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Transcript of Obama remarks on airline security and terror watch lists

President Obama's remarks Monday about airline security and this weekend's protests in Iran. The Washington Post maintains a full database of Obama's speeches here.

Good morning, everybody. I wanted to take just a few minutes to update the American people on the attempted terrorist attack that occurred on Christmas Day and the steps we're taking to ensure the safety and security of the country.

The investigation's ongoing. And I spoke again this morning with Attorney General Eric Holder, the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, and my counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, John Brennan. I asked them to keep -- continue monitoring the situation to keep the American people and members of Congress informed.

Here's what we know so far: On Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit. As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body, setting off a fire.

Thanks to the quick and heroic actions of passengers and crew, the suspect was immediately subdued, the fire was put out, and the plane landed safely. The suspect is now in custody and has been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft.

A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism, and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.

Now, this was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland. Had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane, it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their families and friends.

The American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure during this busy holiday season.

Since I was first notified of this incident, I've ordered the following actions to be taken to protect the American people and to secure air travel.

First, I directed that we take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the traveling public. We made sure that all flights still in the air were secure and could land safely. We immediately enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. We added federal air marshals to flights entering and leaving the United States. And we're working closely in this country, federal, state and local law enforcement, with our international partners.

Second, I've ordered two important reviews, because it's absolutely critical that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent future acts of terrorism.

The first review involves our watch list system, which our government has had in place for many years to identify known and suspected terrorists so that we can prevent their entry into the United States. Apparently the suspect in the Christmas incident was in this system, but not on a watch list, such as the so-called no-fly list. So I have ordered a thorough review, not only of how information related to the subject was handled, but of the overall watch list system and how it can be strengthened.

The second review will examine all screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel. We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks.

Third, I've directed my national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country. We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will more -- do more than simply strengthen our defenses. We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.

Finally, the American people should remain vigilant, but also be confident. Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as Americans. This incident, like several that have preceded it, demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist.

As a nation, we will do everything in our power to protect our country. As Americans, we will never give in to fear or division. We will be guided by our hopes, our unity, and our deeply held values. That's who we are as Americans; that's what our brave men and women in uniform are standing up for as they spend the holidays in harm's way. And we will continue to do everything that we can to keep America safe in the new year and beyond.

Before I leave, let me also briefly address the events that have taken place over the last few days in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even death.

For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened, the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people who are part of Iran's great and enduring civilization.

What's taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It's about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran's leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away.

As I said in Oslo, it's telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.

Along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people.

We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I'm confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.

Thank you very much, everybody. And Happy New Year.

(C) 2009, FDCH e-Media, Inc.

By Post Editor  |  December 28, 2009; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Primary Source  
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Next: In wake of terrorism attempt, Obama seeks to reassure


Let's remember that it was former VP Dick Cheney that "rehabilitated", as it were, these Yemenis from Guantanimo Bay. In 2007 they were sent back to Saudi Arabia to attend Art Therapy, where they colored pictures.

When they had convinced enough people that they were rehabilitated, they were released to the public, and many of them chose to revert back to their terrorist ways.

Posted by: ryp1984 | January 1, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

Janet Napolitano should be asked to resign.She is not fit for the job she has. It appears the illegal's have more power than the legal citizen's of America. She is all for allowing illegal's and Amnesty for all of them to get everything free while the legal citizen's of America are being held hostage in our own country. We are all in danger with who has been allowed to enter our country that no other country would put up with. No one in our government seems to understand what is happening in our country or they do not care as long as they keep getting their obscene paychecks.They are all playing Russian Roulette with our lives and we are sick of it.This man was a terrorist and he was invading America.Same as the other muslim that shot up the nine American citizen's. These people have to be stopped.

Posted by: peggydlhk | December 31, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

After watching Obama I realize we have a liar in Chief & a fraud. The content of his words do not square with reality AGAIN! Janet Incompitato should resign immediately for her statements. Transparency for the Obomobots could not be more humiliating; can they? Their vote is the major mistake..........they had an American hero liberal in McCain anyway.

Posted by: billstoobox | December 29, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

wylie: i stand by that old post.

the two reviews encompass many agencies and their processes.
The Watchlists and the No Fly List-
Airline Security (on the whole).

These are two big undertakings.

start with TSA. I guess Congress is moving on the confirmation of the new director. which they stalled. They hire anyone and everyone with minimal training. I even went for their test in 2003.

2nd - the color coded alert system is a flop.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | December 29, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

"The suspect is now in custody and has been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft."

Let me see, this terrorist was trying to bring down a aircraft with 288 people on board, on to a densely populated area of a major US city. Yet he has been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft!! So going by this you are saying that the aircraft is worth more than the people both on board and on the ground.

To add to this Obama says this was "an isolated extremist". Are these the same isolated extremists that have been murdering people all over the globe for years, the same isolated extremists who forced planes to be flown into the Twin Towers?

The people who planned this were released from Camp X-Ray and sent to Saudi Arabia, Bin Ladin's country, and then they went to Yemen where they set this up.

Wake up Obama these people are not isolated extremists, they are murderers and you need to take action to stop them, or you will find you don't have a United States to be President of if these isolated extremists have their way.

I have watched the way you have been governing the USA over the last year and it seems that rather than dealing with unemployment, food shortages and banking collapses you prefer to travel the world attending pointless events that seem to benefit no one.

Posted by: Confuseddaily | December 29, 2009 5:39 AM | Report abuse

well thank god TheObama called for two - TWO! - reviews as well as asked some homeland security people to, you know, keep on the look out for some bad guys. I wonder if these reviews will happen before or after he calls the UN and asks them to consider convening a committee to contemplate whether or not a multilateral discussion should potentially occur about this matter at some undetermined future date.

Also: "the suspect"?? What exactly would someone have to do to be labeled a "guilty terrorist" in TheObama's calculus?

Posted by: mkrichards | December 28, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

The TheBabeNemo posted:

"Republicans don't like him because he is a smart brother from Chicago."

Wow. Maybe it's time to raise the qualifications for "smart brother".

Posted by: WylieD | December 28, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I have a bright idea for a not so bright president: If you're NOT A CITIZEN and you are on a watch list, you are not allowed to fly into, boat into, drive into, or walk into our country! ONLY CITIZENS have the right to be here; if you are a non-citizen, it's just a privilege. But, Obama doesn't have the stones to be that tough. As stupid as Bush was - and he was stupid, no close-calls or straight up attacks happened in all of the years after the shoe-bomber. In less than one year under Obama, we've had muslims shoot up a recruiting station killing recruits, a muslim Major shoot up an SRP center in Fort Hood, TX, and a muslim try to blow up an inbound airliner. Great job so far!

Posted by: brandonkerr | December 28, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

from the rest of his unpublished remarks:

- I will not allow profiling. We must treat aged, infirm women the same as we would treat a young 20s muslim male.

- I will not use the term terrorism because my muslim brethren might be offended (I did slip up and call this an act of terrorism).

- I will not insist that countries such as the Netherlands allow armed air marshalls onboard US-bound aircraft. I do not want to offend them, nor do I want to have to apologize for America. I have worn myself out in the first 12 months, bowing, and apologizing, don't you know.

Whew ... back to vacation ... and hold down the noise, I'm trying to relax!

Posted by: AWWNats | December 28, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

"We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable" ... now watch this drive.

pResident Obama 12/28/09

Posted by: JakeD | December 28, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

the reviews are good.
and i hope some heads roll.
Like, aren't you thinking ...."What the heck has Napilotano been doing since the election??"

3 different lists they have for "no fly" or "watch them when they fly" or "take them out of the line".....

criminey, no wonder we messed up.
not to mention the TSA. What have they been doing?
Someone said this morning, the TSA is a JOBS program, not a security program.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | December 28, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

no way, make no mistake
Republicans don't like him because he is a smart brother from Chicago.

it sticks in their conservative craw

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | December 28, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Press Conference given: check

Photo of frowing President: check

List of investigations begun; check

Plea for humane treatment of Iranian dissidents: check.

Obligatory Happy New Year to media travelling with President and his family: check.

Now it's back to the beach and golf course. I'm on vacation!

Posted by: bobfbell | December 28, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

President Obama is intelligent and wise.

No wonder the Republicans hate him so much.

He's the complete opposite of what they are.

Posted by: PoliticalCommentator | December 28, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

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