Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dutch Officials: US approved flight 253 passenger list

Politico reports:
The United States charged a 23-year-old Nigerian man Saturday with attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines aircraft on Cristmas Day during its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
The criminal complaint said the device contained a "high-explosive" chemical, PETN, which has been used in several past terror plots. It’s what so-called “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid used in his December 2001 bid to blow up a Paris-to-Miami flight.

“FBI agents recovered what appear to be the remnants of the syringe from the vicinity of Abdulmutallab’s seat, believed to have been part of the device,” the release added.

The government said: “Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian national, boarded Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam, Netherlands... and had a device attached to his body. As the flight was approaching Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab set off the device, which resulted in a fire and what appears to have been an explosion. Abdulmutallab was then subdued and restrained by the passengers and flight crew. The airplane landed shortly thereafter, and he was taken into custody by Customs and Border Patrol officers.”

A Justice Department official told POLITCO that Abdulmutallab made an initial appearance before a federal judge at the Ann Arbor hospital where he is being treated for third-degree burns at 4 p.m. Saturday. Two other people are also reportedly being treated for burns.
According to Newsweek, the passenger list for Northwest Airlines flight 253 was reviewed and approved by U.S. security officials before the flight departed Amsterdam:
Judith Sluyter, spokeswoman for the NCTB, the office of Holland's national counter-terrorism coordinator, said that before Flight 253 left Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, the passenger list was transmitted in full to U.S. authorities for review. Under procedures negotiated between the United States and various foreign countries, U.S. agencies -- particularly an interagency "Terrorist Screening Center" run by the FBI with input from others including the Homeland Security Department and the intelligence community -- are supposed to run the names through American counter-terrorism databases to see if any would-be passengers present potential threat.

In the case of Flight 253, U.S. authorities informed the airline before the flight took off that the passenger list did not reveal any threats which would prevent the plane from taking off, according to Sluyter, and so the flight left Amsterdam for Detroit.
This is particularly disturbing in light of news that Abdulmutallab's father, a former Nigerian minister and bank president, reported his son's fanatical religious views to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria six months ago:
The father of the al Qaeda terrorist behind Friday’s attempted explosion aboard a Northwest flight bound for Detroit reported his son’s fanatical religious views to the U.S. Embassy six months ago, according to a Nigerian news outlet.

The young man, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, is the son of Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, a former Nigerian minister and bank chairman. He became wary of his son’s religious beliefs and reported his activities to the U.S. Embassy as well as Nigerian security services half a year ago, according to the Nigerian newspaper This Day.
The explosive PETN or pentaerythritol tetranitrate is one of the bomb making materials used by Richard Reid in his attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001.  One would expect that a modern airport such as Schiphol would have detected the PETN.  More from Newsweek:
Nigerian Airports historically have been known for their lax security but Amsterdam Schiphol is one of Europe's most modern airports with sophisticated security systems. However Sluyter said that different levels of screening are applied to passengers changing planes at the airport depending upon where the passengers have flown in from. Passengers changing planes which flew in from European destinations are subjected to less screening than passengers from destinations outside the European Union. Mudallad was subjected to some screening at Schiphol because he had flow in from outside Europe.
The enhanced screening that would have been applied to Mudallad in Amsterdam since his trip originated in Nigeria may suggest that he had assistance getting the explosive device on board the plane. In any case, this is very bad news for the Department of Homeland Security and the flying public.

Update:  Read Ed Morrissey's unsettling recap at HotAir.

1 comment:

  1. The DHS "Terrorist Watch List" doesn't contain any "real" terrorists, because none of the agencies want "real" terrorists to know they're been discovered and are being watched!