and corrective action."

More on Obama's Remarks and the Report:

Obama Commands Intel Community to Do Better
Obama: "We Are at War"
John Brennan: I Told Leiter to Take Leave
Brennan: Yemen's Al Qaeda Is "Lethal" and "Concerning"
Transcript: Obama on Intelligence Failures
Full Obama Video
Analysis from CBS News' Bob Schieffer and Bob Orr

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at and