Flying the fiendish skiesEditorial
New York Post
December 27, 2009
Islamist terror’s Christmas present to America — a deadly fireball over Detroit International Airport — failed to materialize late Friday morning, but not for lack of ingenuity or dedication on the terrorist’s part.
The incendiary device carried aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by a Nigerian national identified by authorities as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab didn’t work as designed — thus sparing 278 passengers and 11 crew members gruesome deaths. But he did manage to carry inflammable chemicals aboard the aircraft — and come perilously close to igniting them.
Just how Abdulmutallab came to be on the aircraft is a compelling mystery. Authorities say the 23-year-old engineering student has claimed ties to al Qaeda, and the Washington Post yesterday quoted sources as saying that his name appears on at least one terrorism watch list.
All things being equal, this alone should have kept Abdulmutallab on the ground.
And it certainly should have precluded the issuance of a US entry visa to him.
These questions — the chemicals, the apparent watchlist failure and the visa — demand a thorough and immediate investigation. And, no doubt, additional questions will arise in the days to come.
The attempted fire-bombing recalls the case of Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe- bomber, an al Qadea-trained Briton who tried to detonate explosives secreted in his shoes on a flight from Paris to Miami eight years ago. And in August 2006, British security forces foiled an attempt to destroy simultaneously several transatlantic airline flights using liquid explosives.
The point being that airliners have been from the beginning, and will continue to be, a fat target for Islamist terrorists. The slightest slackening of vigilance can lead to catastrophe, as it appears nearly to have done over Detroit on Friday.
It remains, obviously, that the terrorists don’t limit themselves to targeting jumbo jets. And no security system is going to be foolproof.
The harsh fact is that Islamist terrorism is as much a state of mind as it is an order of battle.
That is, it’s not necessary to have a direct affiliation with al Qaeda in order to pose a deadly threat. America learned — re-learned — that at Fort Hood earlier this year.
The FBI and the Army missed many clues that might have led them to prevent that massacre, and we suspect that the same will turn out to be true of this incident.
“This could have been catastrophic,” said Rep Peter King yesterday. “We were lucky on this one.”
Next time, maybe not so much.