Authorities have also uncovered a connection with the Fort Hood jihadist’s imam, Anwar al-Awlaki. “Officials: Only A Failed Detonator Saved Northwest Flight,” by Brian Ross and Richard Esposito for ABC News, December 26:
Officials now say tragedy was only averted on Northwest flight 253 because a makeshift detonator failed to work properly.
Bomb experts say there was more than enough explosive to bring down the Northwest jet, which had nearly 300 people aboard, had the detonator not failed, and the nation’s outdated airport screening machines may need to be upgraded.
“We’ve known for a long time that this is possible,” said Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar and ABC News consultant, “and that we really have to replace our scanning devices with more modern systems.”
Clarke said full body scans were needed, “but they’re expensive and they’re intrusive. They invade people’s privacy.”
Al Qaeda, said Clarke, is aware of this vulnerability in the U.S. airport security system. “They know that this is a weakness and an Achilles’ heel in our airport security system and this is the second time they’ve tried it.” […]
According to investigators, the bomb on Northwest flight 253, which was en route from Amsterdam to Detroit when suspect Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab allegedly detonated it, contained more than 80 grams of PETN. The material was allegedly sewn into Abdulmutallab’s underwear, and was not detected by airport security.
The bomb was built and the plot organized, say U.S. officials, by al Qaeda leaders in Yemen, just north of the capital city of Sanaa.
Authorities say the 23-year-old suspect spent months in Yemen being trained for the Christmas Day suicide mission.
Investigators believe Abdulmutallab was connected to al Qaeda by the same radical imam, American-born Anwar Awlaki, who is linked to the American Army major accused of opening fire at Fort Hood in November.
According to investigators, the bomb used yesterday was built in Yemen by a top al Qaeda bomb maker. […]
Abdulmutallab, who flew from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then Detroit, was taken into custody at the Detroit airport and was interviewed by authorities there. He was then taken to an area hospital to be treated for burns.
Abdulmutallab was on a terrorism watch list, but not on a no-fly list. Said Clarke, “So once again, we have the U.S. government, as in the case of the Fort Hood attacks, knowing about someone, knowing that they were suspicious, but that information didn’t get to the right people in time.”