Christmas Day terrorist attack: have 9/11 reforms failed?
Congress is gearing up to look into why the security changes made after 9/11 didn't prevent the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack on an airline landing in Detroit.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano aimed to reassure the traveling public when she said Sunday that “the system worked" in an aborted Christmas Day terrorist attack on Northwest Flight 253. Instead, she set off alarms on Capitol Hill.Skip to next paragraph
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The comments were the first salvo in what’s likely to be an intense period of oversight of post-9/11 national security systems when Congress returns in January.
“There’s much to investigate here. It's amazing to me that an individual like this who was sending out so many signals could end up getting on a plane going to the US,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
Secretary Napolitano backed off her original statements Monday. What worked was the department’s response to the incident, she explained. Within 90 minutes, all 128 planes already in the air from Europe were notified to take appropriate action. There was no panic.
"No secretary of homeland security would sit here and say that a system worked prior to this incident which allowed this individual to get on this plane," the secretary told Fox News on Monday.
Looking back, analysts say there were many aspects of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian charged with trying to blow up the plane, that could have raised red flags. He had no checked luggage, and he paid for his ticket with cash. Mr. Abdulmutallab’s name had already surfaced on the National Counterterrorism Center’s database of known or suspected international terrorists, but that information was never made it to US airlines.
“Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, this is someone who makes it on one list only to disappear into a bureaucratic black hole,” says Bruce Hoffman, a professor at the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University in Washington. "Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, it’s a compound failure in intelligence and physical security. Once again, valiant and alert passengers are the last line of defense.”