07 Jan 2010

“A Certain Shock”

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TSA on the job protecting America from terrorism.

USA Today:

White House national security adviser James Jones says Americans will feel “a certain shock” when they read an account being released Thursday of the missed clues that could have prevented the alleged Christmas Day bomber from ever boarding the plane.

And, as predicted, we learn that the system delivered vital information too late to be scrutinized until the person of interest to security was already on the plane and in the air. He should have been on one of two lists provoking greater scrutiny or prohibiting him from flying altogether, but….

LA Times:

U.S. border security officials learned of the alleged extremist links of the suspect in the Christmas Day jetliner bombing attempt as he was airborne from Amsterdam to Detroit and had decided to question him when he landed, officials disclosed Wednesday. …

“The public isn’t aware how many people are allowed to travel through the U.S., who are linked, who intersect with bad guys or alleged bad guys,” a national security official said. “It makes sense from an intelligence perspective. If they are not considered dangerous, it provides intelligence on where they go, who they meet with.”

Moreover, the window for identifying a passenger overseas as a potential threat is limited, a senior homeland security official said.

U.S. border enforcement officials have access to passenger data based on lists of those who have made flight reservations. But the in-depth vetting only begins once a comprehensive list, known as a flight manifest, has been generated, just a few hours before takeoff, the homeland security official said.

Customs and Border Protection personnel based at the National Targeting Center in Washington came across the intelligence about Abdulmutallab — which was based on a tip from the suspect’s father to U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria — during an in-depth review of the manifest after the plane was en route to Detroit, the other law enforcement officials said. …

(T)he likelihood of Abdulmutallab being intercepted in Amsterdam was low because he was not on the no-fly list, which contains about 4,000 names, or a separate terrorism watch “selectee” list that contains fewer than 20,000 names. Instead, the Nigerian was on the larger database.

The real breakdown came months before the flight because intelligence officials failed to match the father’s tip with intercepts about a suspected plot involving a Nigerian, a former senior homeland security official said.

“There was enough information in the system to make the guy a selectee or a no-fly without hoping for Customs and Border Protection to detect it at the last minute,” the official said.

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