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UK 'shared bomb suspect information' with US

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 05 January 2010

As No.10 and the White House make contradictory claims about shared intelligence on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Home Secretary says air passengers will now face further delays.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (picture: Reuters)

Airline passengers face further delays as a result of moves to improve security, Home Secretary Alan Johnson told parliament this afternoon.

More passengers will be searched by hand and have their baggage tested for explosives. New body scanners will be introduced in Heathrow within three weeks, and there will be more sniffer dogs in airports.

"It is clear that no one measure will be enough to defeat inventive and determined terrorists and there is no single technology which we can guarantee will be 100 per cent effective against such attacks," Johnson said.

Although Abdulmutallab's family did not believe he had been radicalised until after leaving UCL, it was important for the government to give universities advice on tackling terrorism, Johnson said.

A spokesman for the prime minister, Gordon Brown, said earlier: "Clearly there was security information about this individual's activities and that was information that was shared with the US authorities. That is the key point.

"We are pretty certain that he was radicalised outside the UK. He left the UK in October 2008. But it is also clear that whilst he was here he was attempting to make contact with people and that is the intelligence we were able to secure from the intelligence services.

"One of the lessons that clearly comes out of what could have been a terrible tragedy was the whole question about how we continue to share intelligence about individuals."

But White House insists the spokesman is mistaken and it has been suggested Downing Street may have referred to information gathered by MI5 since 25 December, when Abdulmutallab was accused of trying to detonate explosives on a plane as it came in to land above the American city Detroit.

A CIA spokesman revealed Abdulmutallab's name first came to their attention on 19 November when his father went to the American embassy in Abuja to ask for help in finding him.

The agency then added Abdulmutallab and his possible Yemeni contacts to the American terrorism database and passed biographical information about him to the National Counterterrorism Centre.

Abdulmutallab's British visa was cancelled because he applied for a bogus course but American officials say they were not given that information, so did not use it to cancel his American visa.

Reports also suggest the National Security Agency intercepted phone calls in August, in which al-Qaida leaders based in the Arabian peninsula discussed the possibility of using an unnamed Nigerian bomber in an attack.

That has led to the suggestion that the intelligence services are not working closely enough with each other but various sources claim the information that was shared was insufficient to identify Abdulmutallab or to invoke his US visa.

The disagreement comes as Barack Obama is expected to announce tighter measures to identify and monitor terror suspects.

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