Would This Stop the Next Abdulmutallab?

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Monday, January 04, 2010 at 8:45 am

The Transportation Security Administration’s new post-Northwest Airlines Flight 253 rules, per The Washington Post:

All travelers flying to the United States from other countries will face increased random screening, and all passengers from more than a dozen terrorism-prone nations will be patted down and have their carry-on bags searched, under new rules the Obama administration said will take effect Monday morning. [...]

The Transportation Security Administration notified airline carriers Sunday of the changes for all flights entering the United States — with an emphasis on a “full body pat-down and physical inspection of property” for all people who are citizens of or are flying through or from nations with significant terrorist activity. TSA officials declined to name all the “countries of interest” on Sunday, but confirmed that the directive applies to the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The Post says that “in practice,” that means someone flying through Yemen, as Abdulmutallab did, would be stopped and searched. But this wouldn’t have stopped, for instance, Richard Reid, a British citizen of Jamaican descent who tried to blow up American Airlines flight 63 in December 2001. And if these changes were put in place before Christmas, it would most likely be the pat-down and screening that stopped Abdulmutallab, since he’s a Nigerian citizen who traveled from Yemen, not, for instance, a Yemeni national, who would be likely to attract more scrutiny under the ambiguous “terror-prone” country rules. So wouldn’t it make more sense for the bulk of the effort to be placed on the physical inspection?

One wonders how far back an affiliation with “terror-prone” countries goes. If you’re a member of the Anbar Awakening in Iraq, perhaps you should prepare for American airline agents to treat you like you were back at a checkpoint in Ramadi in 2005. Or, maybe, you spent part of your childhood in terror-prone Indonesia …

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