The recent story about the failed attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit can’t help but send a collective shudder through the minds of holiday travelers. The would-be terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to detonate some high explosives strapped to his leg. Fortunately, his device failed, and our country was spared the trauma of a Christmas Day attack that likely would have killed hundreds. Credit also should be given to the brave fellow passengers who subdued the terrorist and put out the fire started by his device before he was able to do any further damage.
The terrorist’s backstory is, by now, disturbingly familiar. Abdulmutallab comes from a privileged background and had been living in a fancy apartment and attending college in London. Somewhere, somehow, he was introduced to radical Islamic views, joined al Qaeda, and received the training and device needed to carry out the plot. He became disengaged from his family, which noticed the change in his personality and his religious and political views. Indeed, his own father warned authorities that his son was a potential terrorist. His story should remind all of us that there still are people out there who want to harm the United States and kill innocent Americans and don’t mind dying in the attempt.
This incident should cause the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration, and other American authorities to immediately revisit and tighten air travel security procedures. Abdulmutallab apparently was on some kind of security watch list. It is mind-boggling that he was able to carry a syringe and some form of high explosives through security. It also appears that no one noticed other telltale signs of potential terrorist activity. Abdulmutallab bought his ticket with cash. Although he supposedly planned a two-week stay in Detroit, he did not check any luggage and had only a carry-on bag. How was this guy not an obvious candidate for a careful physical search before he was allowed to board a plane to the United States?
The next time we travel by plane we no doubt will be inconvenienced by some new security procedures designed to prevent a similar attempt. I don’t mind being inconvenienced if there is a realistic chance that the new procedures will foil the next terrorist plot. And when I am in the TSA line, waiting, I may think of Abdulmutallab and smile at the thought that, when the explosive device strapped to his leg caught fire, he likely was badly burned in some tender areas. Allah must have a sense of humor.