Bomber shows security not so secure
An attempted terrorist attack aboard a U.S.-bound flight on Christmas Day resulted in heightened airport security and severe restrictions on airline passengers around the country.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria were warned in November that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect behind the attempted airplane bombing, “had become radicalized, broken ties with (his) family, and might be in Yemen,” according to the New York Daily News.
Subsequently, Abdulmutallab was placed on the U.S. government’s Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment list — a database containing information on more than 500,000 potential terrorists — but not on the Transportation Security Administration’s “No-Fly” list.
Had Abdulmutallab’s name been on the No-Fly list, he would have been barred from boarding the plane.
Furthermore, if Abdulmutallab had been placed on the TSA’s “Selectee” list, he would also have been subjected to a body search, which would have likely turned up the explosives sewn into his underpants.
Another major error came in how Abdulmutallab’s visa was processed.
Visa processing is handled by the State Department and is enforced by the Department of Homeland Security.
A CNN article reported that Abdulmutallab had obtained a regular visitor’s visa with a two-year expiration from the U.S. Embassy in London in June 2008.
The visa process is the first set of security guidelines to be adhered to by foreign nationals, followed by airport security.
Next comes port-of-entry screening, which comes after planes land and is, admittedly, far too late.
Ultimately, passengers with no affiliation to the TSA subdued Abdulmutallab upon realizing what he was attempting to do.
Despite the glaring security holes, what came next was much more troubling.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, in an interview with ABC News, said, “Once the incident occurred, the system worked like clockwork.”
Napolitano went on to say, “The traveling public is very, very safe.”
Rather than acknowledge a monumental failure, Napolitano shrugged off the facts and made dangerously erroneous statements.
According to Napolitano, the U.S. government never had “information that would put (Abdulmutallab) on a No-Fly list.”
That statement could not be more inaccurate.
The government had ample information to place Abdulmutallab on a watch list — a warning issued by his own father, his connections within Yemen and his influence from various radical groups.
Some believe Napolitano was referring to the way in which different government agencies worked together in the wake of the incident.
“I think the comment is being taken out of context,” Napolitano said in a different interview with NBC News. “What I’m saying is, once the incident occurred, moving forward, we were immediately able to notify the 128 flights in the air of protective measures to take, immediately able to notify law enforcement on the ground.”
Napolitano is mistaken.
It’s the Department of Homeland Security’s job to spread information following a terrorist attack, but also to prevent attacks before they happen.
Napolitano tried to take credit even though the government failed to do its job, and it rightly caused controversy.
The only reason the “system worked” is because the explosive material failed to explode.
Time, money and manpower need to be more efficiently allocated in order to correct troubled data systems and international lines of communication, so that innocent bystanders aren’t forced to commit unnecessary acts of heroism to prevent terrorism.