Terror takes flight in U.S. once again

We’re glad to see Homeland Security Director Jane Napolitano has reconsidered her Sunday comment that “the system worked” to thwart a would-be terrorist who tried to blow up a jet airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.

The system “worked” only if our system for halting terrorists with explosives on airplanes is to rely on passengers to detect and attack terrorists before they can fulfill their goals. And it “worked” only if a part of our system is to hope that explosives terrorists manage to carry onto planes fail to detonate as planned.

Both of those things occurred Friday, saving the lives of passengers and crew members aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

By Monday, Napolitano had changed her assessment, acknowledging “Our system did not work in this instance.”

Also on Monday,  President Barack Obama promised a thorough review of the terrorist watch system and the screening technology used to detect explosives. Both measures are obviously needed.

For one thing we need to know how the terrorist in this incident, Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, kept the U.S. visa he obtained last year. He was barred from Great Britain because his visa application listed a bogus college.

If that wasn’t enough for the United States, one might have thought his visa would have been voided after his own father contacted the U.S. embassy in Nigeria with concerns that his son had become “radicalized” in Yemen.

We understand that U.S. intelligence agencies receive thousands of tips each day about potential terrorists, but intelligence experts say there isn’t even a method to connect those tips electronically with foreign nationals who already hold U.S. visas.

As for better efforts to detect explosives, it’s a safe bet that more and more of us will undergo the air-puff explosive tests at airport security as we wait to board planes. That’s an unfortunate inconvenience that is likely to accompany increased security efforts.

Perhaps it is time for this country to evaluate the fact that those who have sought to commit terrorist acts on U.S. soil since 2001 fit a limited profile: They are all young-to-middle-age Muslim men. We are not prepared to embrace a policy targeted to a specific demographic, but it may be time to begin such a discussion.

The age of Obama — of engaging Muslim leaders and closing prisons for terrorists — has not brought any reduction in Islamacist terror aimed at this country. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, there have been more attempted terrorist attacks in the United States this year than any time since 2001.

The war on terror didn’t end because George W. Bush left the White House. And the system is far from working adequately.


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