Northwest Flight 253, Christmas Day

As we all now know, a young Nigerian man (also of Yemeni descent), on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas, brought explosives on board with intent to do greater damage than was actually done.   And oh, has it revealed holes in the U.S. and global security systems.  DHS Secretary, Janet Napolitano, finally said as much this morning (story over at NPR).  But, from intelligence and watch lists to screening, a lot went wrong.  It was fortunate for the crew and passengers on that flight that his detonator also failed somewhat.  And, as passenger Jasper Schuringa reminded us, quick-thinking and acting crew and citizens can help out a lot in these situations (via the Detroit Free-Press).

Since then, the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was treated for his burns and is now being held at a federal prison in Michigan.  His detention hearing was postposed and is now scheduled for January 8 (via NY Post).  We have learned that he had ties to a Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda and that his family was concerned enough to bring him to the attention of the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria (via The Washington Post, subscription).  That report resulted in him being added, just a month later, to a U.S. terrorism-related database but not to any aviation watch list (The Washington Post).

NPR had an interview this evening with a witness to a potential accomplice.  He also seems to question whether or not the suspect had appropriate documentation to travel.

There is some discussion about whether or not the primary explosive, PETN, could have been detected with standard equipment.  The Washington Post has a good article on the kind of equipment that CAN detect it and the reasons it hasn’t been fully implemented.  A full pat-down may have revealed the detonator, but in this case, the suspect wasn’t identified for additional screening.  Schiphol, Amsterdam’s Airport, is undertaking a full investigation of their procedures (via The Wall Street Journal) and is obviously, a little defensive.

Since there is more to say on the topic of what TSA has done with their procedures in the days following and the subsequent sensitivity to behavior on planes since, I’ll post on that later!

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