FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 5, 2010
SCHUMER: FOREIGN AIRPORT SECURITY APPALLINGLY LAX -- UNVEILS FIVE-POINT PLAN TO CLOSE GAPING SECURITY HOLES IN FOREIGN AIR TRAVEL TO THE U.S.
Major Recent Air Terror Attempts All Came on Flights that Took Off Out of a Foreign Airport Bound for the U.S. - Must Crack Down on Foreign Governments that Look the Other Way on Security; Move Comes as Region Pursues Additional International Flights
Schumer's Multi-Pronged Plan Focuses on Changes All Stakeholders Can Make Immediately and at Minimal Cost - Airlines Should Stop Flying to Airports that Don't Impose Tough Security, Foreign Governments Must Share All Past Visa Information
Christmas Bomber's Travel Visa Was Not Revoked Even After He was Placed in a Terror Database - Schumer Plan Would Require Immediate Visa Review
With the details of the security breakdown that led to the Christmas terror attempt still emerging, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled a new comprehensive five-point plan to close some of the gaping holes in foreign airport security that may have allowed the terrorist to slip through the cracks. Schumer’s plan calls on all the stakeholders involved in foreign airport security, including the U.S. government, foreign governments and airports, as well as airlines, to make immediate changes. Those changes include calling on airlines to threaten not to fly to foreign airports found to be lax with respect to security, demanding that foreign countries turn over all visa information, particularly information related to past travel to potentially hostile countries, and requiring the U.S. government to review and possibly revoke any outstanding travel visas if a visa-holder is placed on any of the terror watch lists.
“This incident shows that more than eight years after the 9/11 attacks, there are still gaping holes left in our aviation security system, particularly overseas. There has been a great deal of time and effort spent trying to close these holes but the Christmas Day terror attempt must be a wakeup call to show that more needs to be done. My plan puts forward some common sense solutions to close these gaps in a quick and cost effective way.”
President Obama called the Christmas terror attempt a “systemic failure” of aviation security. Schumer today agreed with that characterization, but said there are several fixes that can be achieved immediately to protect against a similar terrorist incident or attack. On Christmas Day, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab was accused of trying to ignite explosives smuggled aboard the plane in his underwear.
Despite his name being included in a federal terrorist database, warnings from his father that he me have become radicalized, suspicious trips to Yemen, and having passed through security measures at Lagos and Amsterdam airports, AbdulMutallab was still able to board a plane bound for the U.S. with explosives strapped to his groin.
In the past, Schumer has raised serious concerns about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its efforts to ensure that foreign airports comply with security requirements for U.S. bound flights. According to U.S. law, any flight that takes off from a foreign country but is bound for the U.S. must follow U.S. security procedures for both passengers, bags, and other aspects of the flight. However, Schumer had pointed out that the TSA only employs a few dozen Transportation Security Administration Representatives (TSARs) to monitor, review and enforce security at all airports around the world that connect with U.S. airports.
Schumer today also raised questions about why AbdulMutallab’s travel visa to the United States was not revoked when he was added to the terrorist database called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE). Despite being added to this database, the current process in place failed to require a mandatory and expedited determination by the national counterterrorism center and the department of state about whether or not his visa should be revoked. In addition, U.S. counterterrorism officials were not informed that Abdulmutallab had another active visa to travel to Yemen and had made at least one trip there.
Schumer today said these facts combined with other historical flaws in aviation security – lack of adequate screening technology, cumbersome, duplicative, and disorganized terrorist watch lists, and faulty intelligence sharing – created a security web that AbdulMutallab and potentially other terrorists have and can exploit.
Schumer also pointed out that most of the recent air terror incidents originated not from domestic U.S. flights, but from flights abroad bound for the U.S, including the shoe bomber on a flight from the United Kingdom to the U.S.
In response to this and potentially other threats, Schumer today outlined five steps the federal government can take immediately to significantly beef up foreign airport security. Schumer said these proposals do not solve all the problems, but they are common sense steps the government can implement quickly and at minimal cost.
All of Schumer’s proposals could be implemented immediately, easily, and at minimal cost to airlines, airports, and governments.