US DHS admits security failures after failed Delta attack

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US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has acknowledged that the system in place to detect passengers carrying explosives failed on 25 December after a Nigerian national on a transatlantic flight to the USA attempted to use an explosive device to damage the aircraft.

The Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 was on approach to Detroit from Amsterdam when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reportedly attempted to detonate an explosive device that was attached to his body.

During an interview on the The Today Show that aired on 28 December Napolitano stated: "Our system did not work in this instance, no one is happy or satisfied with that."

In the aftermath of the incident Napolitano says DHS is questioning how Abdulmutallab was allowed on the aircraft and why the explosive material wasn't detected. "What do we need to do to change the rules, perhaps, that have been in place since 2006, from moving somebody from the generic Tide database to a more elevated statusall that is under review right now," she says.

The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (Tide) includes all the information known to the US government of individuals known or appropriately suspected to be or have been involved in activities constituting, in preparation for, in aid of or related to terrorism with the exception of domestic terrorism information.

After the incident US President Barack Obama has ordered a review of security procedures, which Napolitano says includes reviewing Abdulmutallab's listing in the Tide database.

Currently the Tide list contains more than a half million names, says Napolitano, which eventually is "whittled down" to the no-fly list.

"Obviously we need to review those protocols," she says.

Even as she acknowledges that security systems need reviewing after the incident Napolitano stresses that with additional screening procedures in place at airports, and protective measures added during flight, air travel is safe.

Through a communication via Twitter Canadian carrier WestJet has said a requirement by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has removed a restriction put into place after the incident that prohibited passengers from moving around the cabin for the last hour of a flight. A TSA spokeswoman would not confirm the lifting of the restriction.