Would-be Christmas Day airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab nearly took down Northwest flight 253 to Detroit with explosives he got through security in Lagos, Nigeria, and Amsterdam. While Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano initially asserted that the the aviation security system "worked" in the Abdulmutallab case, she has since backed off — or, "clarified" — that stance. Now, amid general agreement that there were crucial failures in our security apparatus, people are asking: Who messed up, and how?  (Watch Napolitano and GOP critics on THE WEEK's "Sunday Talk Show Briefing")

The U.S. embassy in Nigeria, by not flagging the bomber correctly: While Abdulmutallab's own father reported him to the U.S. State Department, apparently the embassy staff in Nigeria neglect to "tag" and "highlight" the warning "so he would be placed into a more-active suspect database," says Gerald Posner at The Daily Beast. "That, in turn, may have put him on a "no-fly list." According to our sources, this was an "isolated failure of local embassy intelligence officers."
"Missed warning signs"

The TSA, by not using the best technology: We know that "Abdulmutallab hid the explosive in his underwear," says the editorial board at USA Today. Imaging technology "exists to expose such contraband, but it is not used because devices" reveal everything under a passengers clothing — not just bombs. The TSA has been unnecessarily "squeamish" about using these devices. But clearly that's the right thing to do — at least "selectively on suspicious passengers."
"Post 9/11 security systems fail to connect the dots — again"

Lagos airport security, by being generally incompetent:
Dating back to the early '90s the FAA has been warning that security at the Lagos airport doesn't "meet international standards," says Daniel Balint Kurti in The Times of London. Even today the security agents are "more concerned about extracting a bribe than searching for bombs." With all the warning signs we've had, no one should be surprised that a passenger boarded a plane with a bomb at this airport.
"Security lapses at Lagos airport were a disaster waiting to happen"

Dutch airport security, by letting suspect through: Dutch airport police "already have admitted that Abdulmutallab appears to have bypassed normal passport control at the Amsterdam airport," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. "Clearly, the security process at [the Amsterdam airport] needs a lot of work."
"Dutch police investigating reports of Abdulmutallab accomplice"

The whole system, by being utterly useless: I don't agree with my fellow conservatives who claim this incident reflects "some special failure of the Obama administration," says Megan McArdle at The Atlantic. What this incident really points out is that "our elaborate system of security theater is probably next to useless." Maybe it's time to re-engineer it and "do it smarter, like the Israelis do."
"TSA fails to intercept terrorist"


Who is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?
World newspapers reaction to attempted Northwest Airlines bombing