excerpt from my book on technology, terrorism, and
DHS, tentatively titled "Skating on Stilts." (If you want to
read the excerpts in a more coherent fashion, try the categories on the
right labeled "Excerpts from the book." I'm afraid I can't fix the bug
in TypePad that prevents me from putting them in the category in
reverse-chronological order, but I have started putting chapters up in
pdf form from time to time.) Comments and factual quibbles
are welcome, either in the comments section or by email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're dying to order the book, send
mail to the same address.
As I write, detailed reviews of the incident are under way. But the basic facts are not in dispute, and they raise serious questions about our air security strategy.
Abdulmutallab began his journey in Ghana, flying first to Lagos and then to Amsterdam before transferring to flight 253. He had 80 grams (about three ounces) of plastic explosive sewn into his underwear and carried a syringe full of acid to use as a detonator. He passed through airport screening three times, attracting no special attention at any of the airports.
Abdulmutallab had only carry-on luggage for a purported two-week trip, and he’d paid cash for his round-trip ticket. None of that was deeply suspicious by itself. Cash purchases aren’t as rare in Africa as they are in Europe or North America. And for anyone who’s waited – and waited -- for luggage at the end of a long flight, a traveler who can carry on all the luggage he needs for a two-week stay is cause more for envy than for suspicion.
But there was plenty of reason to be suspicious of Abdulmutallab, and the information was already in the hands of the US and UK governments.
Umar Abdulmutallab began his
journey to Islamic terrorism where so many did.
Indeed you can. This attitude permeated European
thinking. It was the reason we had
revised the VWP program to insist on greater information sharing about
suspected terrorists from our counterparts in Europe. Unfortunately, even the British, with whom we
had a relatively close counterterrorism relationship, had not agreed to a broad
sharing of information about Islamic radicals – even foreign radicals –
operating within their borders. In 2008,
lacking any information from the British that might have spurred a deeper
inquiry on terrorism grounds, the