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Intelligence employees receive orders for reform

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Obama: 'Failed to connect dots'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Intelligence community gets new directives in preventing potential terror plots
  • Obama: Series of errors kept investigators from uncovering Christmas terror plot
  • Bombing suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab faces six-count federal indictment

Washington (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence employees have received a letter from their boss mandating procedural changes intended to prevent future terrorist plots from succeeding.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair sent the letter Thursday after President Obama released a declassified report stating that U.S. officials had "sufficient information" to have stopped the failed Christmas attack on a Michigan-bound jetliner. A variety of errors kept investigators from uncovering the plot, the Obama administration's preliminary investigation found.

"We will take a fresh and penetrating look at strengthening both human and technical performance and do what we have to do in all areas," said Blair, one of the administration's top intelligence officials who has come under criticism after the foiled airline attack.

Blair said the president has directed him to oversee work in our specific areas:

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-- Assigning clear lines of responsibility for investigating all leads on high-priority threats, so they are pursued more aggressively.

-- Distributing intelligence reports more quickly and widely, especially those suggesting specific threats against the United States.

-- Applying more rigorous standards to analytical tradecraft to improve intelligence integration and action.

-- Enhancing the criteria for adding individuals to the terrorist watch list and no-fly watch list.

Read the president's directive on corrective actions (PDF)

Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25.

The suspect in that plot, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, has told investigators that he met with Yemeni militants, and his father tried to warn U.S. officials in his home country of Nigeria that his son was becoming radicalized.

AbdulMutallab, 23, faces a six-count federal indictment, including an attempt to murder the other 289 people aboard Flight 253.

"We had strategic intelligence that AQAP had the intention of taking action against the United States," Blair said in the letter. "We did not direct more resources against AQAP, nor insist that the watchlisting criteria be adjusted.

"The intelligence community analysts who were working hard on immediate threats to Americans in Yemen did not understand the fragments of intelligence on what turned out later to be Mr. AbdulMutallab, so they did not push him onto the no-fly list," he said.

Blair vowed to work to meet the president's demands.

"We will meet this challenge," he said. "I am confident that together we will deliver to the president the improvements he has called for."