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Security Lapses Let Shahzad Board Plane

From the ‘NY/Region Section’ of the New York Times:

Lapses Allowed Suspect to Board Plane


May 4, 2010

WASHINGTON — Why was Faisal Shahzad permitted to board a flight for Dubai some 24 hours after investigators of the Times Square terrorism case learned he might be connected to the attempted bombing?

Though Mr. Shahzad was stopped before he could fly away, there were at least two significant lapses in the security response of the government and the airline that allowed him to come close to making his escape, officials of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies said on Tuesday.

And yet we were told by the Obama administration and our our media masters that the system worked perfectly.

First, an F.B.I. surveillance team that had found Mr. Shahzad in Connecticut lost track of him — it is not clear for how long — before he drove to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, the officials said. As a result, investigators did not know he was planning to fly abroad until a final passenger list was sent to officials at the federal Customs and Border Protection agency minutes before takeoff.

In addition, the airline he was flying, Emirates, failed to act on an electronic message at midday on Monday notifying all carriers to check the no-fly list for an important added name, the officials said. That meant lost opportunities to flag him when he made a reservation and paid for his ticket in cash several hours before departure.

Shouldn’t buying a last minute one-way ticket to Dubai and on through to Pakistan have been enough to flag Mr. Shahzad?

Top Obama administration officials and some members of Congress on Tuesday praised the government’s handling of the investigation, noting that Mr. Shahzad was identified, tracked and arrested before he could escape.

But Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, while saying he was reluctant to criticize those in charge of airport security, added: “Clearly the guy was on the plane and shouldn’t have been. We got lucky.”

Senator Susan M. Collins, Republican of Maine, said she applauded the work of law enforcement officials in quickly solving the case. Still, she added, “A key question for me is why this suspect was allowed to board the plane in the first place. There appears to be a troubling gap between the time they had his name and the time he got on the plane.”

At a news conference in Washington, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that despite the break in physical surveillance, he had never been concerned that Mr. Shahzad would get away.

“I was here all yesterday and through much of last night, and was aware of the tracking that was going on,” Mr. Holder said. “And I was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him.”

Mr. Holder is a buffoon.

Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, called the capture of the accused terrorist “a great team effort.” She added: “The law enforcement work in this case was truly exemplary.”

Ditto Ms. ‘The System Worked’ Napolitano.

While the officials emphasized the successful outcome to the chase, a more detailed account, in interviews with officials who spoke of the continuing investigation mostly on condition of anonymity, gave a mixed picture

It remained uncertain Tuesday night at what time Mr. Shahzad had been found and when he was lost. Paul Bresson, an F.B.I. spokesman, declined to comment on the surveillance issue.

But at about 12:30 p.m. on Monday, more certain that Mr. Shahzad was the suspected terrorist, investigators asked the Department of Homeland Security to put him on the no-fly list. Three minutes later, the department sent airlines, including Emirates, an electronic notification that they should check the no-fly list for an update. At about 4:30 p.m., more information was added to the list, including Mr. Shahzad’s passport number, officials said.

Workers at Emirates evidently did not check the list, because at 6:30 p.m., Mr. Shahzad called the airline and booked a flight to Pakistan via Dubai, officials said. At 7:35 p.m., he arrived at the airport, paid cash for his ticket and was given a boarding pass.

Airlines are not required to report cash purchases, a Homeland Security official said. Emirates actually did report Mr. Shahzad’s purchase to the Transportation Security Administration — but only hours later, when he was already in custody, the official said.

Mr. Shahzad had evaded the surveillance effort and bought his ticket seven hours after his name went on the no-fly list. But the system gives security officials one more chance to stop a dangerous passenger.

As is routine, when boarding was completed for the flight, Emirates Flight EK202, the final passenger manifest was sent to the National Targeting Center, operated in Virginia by Customs and Border Protection. There, at about 11 p.m., analysts discovered that Mr. Shahzad was on the no-fly list and had just boarded a plane.

So nearly eleven hours after his name was put on the ‘no-fly’ list, someone finally noticed. Analysts in Virginia.

They sounded the alarm, and minutes later, with the jet still at the gate, its door was opened and agents came aboard and took Mr. Shahzad into custody, officials said

An Emirates spokeswoman, who said she was not allowed to speak on the record, declined to comment on the claims by government officials that the airline had neglected to recheck the no-fly list. “Emirates takes every necessary precaution to ensure the safety and well-being of its passengers and crew and regrets the inconvenience caused,” the airline said in a statement.

According to other reports, airlines are only required to re-check the ‘no-fly’ list within 24 hours of the flight. Which does not make much sense.

That is going to be changed to require a re-check within two hours.

One long-planned change in security procedures may reduce the chances of a repeat failure to check an updated no-fly list, officials said. The Transportation Security Administration is taking over the job of checking passenger manifests against the no-fly list under its Secure Flight program.

Such checks are currently being done by the T.S.A. for domestic flights, and the agency is scheduled to be checking all international flights by the end of the year, agency officials said.

Oh, well, if the TSA is going to be put in charge of checking the ‘no-fly’ list then we know we have nothing to worry about in the future.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, May 5th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Security Lapses Let Shahzad Board Plane”

  1. Right of the People says:

    This is what happens when you take a bunch of slackers who were working a minimum wage job, unionize them and make them federal employees. They didn’t get any smarter or better at their jobs, just better paid. A lot of them still can’t understand the technology they’re using. For a lot of them it’s like giving a digital watch to a caveman. They were working for minimum wage for a reason.

    This also is the affect of throwing 22 separate federal agencies together plus creating another (TSA) in a few short months to create DHS.

  2. proreason says:

    They had surveillance on his home and they “lost him”.


    The plane was pulling away from the gate with the most wanted man in the world; a man they had been “surveilling” for over 24 hours; a man who was so incompetant that he bought non-explosive fertilizer for the bomb that, had he been competant, could have killed or maimed hundreds.


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