The Associated Press reported last night that the suspected Times Square bomber was allowed on to a United Arab Emirates plane bound for Dubai on Monday night:
Faisal Shahzad boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back. Although under surveillance since midafternoon, he had managed to elude investigators and head to the airport.
The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.
Someone better start making the right call, because the system fails even when well known personalities are kept off of flights due to glitches in the system. The late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy was on the “no -fly” list in 2004. Mr. Kennedy was stopped five different times at airports on the East Coast due to his name being listed. The Washington Post reported:
“A senior administration official, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said Kennedy was stopped because the name “T. Kennedy” has been used as an alias by someone on the list of terrorist suspects.”
While it was an embarrassing incident for federal air security officials, it took Mr. Kennedy’s staff more than three weeks after the fact to get his name removed from the list. This is especially frustrating. After all, what can average people expect for themselves if a powerful Senator’s own staff cannot help him very easily when dealing with the no -fly list?
More recently, comedian and TV celebrity Joan Rivers was kept from boarding an airplane from Costa Rica to New York when a name mix up with her ticket and passport happened as a result of her late husband’s last name “Rosenberg” not matching up with her own. According to the NY Daily News, back in January Ms. Rivers told said, “If I were going to make up an alias, I wouldn’t pick Rosenberg. I’d pick Jolie or Pitt.” She continued, “Do terrorists wear Manolo Blahniks? I can tell you Donna Karan does not make anything that hides a bomb.” I spoke to Ms. Rivers this afternoon about her thoughts on the Times Square Bomber being let on to the airplane. She said:
“I have been flying in the last six weeks all over for my show (10 PM tonight on TV LAND), How’d You Get So Rich, because we had to get them in by today, so I have been to Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, L.A., Chicago, Texas, on and on and on. This is insanity. I am stopped every time. I am frisked every time. My ID is questioned constantly, because I have a passport that says a.k.a. I find this ludicrous and pathetic that somebody can come in at the last minute, buy a ticket with cash and slip through all of this and they worry about me…that God forbid I might have a bagel taped to my waist. I find this outrageous. I mean they wouldn’t let me on a plane in Costa Rica. I had a ticket. I had paid in advance. I had gotten there three hours ahead. I had luggage they had gone through, and I gave them names at Continental Airlines to call to verify. I asked them to call the United States Consulate, and they wouldn’t let me on a f*****g plane. Somewhere, there’s a big disconnect.” (MORE ON JOAN RIVERS)
Exactly. This comes down to the fact that our national security apparatus for our airlines remains unsatisfactory. If those in power among the rich and famous are considered threats at our airports but actual threats are allowed on to our airplanes like the 9/11 terrorists, Shahzad, and the notorious underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, then our priorities better start changing pretty quickly. Apparently, federal government aviation officials and a good number of their employees have yet to figure that out.