8 Jan 2010

US starts getting tougher on aviation security

10:00 pm on 8 January 2010

The Obama administration has outlined a suite of tough new security measures in the wake of US intelligence agencies' failure to anticipate the Christmas day attempt to blow up an airliner approaching Detroit.

The US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has pledged tough checks on people flying to the US with passports or itineraries from countries accused of sponsoring terrorism.

Ms Napolitano says hundreds of more sophisticated screening scanners will be deployed at US airports, and foreign airports will also be encouraged to overhaul and strengthen their equipment and procedures.

In addition, she says, there will be more air marshals aboard more flights.

New Zealanders flying to the United States are likely to be caught up in the new procedures, particularly if they have visited countries on the US watchlist.

Obama says he takes full responsibility

In a national address, US President Barack Obama said he took full responsibility for the failure that could have cost 300 lives.

He presented a four-point action plan, including aggressive investigation of all leads on high-priority threats, faster and broader distribution of intelligence, and stronger analysis of it.

Mr Obama also reached out to Muslims, saying that al Qaeda increasingly sought to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations, and that the US must communicate to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers them nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death.

He said his national security team would develop a strategy to address the unique challenges posed by lone recruits.

Misspelling of name misled State Dept

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, tried unsuccessfully to detonate explosives on Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. He was overpowered by passengers and the plane landed safely.

He was indicted by a grand jury on six charges on Wednesday. The charges include attempted murder of the 290 people aboard the plane and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The BBC reports his name was on a US database of about 550,000 suspected terrorists but a misspelling of it led the State Department to believe that he did not have a valid US visa - which he did.

Mr Obama says the suspect went through a series of security checks on his journey to Detroit, but the particular checkpoint he passed through at Amsterdam's Schipfol airport did not screen for the type of explosives he had in his clothing.