Attempted Terrorist Attack

Subpar Communication Is at Fault

The failed Christmas-day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 raises doubts about American intelligence abroad.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — the Nigerian man who made it onto a flight to Detroit with an explosive in his underwear — wasn’t necessarily subtle in his attempt to blow his flight up, yet most hints were overlooked. Abdulmutallab wrote about his fantasy of becoming a Muslim holy warrior in public online posts. Shouldn’t a man whose father altered the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria about the possibility of his son’s violent intentions and whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list have at least been stopped at security? Apparently the National Counterterrorism Center, which unites every scrap of evidence on suspects, missed the memo; Abdulmutallab made it aboard the plane scot-free.

President Obama blamed Abdulmutallab’s presence on the flight to a communication breakdown among intelligence agencies — Abdulmutallab, he said, should have been on a no-fly list.

No shit.

With terrorists constantly employing new attack methods — first the shoe bombs, then the water bottles and now the clever explosive-underwear approach — the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is struggling to keep up. The intelligence network must act more preemptively at international locations, or it runs the risk of more successful terror attacks in the future.

— Arik Burakovsky

Staff Writer

9/11 Wasn’t Lesson Enough

When the U.S. was warned about possible hijackers before 9/11, our government stood by idly — and still it seems that, despite a decade’s worth of pre-flight pat-downs, airport security is a little slow on the uptake.

Like the 9/11 terrorists, Abdulmutallab checked in with no bags and paid cash for his plane ticket, something that should have — but didn’t — at least calmly alert airport officials. And, like the 9/11 terrorists, the U.S. government had been given several obvious warnings.

Thankfully, the final outcome wasn’t nearly so disastrous this time around — but if the same threat indicators continue to go unchecked, we won’t be nearly so lucky next time around.

— Cheryl Hori

Associate Opinion Editor

Terrorist Catch-Up Is an Endless Game

The near Christmas tragedy this year has resulted in even tighter airport measures, as promised by President Obama in the past week.

But travelers already undergo scrupulous safety measures, ranging from the removal of shoes in security lines to the prohibition of  electronics during specified durations of the flight. Yet these security measures have yet to save us from another threat. If the bomb’s not wedged inside the toe of a shoe, it’s strapped beneath someone’s boxers.

Even if the TSA introduces a more extensive body search, we’ll still be one step behind the next bomb-concealing innovation. Travel will never fully be secure, but security has to be more aware of subtle,  instinctual signs of bad intent to trace the mechanically undetectable.

— Kelsey Marrujo

Senior Staff Writer