16 Terror Suspects Slipped Through Airport Security in U.S.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An airport security program designed to detect terrorists allowed more than a dozen suspects to board U.S. flights. An investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) into the Transportation Security Administration’s Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program uncovered 16 instances since 2003 in which airport screeners permitted people to get on planes who later were linked to terror plots.

Among the 16 were Najibullah Zazi, who led the plot to blow up the New York City subway system, and an accomplice, Zarein Ahmedzay, both of whom were born in Afghanistan. Both men traveled through Newark Liberty International Airport in August 2008 without being detected by SPOT officials. Zazi pleaded guilty on February 22, 2010, and will be sentenced in late June. Ahmendzay pleaded guilty April 23 and is also awaiting sentencing.
The GAO questioned the science being used for the program, saying the basis for the detection system was never validated before it was implemented. “A scientific consensus does not exist on whether behavior detection principles can be reliably used for counterterrorism purposes,” wrote the GAO in its report.
Between May 2004 and August 2008, TSA behavior detection personnel made about 1,100 arrests…but none were terrorism-related.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
16 Linked to Terror Missed at Airports (by Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press)


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