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We Were Lucky

December 28, 2009 | Posted in: News,Northwest,Passengers,Security,Travel Safety

It was a miracle that nothing happened Christmas Day.

Well, “nothing” beyond a man trying to set off an explosive that led to part of the wall of an airplane cabin being set on fire, plus injuries to the alleged terrorist and some of the brave passengers who stopped him and saved the day.

Of course, the question remains — how did the situation get so far, with all the security we have in place? Trust me, all of official Washington is frantically working on that one, but here are my thoughts:

According to the Associated Press, the suspect “had been placed in a U.S. database of people suspected of terrorist ties in November” but not on the “No Fly” list. He was, at some point, also on a British “watch list”. So why wasn’t the suspect — at a minimum — pulled for extra screening?

At first blush, it would seem a simple process of cross-checking names on one list or another (and let me point out that the U.S. list of persons of interest — in terms of terror — is more than 500,000 names long) but somehow, something went awry. To be blunt, the system failed. Fortunately, the passengers on Northwest flight 253 sure didn’t — and let me add my voice to the chorus in thanking them.

It is a sad fact that it takes incidents like this one to initiate a “review” of our security processes. And it is also sad that a handful of highly motivated evil doers have made the hassle of air travel — that much more of a hassle.

But we can live with the hassles — if the system works.

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