Homeland insecurity at the airports

The Underwear bomber.

Passed through 12 layers of security.

Narrowly escaped the approximately 300 people who were traveling on Christmas Day 2009 with a flight line of the U.S. Northwest Airlines from Amsterdam to Detroit, the catastrophe. On board was the suspected Al-Qaeda supporters glowing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab , who had an explosive device sewn into his underpants.

1. Domestic Intelligence: The TSA works with other U.S. agencies to identify threats.
The Failure: Warnings of a possible attack by a Yemen-trained Nigerian were not shared among U.S. agencies nor acted upon.

2. International Partnerships: Foreign intelligence agencies share information with the TSA.
The Failure: U.S. officials were unaware that the U.K. had denied the bomber a visa because he had lied about student activities.

3. U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Grants visas and denies dangerous aliens entry.
The Failure: The bomber’s two-year U.S. tourist visa was not revoked after he was added to the terrorist database in November 2009.

4. No-Fly List and Passenger Pre-Screening: Passengers are checked against watch lists 72 hours before flight time; all checks are complete before departure.
The Failure: The bomber’s name was on a watch list, but not one that the TSA checks.

5. Canine Teams: Drug- and bomb-sniffing pooches rove airports and rail and bus facilities.
The Failure: Not enough dogs were in place; bomb-laden briefs went undetected. The highly explosive mixture, which Abdulmutallab in his underwear smuggled on board, contained the explosives PETN.

6. Behavior Detection Officers: Trained to spot involuntary physical cues exhibited by passengers with something to hide.
The Failure: Routine questioning of the bomber at Schiphol in Amsterdam raised no concerns.

7. Travel Documents Checker: Stationed at checkpoints to spot phony or suspicious boarding passes and I.D.s.
The Failure: There was no evidence that the bomber’s documents were out of order, but a passenger got past a checker at JFK this year without a valid I.D. or boarding pass.

8. Checkpoint/Transportation Security Officers: TSOs and their foreign counterparts screen passengers and their belongings for explosives and other weapons.
The Failure: The bomber got past two checkpoints and onto a U.S. plane with explosives and a syringe/detonator. This year, According to CNN, found that during the last four months of 2010, thousands of bags were going un-checked on routine flights out of Honolulu International.

9. Baggage Screening: All checked luggage is screened for explosives by machines; no bag flies unaccompanied.
The Failure: The bomber checked no bags, which should in itself have raised suspicions and marked him for additional screening.

10. Bomb Appraisal Officers: Bomb squads called to the checkpoint to resolve alarms when bags or persons set off explosives detectors.
The Failure: No explosives traces were detected by screeners.

11. Federal Air Marshal Service: Armed sky marshals are stationed on hundreds of flights daily.
The Failure: None were aboard the underwear bomber’s flights.

12. Trained Flight Crews: Crew members are trained in self-defense by airlines.
The Failure: At the time, few received special training in how to respond in this scenario.

13. Passengers: The TSA views the vigilance of the flying public as an important layer of aviation security.

Success: Several passengers near the bomber helped put out the fire and subdue him. That plus crew intervention were the only layers that worked on Christmas Day 2009.

TSA is worried about “human bombs”.

The real threat is compressed flammables.

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