An American consular official in Lagos denied underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab a visa to enter the United States after the Nigerian provided false information on a 2004 visa application, but was overruled by a supervisor, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Abdulmutallab first applied for U.S. visa in Togo, but was told he must apply at a location closer to his residence in Nigeria. When he returned to Lagos, Abdulmutallab filed an application which incorrectly stated that he had never been denied a visa.
Upon learning that this was false, the consular official denied Abdulmutallab a U.S. visa. But that decision was overturned by a supervisor. Because the matter was considered resolved, it did not come up again in 2008 when Abdulmutallab sought a new visa to enter the U.S.
He used that visa to board United Airlines Flight 253 Christmas Day in Amsterdam, and then tried to blow up the plane shortly before it landed in Detroit. Passengers and flight crew members subdued Abdulmutallab before he could detonate a bomb concealed in his underwear.
The decision to overrule the visa denial was not mentioned in the Obama Administration's report on the Christmas Day plot that was issued in early January. It found that the "most significant failures and shortcomings "by the intelligence community fell into three broad categories:
* A failure "to assign responsibility and accountability" for following up information on "high priority" threats;
* A failure of intelligence analysis, in which U.S. counterterrorism agencies "failed before December 25 to identify, correlate, and fuse into a coherent story all of the discrete pieces of intelligence held by the U.S. government related to an emerging terrorist plot;"
* Failing "to identify intelligence" in the government's possession "that would have allowed Mr. Abulmutallab to be watchlisted, and potentially prevented from boarding an aircraft bound for the United States."
Administration officials told the Post that the 2004 incident involving Abdulmutallab was not included in a recent review of his attempted bombing because the move to overturn the original denial didn't seem out of the ordinary. They said the administration's review found that consular officials operated in accordance with the rules and policies at the time.
"We always want to better anticipate threats. And since December we've continued to go back over this case and try to apply the lessons learned," a senior State Department official said.