What happened between the reports to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria from Abdulmatallab’s own father, Umaru Mutallab, a Nigerian banker, and the decision to put the young Nigerian on a watch list, but not on the no-fly list? The WSJ is reporting that State shared the information with U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism bureaus. Where it went after that and who made the decisions following are worth investigating. Why did Britain reportedly understand the dangers but we didn’t?
Jake Tapper is reporting that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on “This Week” that after the failed terrorism attempt things worked “like clockwork,” but “she wasn’t so sure about how well the government performed before the incident.” Gibbs was his usual glib self, talking about make sure there was “no clog in the bureaucratic plumbing.”
The Washington Post writes today that one anonymous Administration source said there was “insufficient derogatory information available” about Abdulmatallab to include him in anything beyond a database for terrorism related individuals. I’d like to know what is sufficient if someone’s own father, a significant individual in Nigeria, thinks his son might be a danger to the U.S.
At first glance, with facts still rolling in, this looks dangerously like sloppy gate keeping, the same we saw under Bush-Cheney.
I’d sure like to see the surveillance tapes to see what type of behavior Abdulmatallab was exhibiting before he got on the plane. It’s impolitic to say, but I also wonder when countries, including our own, are going to quit making everyone go through histrionics like being basically tied to your airline seat one hour before landing, which is absurd, and instead do some simple profiling of behavior, perhaps taking Israel’s El Al’s lead, as was talked about after 9/11.
During the interrogation, ticket holders are also psychologically evaluated. Their entire makeup is judged by tone of voice, mood and body language. The information is sent by computer to international law enforcement agencies, such as Interpol or Scotland Yard, for instant evaluation.
A discussion about profiling in the U.S. invariably begins and ends with race, completely ignoring behavior. Instead, airlines and countries across the globe shrug off psychological tells that could reveal something is very wrong. When used with the other traditional methods of discovering bombs, etc., we’d have another layer of security in place.
But this long after 9/11, the U.S. in particular, including obviously the airlines, just don’t take safety seriously.
More from the Washington Post article today:
Administration officials acknowledged Saturday that Abdulmutallab’s name was added in November to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, which contains about 550,000 individuals and is maintained by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence at the National Counterterrorism Center. TIDE is a catch-all list into which all terrorist-related information is sent.
Some, but not all, information from TIDE is transferred to the FBI-maintained Terrorist Screening Data Base (TSDB), from which consular, border and airline watch lists are drawn. The Transportation Security Administration has a “no-fly” list of about 4,000 people who are prohibited from boarding any domestic or U.S.-bound aircraft. A separate list of about 14,000 “selectees” require additional scrutiny but are not banned from flying.
Abdulmutallab’s name never made it past the TIDE database. “A TIDE record on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was created in November 2009,” one administration official said, but “there was insufficient information available on the subject at that time to include him in the TSDB or its ‘no fly’ or ‘selectee’ lists.”
There is another report about how the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had radicalized the young Nigerian, giving more ammunition for the case that U.S. involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused serious blow back: His father said he became radicalized after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and on the Pentagon, and by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the real tell in this story so far is that unlike the U.S., who only had Abdulmatallab in the terrorist database but didn’t go any further, the UK Times is reporting that Britain had already taken action against the young Nigerian:
The son of a prominent Nigerian banker, who allegedly attempted to blow up a transatlantic flight over America, was barred from returning to Britain earlier this year.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, graduated from a university in London last year but his visa request was refused in May when he attempted to apply for a new course at a bogus college.
… [...] He attempted to return to Britain for a six-month course in May this year but was refused by officials from the UK Border Agency.
“He was refused entry on grounds that he was applying to study at an educational establishment that we didn’t consider to be genuine,” a Whitehall official said.
Neither the Washington Post, nor the WSJ, among others, has any reporting about Britain denying Abdulmutallab’s entry in May 2009.
Now, it’s all eyes on Lagos airport, with rising concern over security out of Africa.