DECEMBER 28, 2009
After shamelessly touting the success of the aviation security system that let an al Qaeda terrorist smuggle explosives onto a U.S. airline, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has conceded that it actually failed miserably.
Desperately attempting to scrape the egg off of her face, Napolitano did an about face within 24 hours by admitting what was obvious to most Americans; a security system that allows a radical Muslim who appears on the terrorist watch lists of two countries board an airplane is not working properly.
Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled a powerful explosive device onto a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas with the intention of blowing it up. The disaster was only averted because his makeshift detonator failed to work properly. The point remains however, that he had enough explosives to bring down the jet, which had nearly 300 people aboard.
Incredibly, Napolitano had the audacity to claim on national television that “the system worked” in this case. The official in charge of protecting the nation’s safety hit the airwaves to assure that the traveling public is “very, very safe in this air environment.” Truth is that no undercover air marshal was on board and it was passengers and crew that eventually subdued Abdulmutallab who got burned after igniting a small explosive device.
The bomber was already on the British and U.S. terrorist watch lists yet he was granted a U.S. visa even though his father, a prominent Nigerian banker, had warned American embassy officials weeks ago that his son had “become radicalized” and was planning some sort of attack. Abdulmutallab’s father told U.S. authorities that he feared his son went to Yemen to participate in “some kind of jihad.”
Napolitano had no choice but to backtrack and admit that the security system did in fact fail when Abdulmutallab, with a powerful explosive hidden on his body, was allowed to board the flight. “Our system did not work in this instance,” she said, assuring that an extensive review is under way.
This is hardly the only instance in which aviation security has failed. The U.S. government has invested billions of dollars to secure airplanes since the 2001 terrorist attacks yet they remain extremely vulnerable to another attack. The federal agency created mainly to secure aviation (Transportation Security Administration), has come under fire for its perpetual blunders over the years, including its failure to secure cargo packages transported daily in the bellies of passenger planes.
This means that, contrary to what the Secretary of Homeland Security says, the traveling public is not very safe in this air environment.
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