After we put shampoo in little bottles, took off our shoes before check-in and endured long lines at airports in the wake of 9/11, Americans have to be asking if it has all been for naught. After all, a Nigerian who had recently been in the terrorist-rich nation of Yemen allegedly got on board a U.S.-bound flight and tried to blow it up on Christmas day.
The suspect came close, torching a seat and an inner wall of the jet before passengers and crew tackled him and put out the flames. After reading the federal affidavit accusing 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of trying to destroy the Delta flight from Amsterdam as it prepared to land in Detroit, it's hard to put much faith in federal security efforts — air marshals, bomb-detection machines, random searches — that have often made air travel a burden. Abdulmutallab allegedly smuggled a potent explosive in his britches and sparked a device that caused a fire. Authorities later said the chemical he allegedly employed, PETN, was potent enough to take down the plane.
What's more, Abdulmutallab was known to authorities and his name was on the federal Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment list. He was entered after his father warned officials about his son's extreme religious views. But, for whatever reason, Abdulmutallab did not make the federal “no-fly” list of suspected terrorists and other dangerous individuals.
Deptartment of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended federal law enforcement's disposition regarding the suspect, saying that there wasn't enough specific information about Abdulmutallab and what he might be capable of to put him on the no-fly roster. But what's really retarded is what she said to CNN Sunday morning: “The system worked.”
Travelers out of LAX will be facing longer lines and increased scrutiny as a result of the attempted plane bombing. There will likely be more random searches and more bomb-sniffing dogs around. Passengers will have to remain seated and put devices such as laptops away during the last hour of flights. And yes, we'll all be afraid. For good reason. All this, of course, would tolerable if “the system worked.”
But as it was demonstrated Christmas day, the system is comprised of good luck and a few brave civilians who took national security into their own hands.