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Napolitano Concedes Airline Security System Failed

The AP via YellowBrix

December 28, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano conceded Monday that the aviation security system failed when a young man on a watchlist with a U.S. visa in his pocket and a powerful explosive hidden on his body was allowed to board a fight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The Obama administration has ordered investigations into the two areas of aviation security _ how travelers are placed on watch lists and how passengers are screened _ as critics questioned how the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged in the airliner attack was allowed to board the Dec. 25 flight.

A day after saying the system worked, Napolitano backtracked, saying her words had been taken out of context.

“Our system did not work in this instance,” she said on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.”

The White House press office, traveling with President Barack Obama in Hawaii, said early Monday that the president would make a statement from the Kaneoho Marine Base in the morning. White House spokesman Bill Burton did not elaborate.

Billions of dollars have been spent on aviation security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when commercial airliners were hijacked and used as weapons. Much of that money has gone toward training and equipment that some security experts say could have detected the explosive device that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of hiding on his body on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to detonate the device as the plane approached Detroit. The device burst into flames instead, according to authorities, and he was subdued by passengers. The plane landed safely.

Harold Demuren, the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, said Abdulmutallab paid cash on Dec. 16 for the $2,831 round-trip ticket from Lagos, Nigeria, to Detroit via Amsterdam. He said Abdulmutallab’s ticket came from a KLM office in Accra, Ghana.

Demuren said Abdulmutallab checked into his flight with only a small carryon bag.

On Sunday, Napolitano said, “One thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked.” On Monday, she said she was referring to the system of notifying other flights as well as law enforcement on the ground about the incident soon after it happened.

The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee took issue with Napolitano’s initial assessment.


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