Intelligence "chatter" from Yemen knew of airline plot; wildfires destory homes in Western Australia; China bites back over execution of Briton; US wants Afghan vote delayed for credibility's sake; and more
Top of the Agenda: Airline Terror Plot Deepens
Fallout from the Christmas Day airline terror plot continues to deepen amid revelations that U.S. intelligence agencies had the information to keep a Nigerian national from boarding a plane bound for Detroit, but failed to connect the dots. President Barack Obama called the oversight a "systemic failure" of the U.S. intelligence system, and said he would "insist on accountability at every level."
The National Security Agency had been monitoring "chatter" (The Times) among al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, including a former Guantanamo detainee, and learned that plans were underway to prep a Nigerian for a terror strike. But U.S. officials say it isn't clear whether this information was shared by intelligence agencies in Washington.
Authorities are focusing on time the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, spent in London, including the possibility that he was recruited by al-Qaeda while attending University College London (The Times). Abdulmutallab reportedly told authorities he received weapons training in Yemen, and an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has claimed responsibility. The Yemen connection could prove the most immediate challenge for President Obama. Roughly 90 of the remaining prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are Yemeni, and the Wall Street Journal reports that the terror development might hinder efforts to transfer suspects and shutter the prison as Obama has vowed.
Analyst Christopher Boucek tells CFR.org more U.S. aid is needed to help address Yemen's mounting problems, which have allowed an al-Qaeda affiliate to gain strength.
A New York Times editorial concludes that only luck and courage saved Northwest Flight 253 from disaster; the aviation security system failed.
The Global Post details the competing security and refugee challenges that are mounting along the Yemen-Somalia border.
Former colleagues of the accused terror plotter talk to The National newspaper about the "smart but introverted" Abdulmutallab.
PACIFIC RIM: China Justifies Execution
Beijing has urged British officials to view the execution of a British national "rationally," arguing that the tough sentence for Akmal Shaikh, who was charged with drug trafficking, should not hurt bilateral ties (Global Times).
Burma: Burma has agreed to repatriate some 9,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh (al-Jazeera), amid concerns that they face religious persecution at home.