21,000 people now on U.S. no fly list
Airport security screening
February 2nd, 2012
06:28 PM ET

21,000 people now on U.S. no fly list

By Carol Cratty

The U.S. government's list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to the United States or within its borders has more than doubled over the past year, a counterterrorism official told CNN Thursday.

The "no fly" list produced by the FBI now has approximately 21,000 names on it, according to the official, who has knowledge of the government's figures. One year ago about 10,000 individuals were on it.

Only about 500 people currently on the no-fly list are Americans, the official said.

The dramatic jump in the numbers resulted from reforms made after a Nigerian man with explosives in his underwear was able to get on an international flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. It was later learned the father of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab had gone to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria prior to Christmas to raise concern about his son, but that did not result in his going on the no-fly roster.


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Filed under: Airport • Anwar al-Awlaki • FBI • Nigeria • Terrorism • Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab • Yemen
Judging the underwear bomber
Shown here is a photo from inside Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253, after 23-year-old Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab attempted to ignite an explosive device on board Christmas Day.
October 12th, 2011
04:00 AM ET

Judging the underwear bomber

The trial of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab started on Tuesday in Detroit.  Even on day one, much was learned about the havoc in the plane as the suspect, now widely referred as the 'underwear bomber,' tried to light the explosives hidden in his pants. ( CNN's Deobrah Feyerick wraps the first day of the case.)

Day one of the testimony was not without its slightly humorous elements.  The first witness described how AbdulMutallab's pants "resembled something I hadn't seen before."

"They were bulky, they reminded me of my son's Pull-Ups when he was little.  I assume they looked like adult Pampers.  I don't know what they were, but they were bulky and burning,"  said Michael Zantow, who was sitting a row behind AbdulMuttallab on the plane.

As for the question of what do you say when a fellow passenger's pants are ignited, the answer is a simple "hey dude, your pants are on fire." That's what passengers yelled out, according to Zantow.

CNN Senior Producer Laura Dolan is at the court and provided this breakdown of the jury hearing the case: FULL POST

Underwear bomber's jihadist path
October 11th, 2011
09:01 PM ET

Underwear bomber's jihadist path

By CNN's Deborah Feyerick reporting from Detroit, MI

To those who knew him before he became known as the "underwear bomber," Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab was a quiet, religious man. So how did the son of a prominent Nigerian banker with a graduate degree in engineering allegedly decide to wage holy war?

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday gave a 90-minute opening statement in the trial of AbdulMutallab, outlining a path that they say led to Christmas Day 2009 incident aboard a Detroit-bound airliner, which he is accused of trying to blow up with a device concealed in his underwear.

He was indicted on charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, and possession of a firearm or destructive device in furtherance of an act of violence.

Inspired by jihadist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, the now 24-year-old student set off for Yemen in the summer of 2009, allegedly telling FBI agents he wanted to find al Qaeda and "become involved in violent jihad against the U.S." Once there, prosecutors say, he was recruited in a mosque by a man calling himself Abu Tarak. Together the men would talk daily, prosecutors say, about "jihad, martyrdom, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden." FULL POST

September 8th, 2011
02:41 PM ET

Air cargo bomb threat Achilles heel of international aviation security

By Nic Robertson, Paul Cruickshank, and Tim Lister

This article is based on an investigation of several months into the threat posed by explosive devices disguised in air cargo.

Late last October, a pair of innocuous packages were dropped off at a courier’s office in Sanaa, Yemen, for shipping to an address in Chicago. Hours later, the two brown boxes - stuffed with books, clothing, and brand new laser printers - were loaded into the cargo hold of passenger planes bound for Dubai and Doha on the first leg of their journey to the United States.

What the hundreds of passengers on those flights did not know was that ingeniously concealed in the printer cartridges inside those printers were explosive devices containing a white powdery chemical known as PETN. FULL POST

9/11 Commission heads issue security-gap warning
August 31st, 2011
05:40 PM ET

9/11 Commission heads issue security-gap warning

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

The heads of the 9/11 Commission issued a new report Wednesday warning of continued shortfalls in anti-terror measures adopted in the wake of the 2001 al Qaeda attacks against the United States.

Specifically, the report highlights nine commission recommendations that remain unfulfilled since they were proposed in 2004.

Among other things, former commission members harped on the need for greater unity of command among various emergency response agencies and their inability in many cases to communicate via radio with each other during a crisis.

"When firemen can't talk to policemen, can't talk to rescue workers and medical personnel, people die. They died because of that on 9-11. They died because of that in Katrina. And they will die in the future unless this particular problem is ... solved," said Thomas Kean, the chairman of the former commission, during a briefing on the report.

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Filed under: 9/11 • Airport • Homeland Security • Terrorism
August 29th, 2011
10:56 AM ET

Lockerbie bomber found in coma

CNN's Nic Robertson tracks down the convicted Lockerbie bombing mastermind and finds him near death.

Filed under: Airport • Foreign Policy • Gadhafi • Intelligence • Libya • Terrorism
Program puts controllers near the pilot's seat
Hartsfield Jackson International Airport Photo by Rich Brooks/CNN
August 16th, 2011
04:45 PM ET

Program puts controllers near the pilot's seat

By Mike M. Ahlers

All day, almost every day, air traffic controller Chris Boughn talks to pilots.
But despite one pleasantry he frequently hears - "We'll see ya soon" - the high-altitude controller rarely sees a pilot or an aircraft.
It is, he says, like being a chef who has cooked for decades, but never sees his customers or tastes his own food.
All of that changed recently when Boughn boarded a United Airlines B-757 and sat in a jumpseat directly behind the captain and first officer. Any closer and he would have needed wings.
Boughn (pronounced "Bonn") is among the first air traffic controllers to participate in Flight Deck Training - an FAA program that puts controllers in the cockpit to teach them about life "on the other side of the frequency."

DHS releases status report on 9/11 recommendations, cites progress
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano Photo By Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla
July 21st, 2011
05:56 PM ET

DHS releases status report on 9/11 recommendations, cites progress

Citing "significant progress," the Department of Homeland Security Thursday released a report looking at how far the U.S. has come in the past seven years to fulfilling specific 9/11 Commission recommendations.
"Over the past decade, we have made great strides to secure our nation against a large attack or disaster, to protect critical infrastructure and cyber networks, and to engage a broader range of Americans in the shared responsibility for security, " said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement released by the department.

July 20th, 2011
11:30 AM ET

TSA enhances privacy of body scanners

The Transportation Security Administration is taking steps beginning today to eliminate the image of an actual passenger who walks through body scanners at airports and replacing it with a generic outline of a person. The upgrade is designed to enhance privacy but maintain security standards. Read a copy of the TSA announcement below:

TSA Takes Next Steps to Further Enhance Passenger Privacy

As part of its ongoing commitment to take smart steps to maintain high level security standards while also improving the passenger experience at checkpoints, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John S. Pistole today announced that TSA will begin installing new software on TSA’s millimeter wave Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines—making upgrades designed to enhance privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images. This new software, also referred to as Automated Target Recognition (ATR), will auto-detect items that could pose a potential threat using a generic outline of a person for all passengers. In the coming months, TSA will install the software upgrade on all currently deployed millimeter wave imaging technology units at U.S. airports nationwide.

By eliminating the image of an actual passenger and replacing it with a generic outline of a person, passengers are able to view the same outline that the TSA officer sees. Further, a separate TSA officer will no longer be required to view the image in a remotely located viewing room. In addition to further enhancing privacy protections, this new software will increase the efficiency of the screening process and expand the throughput capability of AIT.


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Filed under: Airport
July 13th, 2011
05:57 PM ET

U.S. airport security breached 25,000 times over 10 years

Airports across the United States have suffered about 25,000 security breaches since November 2001, according to a House committee, citing information it says it received from the Transportation Security Administration.
The breaches - amounting to about seven a day, or about five per year at every airport - include everything from people who accidentally leave a bag on a checkpoint conveyor belt to those who purposefully evade security and get onto airplanes without proper screening.
A TSA spokesman did not contest the figure, but questioned its significance, saying all breaches are investigated and resolved. The agency said it did not have a breakdown of breaches by severity.
With around 25,000 of these incidents over a decade at more than 450 TSA-regulated airports, this amounts to just over five such incidents per airport per year, according to the TSA.
The breaches include:
- 14,322 breaches into secure entries, passages or other means of access to the secure side of the airport.
- Approximately 6,000 breaches involving a TSA screener failing to screen a passenger or a passenger's carry-on property, or doing either improperly.
- 2,616 instances involving an individual getting past the checkpoint or exit lane without submitting to all screening and inspections. Some 1,388 of these have occurred at the perimeter areas of airports.
The information was released by the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, homeland defense and foreign operations in advance of a hearing Wednesday on airport perimeter security.
TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball said the figures represent a "tiny fraction of 1% percent of the more than 5.5 billion travelers at the more than 450 airports nationwide that we have screened effectively since 9/11."
"We take every security incident seriously and take appropriate action accordingly which is why TSA keeps close track of all 'breaches' - a very broadly defined set of accidental or purposeful security violations, including those where an individual is 'caught in the act' and immediately apprehended," Kimball said in a statement.

Filed under: Airport • Foreign Policy • Homeland Security