January 6, 2010
Posted: 12:23 AM ET
In his usual heroic fashion, Obama tossed that hot Christmas Bomber potato to Janet Napolitano, and when she dropped the potato, it got cannoned over to the CIA with a quick fake to Dick Cheney, who didn't even bother to answer. Obama kept his head buried deep in the sand at Oahu for almost four days while all this was going on. But this was Obama's personal hot potato, and I believe he may personally be at fault for placing almost three hundred passengers in deadly peril on NW Flight 253 on Christmas Day.
How? By putting a politically correct twist on the existing terrorist database.
If you think about this as a Google search, pinpointing Omar the Bomber before he got on the plane wasn't hard. Google could have done it in a flash as soon as Omar tried to board a plane in Africa. All they had to do was Google "Christmas flights to U.S., departing Muslim-majority country, cash paid, one-way, no check-in luggage." Then they could have spotted him in Amsterdam before boarding there. Even after he was on NW 253, a simple search of the terrorist database would have brought up this wannabe mass killer.
January 5, 2010
Posted: 08:55 PM ET
London, England (CNN) - London's Heathrow Airport will introduce more body scanners within weeks, and all British airports must have equipment to detect explosives by the end of the year, British Home Secretary Alan Johnson said Tuesday.
Johnson - whose responsibilities include domestic security - was speaking in response to the failed effort to blow up a plane en route to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day. The suspect in the thwarted attack, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, had studied in Britain.
The British government had no evidence AbdulMutallab, 23, of Nigeria, had been planning an attack, and believes he was "radicalized" after he left Britain, Johnson said.
British security services investigated AbdulMutallab's communications with UK-based individuals they had under observation while he was living in London, but judged that he did not then pose a danger.
Those individuals were among 2,000 terror suspects British security agencies currently keep watch over, according to a senior British counter-terrorism source.
Johnson said the government was directing airports to carry out more random searches of passengers because metal detectors cannot spot explosives without metal parts.
British airports will also use more sniffer dogs to try to find explosives, Johnson said in a speech to the House of Commons.
"It is an issue of grave concern that the explosive device was not detected by airport security in either Lagos (Nigeria) or Amsterdam (Netherlands)," which AbdulMutallab passed through en route to Detroit, Johnson said.
The government is also considering "additional targeted passenger profiling," Johnson said.
Posted: 08:53 PM ET
Washington (CNN) - The FBI attained "actionable intelligence" from bombing suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab in the first hours after his arrest on Christmas Day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
"AbdulMutallab spent a number of hours with FBI investigators in which we gleaned useable, actionable intelligence," Gibbs told reporters.
According to authorities, Nigerian-born AbdulMutallab tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear as a flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, made its final approach to Detroit, Michigan, December 25. The device failed to fully detonate, instead setting off a fire at the man's seat.
Gibbs declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence. AbdulMutallab, 23, has been tied to the Yemen-based group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In a statement to reporters after meeting with his national security team, President Obama said U.S. officials had enough information in their possession before the failed bombing attack to have prevented the suspect from getting on the plane, but had been unable to "connect the dots."
Obama said he ordered his security team to complete preliminary reviews of the situation this week so that suggested reforms can be implemented immediately.
"Time and again we've learned that quickly piecing together information and taking swift action is critical to staying one step ahead of a nimble adversary," Obama said. "So we have to do better, and we will do better, and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line."
Posted: 07:54 PM ET
The President says the "system failed in a potentially dangerous way." What went wrong and how will he fix it? We'll talk to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward to get some perspective on how Obama is handling the terror threat and how he compares with his predecessors. Plus, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte join Larry. How would they have handled the situation differently?
Is Joan Rivers A Security Threat?
Joan Rivers says she was not permitted to board her commercial flight from Costa Rica to New York on Sunday because of her "suspicious" passport. Her seat was given away and she was told she couldn't fly. Find out what happened next and whether this can happen to you!
And we want to hear from you:
How do you think President Obama is responding to the foiled Christmas Day terror attempt?
December 31, 2009
Posted: 06:32 PM ET
Tonight President Obama is set to receive the report on the Christmas Day terror attempt. How exactly did the U.S. miss all the warning signs surrounding Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab? What will actually change as a result of the near-disaster? And will heads roll at any of the responsible government agencies? We'll talk the politics of terror.
Rush Limbaugh Hospitalized
We'll get an update on how the radio talk show host is doing tonight. Limbaugh was rushed to the hospital last night after complaining about chest pain. How is he feeling? When will he back on the air?
Last but not least, we'll take you around the country as we say hello to 2010!
Which brings us to the question of the night:
What's your resolution for the new year?
Posted: 06:07 PM ET
Washington (CNN) - The State Department on Thursday is directing its embassies around the world to include information on whether a person has a U.S. visa when they send special cables to Washington containing information on potentially suspect individuals, CNN has learned.
The order comes in the wake of a failed Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner. The change was prompted by preliminary reviews ordered by President Obama of the terror attack.
The reviews are due to the president by Thursday.
A State Department official told CNN the information to be included in so-called "Visas VIPER cables" currently is not required by department guidelines. In the case of the attempted December 25 bombing, crucial information that the suspect - 23-year-old Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab - had a two-year multiple-entry visa was not relayed in the cables.
Although other government departments could have accessed that information if they wanted to search State Department databases, they were not required to do so.
December 30, 2009
Posted: 08:46 PM ET
U.S. officials say they knew as early as August of communication between extremists in Yemen and a person called "the Nigerian." Could the dots have been connected before the Christmas Day terror attempt? Would that have prevented Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab from getting on a flight to Detroit with explosive materials? Have we learned anything from 9/11? We'll ask Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 commission. We'll also talk to three people who lost loved ones on 9/11.
Trouble for Charlie Sheen?
An EXCLUSIVE tonight: The lawyer for Brooke Mueller, Charlie Sheen's wife. Mueller called 911 on Christmas morning and reported her husband had a knife to her throat and was making threats. Now, she wants the restraining order against him modified so they can work things out. What's going on? We'll ask Yale Galanter, Mueller's attorney.
And we want to hear from you!
Do you think security in the U.S. has improved since 9/11?
Posted: 03:44 PM ET
(CNN) - The seven-hour flight from the Netherlands to Michigan had been uneventful. Passengers bided time watching movies or trying to catch shut eye.
But as Northwest Flight 253 made its final approach to Detroit on Christmas, the actions of one man put at risk the lives of nearly 300 passengers on the jetliner - and the quick thinking of another helped prevent disaster.
Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch filmmaker, appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" for a second time Tuesday night, recounting how he and others subdued an al Qaeda-linked suspect from detonating explosives that the man had attached to his underwear.
That suspect, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, is now charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft in a plot that the militant group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has claimed responsibility for. A senior administration official said late Tuesday that new information suggests the 23-year-old Nigerian man's plot may indeed have had ties to the group.
"First, I thought it just might be a crazy guy to actually carry a firecracker onto the airplane," Schuringa said Tuesday night. "It came as quite a shock when I heard he had ties to al Qaeda."
From Detroit, Schuringa had a connecting flight before his final destination: a vacation with friends in Miami, Florida.
As the plane neared Detroit, Schuringa said, he heard what sounded like a firecracker going off.
"First, it was just 'bang,'" he said. "And you're trying to look around, like where's this bang coming from."
Immediately afterward, someone screamed "Fire!"
Schuringa said he noticed a man on the left side of the aisle, sitting still while on fire.
"A normal person would stand up, and he wasn't standing up," he said. "So then I knew, this guy is trying to do something."
Posted: 03:07 PM ET
(CNN) - The failed attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger airplane on December 25 has raised questions about the need for the introduction of full-body scanners at all major airports.
The Netherlands said Wednesday it was installing the scanners at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, where security staff failed to detect explosives being taken aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253.
How do these scanners work?
There are two types of device which offer full-body scans. Millimeter wave scanners use extremely high frequency radio waves which are processed by a computer to produce a detailed 3D image of air passengers. Backscatter scanners use high energy rays that - unlike X-rays which penetrate objects - scatter when they hit materials, allowing computers to render a detailed image and detect substances such as explosives and plastic weapons. Both scanners, unlike conventional X-rays, can strip away layers of clothing, accurately mapping the contours of the body, any prosthetics beneath the skin, as well as clothing and metallic and non-metallic objects.
How long does it take?
The scanning process takes between 15 and 30 seconds. Passengers enter a small booth or archway and raise their hands while radio waves target them from all directions. It may take slightly longer for airport staff to review the images produced and - given the level of detail, more passengers may find themselves subjected to follow-up security checks as a result.
Why are they controversial?
Privacy campaigners say the scanners produce "naked" images of passengers which represent an unnecessary violation. They say the process is humiliating, and despite pledges that the images will not be stored or used elsewhere, it could be open to abuse - particularly with scans of celebrities. Although the U.S. Transportation Security Agency, which is installing the scanners in many airports, insist the equipment does not capture details of face or produce images of a quality that can be deemed compromising, opponents say the technology is still capable of this and may be utilized in the future.
December 29, 2009
Posted: 05:57 PM ET
By JOSH GERSTEIN
President Barack Obama has promised to tighten up aviation security in the wake of last week’s frightening attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight as it approached Detroit, but experts say nearly all the steps Obama is likely to consider come with tradeoffs that have scared off other policymakers in the past.
Obama said he’s ordered a review of the terrorist watch list system to determine why a warning the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria received from the father of alleged bomber Omar Abdulmutallab didn’t result in Abdulmutallab being barred from flying to the U.S. or given extra security screening. The president also said he’s asked his subordinates to look at why existing screening didn’t detect the plastic explosives he managed to bring on board the plane — allegedly by concealing them in boxer shorts crafted by Al Qaeda bomb-makers.
Some things likely to be quickly addressed are specific to last Friday’s attack. They include giving more weight to complaints from family members that a relative has become radicalized and may engage in terrorism. "The Saudis will tell you that’s some of the most important and reliable information you can get,” said Fran Townsend, homeland security coordinator under President George W. Bush.
There are other obvious loopholes to be closed. Officials say they’re considering an automatic review of outstanding visas for people entered into the broad U.S. terrorism database. And perhaps greater information-sharing with allies such as Britain, which, unbeknownst to the U.S., refused to grant Abdulmutallab a new student visa after he allegedly provided the name of a nonexistent school.
But broader policy changes have greater ramifications — tradeoffs that the Bush administration was well aware of. And while increasing security may seem like a political no-brainer, some frequent travelers have become so incensed at what they call “security theater” that they are recoiling at steps already taken, such as banning the use of blankets and personal items in the last hour of some flights.
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