Monday, December 28, 2009

Report: Mutullab boarded NWA 253 without a passport?

A Michigan man and his wife claim they witnessed Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab trying to board the plane in Amsterdam without a passport.  From Michigan Live:
Kurt Haskell of Newport, Mich., who posted an earlier comment about his experience, talked exclusively with and confirmed he was on the flight by sending a picture of his boarding pass. He and his wife, Lori, were returning from a safari in Uganda when they boarded the NWA flight on Friday.

Kurt HaskellLori and Kurt HaskellHaskell said he and his wife were sitting on the ground near their boarding gate in Amsterdam, which is when they saw Mutallab approach the gate with an unidentified man.

Kurt and Lori Haskell are attorneys with Haskell Law Firm in Taylor. Their expertise includes bankruptcy, family law and estate planning.

While Mutallab was poorly dressed, his friend was dressed in an expensive suit, Haskell said. He says the suited man asked ticket agents whether Mutallab could board without a passport. “The guy said, 'He's from Sudan and we do this all the time.'”

Mutallab is Nigerian. Haskell believes the man may have been trying to garner sympathy for Mutallab's lack of documents by portraying him as a Sudanese refugee. (photo by Kurt Haskell)
This account has prompted an investigation by Dutch military police:
Dutch military police are investigating the possibility that an accomplice may have helped the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, a spokesman said on Monday.

A U.S. couple on the flight, Kurt and Lori Haskell, told Reuters and other news agencies that they saw a tall, well-dressed man aged about 50 with the suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Friday morning at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

The Haskells have claimed the man spoke for Abdulmutallab and attempted to get him aboard Northwest flight 253 without a passport.

"At this moment we have no information on whether there was another guy," the military police spokesman said. "We are checking all clues and information we get."

The spokesman added that the military police and the counter-terrorism agency NCTb were reviewing CCTV video and other evidence to see if the accomplice story bears out.

The military police have already said Abdulmutallab did not go through passport control at Schiphol when he arrived from Lagos.

But the spokesman said it would be unlikely the man could board the plane without showing his passport at some point in the boarding process.
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air opines on these revelations and the curious reaction of the Department of Homeland Security:
Clearly, the security process at Schipol needs a lot of work. The US has warned about security in Lagos for years. Anyone coming from Lagos should be double-checked, not allowed to bypass passport controls. And anyone on a US watch list should have been screened more closely, not ignored.

An accomplice would put a new light on the attack. So far, Janet Napolitano has tried to argue that Abdulmutallab probably acted alone, and that the attack was not part of a wider conspiracy. If the Haskells are correct, then a conspiracy exists, which seems rather obvious to everyone except the Department of Homeland Security.

This prompts the question: why are they presuming the lack of a conspiracy rather than the existence of one? After all, the former would tend to force more action to secure future flights. The evidence will lead in the proper direction when it’s uncovered. But both are assumptions in the lack of any evidence — so why not make the fail-secure assumption first? Or at the very least, stop making the latter assumption.
Although Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has had explosive detection systems in place since 1998,  it is not clear that PETN would have been detected during routine screening procedures.  But I agee with Morrissey's observation that any passenger from Lagos and certainly one whose name appears on a terror watch list should have been searched thoroughly, and should not have been allowed on board a U.S.-bound jet without a passport.