Rethinking National Security After Christmas Day Plot

Christmas Day terror plot rekindles national security debate

By DANIEL MACHT
|  Monday, Dec 28, 2009  |  Updated 4:00 AM PDT
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Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has taken heat for saying that "the system worked."

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After Northwest Flight 253 passengers and crew thwarted an alleged terrorist bent on blowing up the plane on Christmas Day, pols and pundits have rekindled the debate over how Americans should respond to terror threats:

  • “The most infuriating thing about these plane attacks is that, even though they fail, they succeed,” writes Stanford law professor Kenneth E. Scott on Politico’s Arena blog. “Think of the millions of wasted hours [would-be terrorist] Richard Reid has cost airline travelers in shoe checks, and now still more will be added in pat-downs.”
  • Rep. Peter King (R-NY), ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee says the U.S. needs to overhaul how it manages its no-fly lists. Suspected terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been allowed to board even though there was a “classified file on him” that showed involvement in terrorist activity, he writes in the New York Post. “They were able to make this connection quickly, yet Abdulmutallab wasn't on a no-fly list. I'm told that's because his terrorist activities hadn't been aviation-related. To me, a terrorist is a terrorist.”
  • Roey Rosenblith, a Flight 253 passenger on his way to visit family in St. Louis, writes in a first-person account on HuffPo that security had seemed “good” at the time when he boarded the plane in Amsterdam. The only way screeners would have found explosives on Abdulmutallab, he writes, is if a guard had “literally put his hands down the guy's pants, and searched his groin.”
  • Many conservative bloggers took issue with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she said repeatedly on Sunday talk shows that “the system had worked” because passengers jumped on Abdulmutallab to thwart his attack. “I watched her on three shows and each time she was more annoying, maddening and absurd than the previous appearance,” blogs Jonah Goldberg for a National Review post titled “Fire Napolitano.” “I would wager that not one percent of Americans think the system is "working" when terrorists successfully get bombs onto planes (and succeed in activating them). Probably even fewer think it's fair that they have to take off their shoes, endure delays and madness while a known Islamic radical — turned in by his own father — can waltz onto a plane (and into the country).”
  • Fallout from the incident could even affect the timetable for closing Guantanamo, especially given that authorities say Abdulmutallab spent time in Yemen and may have had help customizing explosive-laden clothing, Politico reports. Yemenis represent about half of the 200 remaining detainees at Guantanamo and “in terms of sending more [of them to return to Yemen, it would be a bit of a reach,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) tells the site. “I’d, at a minimum, say that whatever we were about to do we’d at least have to scrub it again from top to bottom.”
     

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