Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Don’t Shit in Your Mess Kit – Protecting Against Terrorists

The would-be Times Square terrorist almost escaped. The Obama administration says that it’s the job of the airlines to check passengers against the no-fly list, and that Emirates Airlines dropped the ball. Luckily Customs spotted Faisal Shahzad on the passenger list before his flight left, but after he had already boarded.

The Obama administration may claim a victory here, but it seems more like dumb luck. The anti-terrorist system is no good if you trust that the airlines will do all the right things at the right time. In this case, Emirate Airlines followed their usual procedure of updating their no-fly list infrequently, and we didn’t have a clue that they probably wouldn’t have a current list available to check against less than 24 hours after Faisal Shahzad was put on it.

Trusting in dumb luck is no way to run an airline, and even less an anti-terrorist system.