WASHINGTON — The government has added dozens of people to the lists of suspected terrorists and those barred from U.S.-bound flights, a crackdown that comes as President Obama prepares to question and challenge his team about the state of national security.
At the White House today, Obama planned to meet with the high-ranking officials charged with the two reviews he ordered after the botched Christmas airliner attack over Detroit — one on air-travel screening procedures and another on the nation's terror watch-list system.
Meanwhile, people flying to the U.S. from overseas will continue to see enhanced security.
The Transportation Security Administration has directed airlines to give full-body pat-downs to U.S.-bound travelers from Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and 11 other countries the U.S. believes have terrorism activity — a move criticized by one Muslim advocacy group.
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The addition of more names to the government's terrorist watch and no-fly lists came after U.S. officials scrutinized a larger database of suspected terrorists, an intelligence official said Monday. People on the watch list get additional checking before they are allowed to enter this country; those on the no-fly list are barred from boarding aircraft in or headed for the United States.
A 23-year-old Nigerian man who claimed ties to al-Qaida was charged Dec. 26 with trying to destroy a Detroit-bound airliner as it approached the airport. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is alleged to have sneaked an explosive device onto the plane and then set it off, sparking a fire but not the intended mass explosion.
Abdulmutallab's name was in the government's database of about 550,000 people suspected of having terrorism ties. But it wasn't on a list requiring him to pass through additional security screening or keep him from flying to the U.S.
That prompted a review of the National Counterterrorism Center's massive Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database and spurred the enhanced security screening protocol issued Monday.
An intelligence official discussed the changes in the watch list on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.