Call it a Christmas miracle, but for some reason the bomb carried by 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria didn’t go off the way it was supposed to while he was seated in 19A aboard a Northwest Airlines jet.
He tried to set off some sort of explosive device while the jet was approaching Detroit. There was smoke; there was fire but no explosion, which is doubly lucky because 19A is very close to the fuel tanks.
Catastrophe averted. Abdulmutallab claimed to be Al Qaeda-trained and, within a few days, a murderous group linked to Al Qaeda claimed he was a “brother” and that they had trained him.
So how did it happen? We know he started his “mission” in Nigeria where security screening involves just getting on the plane. Oh yes, he paid cash for his ticket and had no bags. Destination: USA. No red flags, at least not in Nigeria.
By then he was in the system. There were additional security screenings in Amsterdam, but he sneaked by those as well.
Initially, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the system indeed worked. Oops. Last Monday she “recalibrated” her position to say the system, in fact, didn’t work.
Passengers are already being impacted. Some airlines won’t let you leave your seat within an hour of landing. Laptops and the like also have to be stored at that time. Bomb sniffing dogs are everywhere, especially in international departure areas.
Sadly, there has also been some political sniping going on. Cheap shots are out of order.
Much of the talk remains on the “system.” Can it be made better? Absolutely, but terrorists aren’t flying from here, they’re flying to here. The problem isn’t the system, it’s the terrorists!
They keep trying. They keep coming back. They’re not giving up. They’re relentless in their “jihad” against the West.
They’re sponsored by, and find refuge in, nations like Yemen and Iran. Countries like Nigeria simply let them walk on.
All the security here in America won’t keep them from boarding planes in other countries. The terrorists know that. Their modus operandi is pretty basic. Bombs, made from stuff you can buy at a drugstore. Scaled down versions of the improvised explosive devices, or IED’s, killing our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our high tech vs. their low tech.
What we continue to underestimate is their cunning. Intelligence gathering is getting better. The capture of Najibullah Zazi in Denver is proof. By holding the 9/11 terror trials in New York, who knows how many young, misguided people will only be inspired to join the ranks of terrorists because you can bet the bad guys on trial will take every opportunity to portray themselves as glorious martyrs.
So, while we take our computers out of bags, slip off our shoes, are submitted to random pat downs, etc., here in the United States, terrorists will simply continue to refine their techniques and continue to walk on to planes in countries that have few if any security checks.
Keeping people in their seats an hour before landing just means the terrorists will try an attack more than an hour before landing.
We know where the safe havens for these terrorists are. We know who is bankrolling them. What we’re not doing is anything to stop it at the source.
The horse has long since left the barn. No need for a new lock. What we need is a new door. A door that locks from the inside rather than the outside.
John W. Scherer
John Scherer is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.