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See Also: US media on security failures in Times Square bomb plot

Host | 13:45 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The ability of Faisal Shahzad, a suspect in the Times Square bomb plot, to board a plane bound for Islamabad via Dubai has raised questions about shortcomings in US security.

Karen DeYoung and Anne E Kornblut of the Washington Post question how Mr Shahzad arrived at JFK airport while being tracked by the FBI.

Most curious is how Shahzad, a suspected and potentially dangerous car bomber who was being tracked by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies since late Sunday, was able to drive to crowded Kennedy Airport, with a loaded 9mm handgun with extra clips in the car. It appears that the FBI and others watching Shahzad lost track of him for a period of time as he made his way toward the airport in Long Island.

Scott Shane of the New York Times reports that Emirates failed to check for an added name to the no-fly list.

In addition, the airline he was flying, Emirates, failed to act on an electronic message at midday on Monday notifying all carriers to check the no-fly list for an important added name, the officials said. That meant lost opportunities to flag him when he made a reservation and paid for his ticket in cash several hours before departure.

Eileen Sullivan and Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press explain that Emirates worked from a no-fly list that was not current.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn't, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

Jennifer Rubin of suggests that security lapses are a common occurrence since 9/11.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists - one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these "failed" incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

Mark Hosenball of Newsweek suggests that Mr Shahzad's name should have been more swiftly entered into an airline reservation system.

While Homeland Security, often blamed for aviation security lapses and gaffes, can take credit for spotting and grabbing the suspect, officials concede not all of its procedures worked perfectly either. Once Shahzad's name had been entered on the "no-fly" list due to his status as a suspect in the bombing case, the alert on him should have been entered into all airline reservation systems so that he would be denied a ticket and authorities would be alerted if and when he tried to buy one. According to a knowledgeable official, fearing that the "no-fly" listing would move too slowly through the system, Homeland's Transportation Security Administration did put out a special alert related to Shahzad and asked airlines to check their passenger lists by hand to see if his name was on them. But this emergency procedure didn't work and he still wasn't taken off the plane until what was essentially the 59th minute of the 11th hour.

Nsenga Burton of asks why a one-way ticket paid for in cash did not indicate foul play.

What exactly is the point of a no-fly list if wannabe terrorists are going to be allowed on the plane anyway? How is it that us regular folks get searched and seized for things like mascara, lipstick, hand lotion and belt buckles? Suspected terrorist Faisal Shahzad reserved a one-way ticket on his way to JFK airport, paid for it in cash and coasted through security to secure a seat on his Emirates flight. We're not security experts, but even we know that one-way tickets bought in cash is an indicator of terrorist behavior. How do we know? September 11, 2001. We're just saying.

Times Online reports that the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, agrees that Shahzah should not have been on the plane.

White House officials have praised the handling of the investigation, pointing out that Mr Shahzad was arrested before he could leave the country. But questions have been raised about the glaring security lapses on the part of government agencies and the airline that almost allowed him to flee the country. Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, said: "Clearly the guy was on the plane and shouldn't have been. We got lucky."

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