American military and intelligence officials said they first picked up warnings of imminent attacks about three weeks ago, using information obtained from enhanced intelligence-sharing established with Yemen last year.
The information pointed to four suicide bombers headed to Sana, the Yemeni capital, to attack Western targets, possibly the American and British Embassies. Military strikes thwarted those attacks, the officials say.
President Obama’s counterterrorism chief, John O. Brennan, said in an array of Sunday television appearances that there were only “disparate bits and pieces of information” available to intelligence agencies about the suspect in the plane case, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. “There was no smoking gun piece of intelligence out there that said he was a terrorist,” Mr. Brennan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
On Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration issued new regulations that passengers from 14 nations would receive “full-body pat-down and physical inspection of property” before they can board a plane headed to the United States. Those countries include Pakistan, Nigeria and Yemen, and the four nations still listed as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
President Obama, who has been in Hawaii over the holidays, is to return to Washington on Monday.
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