Reactions to alleged attempted terrorism on Christmas Day flight

12/28/09 Seán Kinane
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On Friday, a Nigerian man on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit allegedly tried to ignite an explosive as the plane approached its destination.

Law enforcement officials think Ulmar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to ignite a two-part concoction of explosives, but it only resulted in smoke, some fire, and pops.

Today the group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the attempt, calling it retaliation for a recent U.S.-backed attacks against them in Yemen.

In a statement released this morning, the family of Abdulmutallab said they approached foreign security agencies months ago because the son disappeared while studying abroad.

This afternoon, President Barack Obama took a break from his vacation in Hawaii to reassure the American public of the safety of air travel.


The American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your families safe and secure during this busy holiday season. Since I was first notified of this incident I've ordered the following actions to be taken to protect the American people and to secure air travel.

First, I directed that we take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the traveling public. We made sure that all flights still in the air were secure and could land safely. We immediately enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. We added federal air marshals to flights entering and leaving the United States. And we're working closely in this country -- federal, state and local law enforcement -- with our international partners.

Second, I've ordered two important reviews because it's absolutely critical that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent future acts of terrorism. The first review involves our watch list system, which our government has had in place for many years to identify known and suspected terrorists so that we can prevent their entry into the United States.

Apparently the suspect in the Christmas incident was in the system, but not on a watch list such as the so-called no-fly list. So I've ordered a thorough review not only of how information related to the subject was handled, but of the overall watch list system and how it can be strengthened.

The second review will examine all screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel. We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks.

Third, I've directed my national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country. We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses -- we will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle, and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us -- whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.

Finally, the American people should remain vigilant, but also be confident. Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as Americans.

There are fears that the enhanced security measures will result in racial profiling of Arabs or other foreigners. Ramzy Kilic, executive director of the Tampa chapter of The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says people have the right to expect safety when they fly.

“Yes, absolutely,” Kilic said, but he warned about racial profiling.

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