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Border Enforcement Officials Learned of Terrorist While He Was in The Air

The Chicago Tribune via YellowBrix

January 07, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. border security officials learned of the alleged extremist links of the suspect in the Christmas Day jetliner bombing attempt as he was airborne from Amsterdam to Detroit and had decided to question him when he landed, officials disclosed Wednesday.

The new information shows that border enforcement officials discovered the suspected extremist ties involving the Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in a database despite intelligence failures that have been criticized by President Obama.

“The people in Detroit were prepared to look at him in secondary inspection,” a senior law enforcement official said. “The decision had been made. The [database] had picked up the State Department concern about this guy — that this guy may have been involved with extremist elements in Yemen.”

If the intelligence had been detected sooner, it could have resulted in the interrogation and search of Abdulmutallab at the airport in Amsterdam, according to senior law enforcement officials, all of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

“They could have made the decision on whether to stop him from getting on the plane,” the senior law enforcement official said.

But an administration official said late Wednesday that the information would not have resulted in further scrutiny before the suspect departed. Abdulmutallab was in a database containing half a million names of people with suspected extremist links but who are not considered threats. Therefore, border security officials would have sought only to question him upon arrival in the U.S., the administration official said.

Nonetheless, the disclosure shows the complexity of the intelligence and passenger screening systems that are the subject of comprehensive reviews that the administration will release today.

The threshold for requiring a foreign visitor to undergo special scrutiny upon arrival in the U.S. is considerably lower than criteria for stopping a passenger’s departure overseas, according to current and former law enforcement officials. That is why border security agencies rely heavily on terrorism watch lists of suspects seen as urgent threats, officials said.

“The public isn’t aware how many people are allowed to travel through the U.S., who are linked, who intersect with bad guys or alleged bad guys,” a national security official said. “It makes sense from an intelligence perspective. If they are not considered dangerous, it provides intelligence on where they go, who they meet with.”

Moreover, the window for identifying a passenger overseas as a potential threat is limited, a senior homeland security official said.

U.S. border enforcement officials have access to passenger data based on lists of those who have made flight reservations. But the in-depth vetting only begins once a comprehensive list, known as a flight manifest, has been generated, just a few hours before takeoff, the homeland security official said.


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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    kadan

    over 4 years ago

    626 Comments

    Don't forget with the Patriot Act the list is quite large when the article says half a million people it doesn't sound large, however, 500,000 people to search through isn't just a quick search. According to the Census Bureau this is about the population of Boston, MA. I just thank God no one was hurt except the terrorist!

  • Car6_max50

    Ahi

    over 4 years ago

    1990 Comments

    It's an unfortunate set of events, just glad things turned out well.

  • Dcp01604_max50

    scotc130lm

    over 4 years ago

    366 Comments

    Since I work at the NTC, the problem is if he would have been on the other side of information we can see, he would have been reviewed way before he even arrived in Amsterdam.

    The other problem I see most of the posts and news is everyone second guessing what has was done on this case. Yes it is a problem, but I welcome anyone to see how big this database is and who is currently under investigation for Terrorism and who has just been referred and not enough derogatory information has been gathered to put them on the other list. Let's just get busy and work to correct the problems instead of blaming everyone in the administration. As my old police supervisor said, "hind sight is always 20/20". Trust me the agencies that didn't do there job have learned from their mistake and we are seeing more information pushed through.

    Delete

  • Ribbon_max50

    mkiprotection

    over 4 years ago

    2384 Comments

    Wait wait wait!!!! The system worked so its ok........................................................................

  • Snoopy_6_max50

    Jonas

    over 4 years ago

    41186 Comments

    I better be quiet on this or I'll get another article yanked!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    Well... Would someone please explain to me "how the intelligence was 'late'" after all...?
    It was a failure... Regardless.

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