Print | Comments () Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor December 28, 2009 10:23 AM
After days of suggesting that the aviation security system worked because a Christmas Day attempted bombing of a US airliner was foiled, the Obama administration's point person conceded today that the system, in fact, failed.
Fellow passengers and crew members subdued a 23-year-old Nigerian man -- who was on a terrorist watch list and who managed to get on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with an explosive hidden on his body -- as he tried to ignite the device.
Making the rounds of the Sunday news shows, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared, "One thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked."
That drew the fire of Republicans and other critics, who said a tragedy had only been narrowly averted.
On morning news shows today, Napolitano sought to clarify her remarks, saying she was referring to the system of quickly notifying other flights and law enforcement on the ground.
"Our system did not work in this instance," she said on NBC's "Today" show. "No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way."
The Obama administration has ordered investigations into how travelers are placed on watch lists, and also how passengers are screened.
The president, vacationing in Hawaii, is expected to make his first public remarks on the incident later today.
Asked why the suspect wasn't on a no-fly list even though his father had warned the US embassy in Nigeria that his son had become radicalized and had disappeared, Napolitano replied on ABC's "Good Morning America," "One of the things that we are doing is go backward. What were the facts that led up to this event? How did this individual get on the plane? Why wasn't he flagged at a higher screening level? How did he get an explosive substance onto the plane? All of those are serious questions that we are now looking at."
Asked how the man was able to get through security screening at two airports, she said, "Well, it's certainly not something that we want to have happen or happen again, which is why we're looking at that technology. It's why we're employing new technology, or beginning to deploy new technology at airports in the United States."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.