SECURITY -- December 28, 2009 at 10:26 AM ET
Amid Tighter Air Security, Questions Intensify on Accused Plane Bomber
Updated 4:45pm ET
According to media reports, the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attempt to bring down the Amsterdam to Detroit jet on Christmas Day, saying the attack was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen.
Airlines and governments worldwide continued to clamp down on air travel security Monday as questions intensified as to how the Nigerian man accused in a botched Christmas Day attack on a trans-Atlantic flight was allowed to board a plane to the United States despite being flagged for a watch list.
The system aimed at keeping air travel secure failed when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was suspected of ties to militants, managed to smuggle explosives aboard a flight, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in an interview Monday.
"It did," Napolitano said on NBC's "Today Show" when asked if the system "failed miserably."
"And that's why we are asking ... how did this individual get on the plane? Why wasn't the explosive material detected? What do we need to do to change (the security watch list rules?)"
The Obama administration has ordered investigations into the two areas of aviation security -- how travelers are placed on watch lists and passengers screened. Billions of dollars have been spent on aviation security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, when commercial airliners were hijacked and used as weapons.
Abdulmutallab was in a U.S. database of people suspected of terrorist ties in November, but there was not enough information about his activity that would place him on a watch list that could have prevented him from flying.
Abdulmutallab's father says he had approached U.S. and Nigerian authorities to express concerns about his son's extremist views after they lost contact with him -- the family has pledged its continued cooperation, the New York Times reports.
According to reports, Abdulmutallab lived a life of privilege as the son of a prominent Nigerian businessman. He is reported to have studied in universities around the world, including Britain and possibly Dubai.
President Barack Obama is expected to make a statement on the incident later Monday.
Only one of the 278 passengers aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit sustained a serious injury in the attempted attack. Passengers in fact, helped subdue Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate a mix of powder and liquid chemicals contained in a small bag that was taped to his waist, according to media reports.
Also in the spotlight after the attack: Yemen, which is gaining new notoriety as a hot spot for terror groups like al-Qaida and others. The Washington Post reports that the al-Qaida branch linked to the attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 has for the past year escalated efforts to exploit Yemen's instability and carve out a leadership role among terrorist groups.
The incident may speed up the use of new technologies to screen passengers, including body scans that produce X-ray-like images of a traveler's body.
Some airlines were going as far as shutting down in-flight entertainment systems, which include route-tracking maps, as a security precaution.