Hoekstra: Airline Attack Should be Wake-Up Call

Saturday, 26 Dec 2009 04:29 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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Top lawmakers, concerned about potential breakdowns in homeland security protections, said Saturday that Congress has scheduled hearings next month to investigate the alleged attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight just before touching down in Detroit on Christmas Day.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which he heads, will hold hearings in January to look into Friday's incident and related security matters, according to The Hill.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told The Hill that the House Homeland Security Committee will also hold hearings to "get to the bottom of what did and did not happen and what security precautions need to take place in the future."

On Saturday, Abdul Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a Nigerian, was charged with attempting to destroy an airplane by trying ignite an incendiary device toward the end of a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The 23-year-old, who is an engineering student in London, was subdued by flight crew and passengers and reportedly burned by the device.

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The incident was a "disturbing reminder that the terrorist threat is still very real and that we must continue to be vigilant and alert," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Other Republicans said the attacks should be a wake-up call for the Obama administration and that red flags should be taken more seriously to prevent future incidents.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the ranking member on the House Select Intelligence Committee, told the “Detroit Free Press” that the attack is an indication that al-Qaeda is planning more widespread attacks on the United States.

"People have got to start connecting the dots here and maybe this is the thing that will connect the dots for the Obama administration," he said.

Hoekstra, who called the incident a full-fledged terrorist attack rather than an attempted one, brought up the deadly Fort Hood shooting spree allegedly perpetrated by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is reportedly linked to an Islamic cleric in Yemen.

He also brought up a report by the Associated Press that U.S. officials had known about Mutallab's ties to terrorists for as long as two years.

"Are we seeing a breakdown in our intelligence community so that when we see these red flags we aren't recognizing them?" Hoekstra told Fox News on Saturday. "Congress needs to push to get access to this information to answer these questions."

Rep. Peter King, R-NY, top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN Friday evening he had confirmed that Mutallab was not on a no-fly list, but his name was on a separate list for having terrorist connections.

King suggested that the United States had voiced previous concerns about Nigerian air security, prompting U.S. officials to provide some security assistance to that government.

"There's a real worry about terrorist activity in Nigeria, so much so that last year the American government gave body detection technology to Nigeria for their airports," King said. "Their level of security, we felt, was not comparable to others."


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