Just as the story was breaking yesterday, I blogged about media reports concerning a passenger attempting to use firecrackers aboard a Northwest/Delta flight from AMS to DTW. Hours later, we learned it was not just an innocent holiday celebration, but an attempted terrorist attack.
A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.
The man was quickly subdued after another passenger leapt on top of him, others on the plane said, and Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam landed safely around 1 p.m. Friday. The suspect was being treated at a hospital for burns he suffered while igniting the device, the Transportation Security Administration said.
Kudos to the passenger who allegedly leapt on top of him. My question: how did he get the device onboard the aircraft?
Although not on the TSA’s "no-fly" list, Abdulmutallab’s name appears to be included in the government’s records of terrorism suspects, according to a preliminary review, authorities said.
Hmm. What does this tell you about the TSA’s "no-fly" list?
Abdulmutallab has told federal investigators that he had ties to al-Qaeda and traveled to Yemen to collect the incendiary device and instructions on how to use it, according to a federal counterterrorism official briefed on the case.
Sounds a little suspicious to me. A rather quick admission of guilt…
Federal authorities have been told that Abdulmutallab allegedly had taped some material to his leg, then used a syringe to mix chemicals with the powder while on the airplane, one official said.
And yet we continue to impose an arbitrary three-ounce limit on liquids because…the terrorists are not smart enough to mix them together once they get past a security checkpoint?
But doing so "caused him to catch on fire," Richelle Keepman, who sat a few rows in front of Abdulmutallab, told WDIV-TV.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the incident was "a disturbing reminder that the terrorist threat is still very real and that we must continue to be vigilant and alert."
Read: Look out for a greater exertion of power by the TSA.
Officials said they are not prepared to raise the terrorism alert level, currently at orange — or the second-highest of five levels — for domestic and international air travel. However, the Homeland Security Department said late Friday that passengers "may notice additional screening measures, put into place to ensure the safety of the traveling public on domestic and international flights."
I figured that was coming.
I thank God that what could have been a horrible tragedy was averted. The sad thing I take away from this event, though, is that there really is no way to prevent these sorts of threats. The guy wan’t on the no-fly list, made it through the security checkpoints fine (and AMS is no cakewalk), and still almost managed to blow up (or at least wreak havoc on) an A330-300 with 288 onboard.
The million dollar question is how to find a way to keep passengers safe onboard airplanes. The answer, in my opinion, is that such a task is impossible. We’ll see an uptick in TSA random gate checks in the weeks to come but it won’t make us any safer. If person or cause is determined to blow up a plane, chances are they will eventually succeed–even if we ban all carry-ons. Sadly, we must live with that reality.