Homeland Security All Set to Make Life Even More Miserable for Fliers.

December 29, 2009

Homeland Security All Set to Make Life Even More Miserable for Fliers.

A young Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, son of Umaru Abdulmutallab, former chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria, almost succeeded in blowing up a passenger plane, an Airbus 330-300, with 289 people aboard, on Christmas Day. And yet, at first, Janet Napolitano, the Department of Homeland Security secretary, had the audacity to tell us that the system "worked really very, very smoothly". Such dangerous complacency! When criticised, Ms Napolitano retracted her statement, and instead admitted that, "Our system did not work in this instance. No one is happy or satisfied with that."

We now know that the entire plot was planned by al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen. We also know that Umar Farouk's father, Umaru, one of Nigeria's prominent business, had recently informed the U.S.Embassy in Abuja about his son's radicalization. The son was promptly placed on a terror watch list of about 550,000 names, a terrorist screening data base, called TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment). But the young Nigerian, as Daniel Pipes pointed out, was not placed, "on the list of about 15,000 individuals who must go through additional screening, much less the list of about 4,000 people on the ‘no-fly' list, who are not allowed to fly to or in the United States. Nor did they revoke Abdulmutallab's two-year, multi-entry tourist visa. Nor did an air marshal accompany his flight." In other words, pace Ms Napolitano, this was a series of failures, elementary precautions were not taken- Abdulmutallab should not even have got as far as boarding the plane. The Obama administration must take responsibility for these failures, and must take seriously the terrorist threat.

The first reaction of the Transportation Security Administration [TSA] was to order a series of measures which will only make life miserable for most passengers without increasing our security: intrusive body searches, limited carry-on items, enforced immobility for the last hour of the flight, and so on. The security and intelligence services must concentrate their resources on a narrower group of suspects; they must expand their ‘no-fly' list, perhaps converting TIDE into a ‘no-fly' list. The Obama administration must appoint a head of TSA, which is, after all, the one organization that is responsible for weeding out dangerous fliers, and which must be held more responsible. There should be greater communication and cooperation between the agencies and organizations which are responsible for our safety. And if I, of South Asian origin and looks, were picked out for extra scrutiny I would not be offended, but rather reassured.

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