This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
There’s something to be said for getting shot at without getting hit. It tends to focus the mind.
Americans are once again very focused on airline security since Friday’s foiled bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner. The near-catastrophic suicide attack has reminded us that there are plenty of anti-American terrorists out there – and still plenty of ways we could be doing a better job of stopping them.
That particular attack was reportedly stopped by a malfunctioning detonator and a passenger who lunged over seats to tackle Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. It should have been stopped much earlier, by denying the Nigerian suspect a visa to visit the United States in the first place. His father, a retired Nigerian bank chairman, had recently warned the American embassy in Lagos that his son may have fallen in with terrorists.
Sounds like a very credible source, but the red flag only put Abdulmutallab on the Department of Homeland Security’s longest and least reliable watch list – not the “no fly” list that could have barred him from both a visa and the flight. One Obama official said there was “insufficient derogatory evidence available” to look more closely at him.
That makes it sound as if the government bears the burden of proving the threat from a suspected militant. Actually, someone like Abdulmutallab – a foreigner on foreign soil – has no right whatsoever to enter the United States; the United States can grant that privilege, or not, on its own terms. Its own terms should certainly include a clean bill of health with regard to suspected terror ties.
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