Sen. Charles E. Schumer said today that the aborted terrorism attempt aboard a Christmas Day flight to Detroit “calls into question” the entire worldwide aviation safety system, especially travel originating in foreign airports.
Speaking to reporters in the lobby of Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Schumer said he wants the Obama administration to adopt a five-point program to guard against future occurrences, especially those emanating from foreign airports. And he noted that the quick action of passengers aboard the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight averted not only the loss of dozens of lives but another threat to the national economy as well.
“So we’ve go to act now,” he said.
The senator said he will “plead and demand” from the administration new measures aiming to identify and intercept alleged terrorists such as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of trying to ignite explosives smuggled aboard the plane in his underwear on a flight originating in Lagos, Nigeria.
Schumer said Abdulmutallab was still able to board a plane bound for the United States with explosives concealed in his underwear despite his name being included in a federal terrorist database, warnings from his father that he may have become radicalized, suspicious trips to Yemen, and having passed through security measures at Lagos and Amsterdam airports.
“That’s pretty good information,” he said. “It’s just amazing it wasn’t used.”
As a result, Schumer said he will ask for tighter security on flights entering the United States. He especially called for more Transportation Security Administration personnel to be assigned to overseas airports, pointing out that only 21 staffers from that agency now oversee security measures in the more than 300 facilities dispatching flights to the United States.
The senator also called for:
• U.S. airlines to threaten to stop flying to foreign airports known to have lax security.
• Penalties for foreign airports that don’t comply with U.S. security rules.
• Immediate review of all travel visas for anyone included in any terrorist database.
• The State Department to require all countries in the world to share visa info with U.S. authorities.
• Any country with a travel agreement with the United States to share the foreign travel information of anyone seeking to travel here.
“We’ve made progress,” Schumer said. “But the terrorists look for the weakest link, and right now the weakest link is foreign travel that comes here.”
Schumer said all his proposals could be implemented immediately, easily, and at minimal cost to airlines, airports, and governments.