Tuesday 23 May 2017

Obama plans terror talks on gaps in airport security

Toby Harnden in Washington and Tom Leonard in New York

Barack Obama will hold an emergency summit of security chiefs today to discuss the failures that led to the attempted bomb attack on Christmas Day.

The US president summoned his national security team to the White House after he returned from a holiday in Hawaii yesterday.

Intelligence officers will try to plug the gaps exposed by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, an al-Qa'ida operative who attempted to bring down a plane over Detroit.

Passengers from 14 countries were told yesterday they would be subjected to extra screening, including full-body pat-downs, following a directive from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The countries were Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba, which were regarded as state sponsors of terrorism; and countries "of interest" including Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Algeria, Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As Mr Obama returned, a terminal at Newark International Airport descended into chaos when a man walked the wrong way through a security checkpoint. Flights were grounded for nearly seven hours as officials at the New Jersey airport struggled to work out what had happened.

Screened

The TSA said that a member of the public told a guard at the exit he had seen a man enter the wrong way.

Surveillance video confirmed the claim and, while officials tried to find the man, thousands of passengers were screened a second time.

Later, airport chiefs said the man had left through a different exit 20 minutes later.

Passengers expressed frustration at the handling of the incident. Alison Day, from England, said she and her party of seven, en route to Manchester after a Caribbean cruise, were escorted out of the lounge but given no further instructions.

"I'm not angry that this is happening, but I'm angry that there was a lack of organisation," she said.

Senator Charles Schumer, of New York, which is served by Newark, has called for US airlines to threaten to stop flying to foreign airports that have poor security.

In a plan to close what he called "gaping holes" in airport security, he said he had written to airline chiefs and asked them to report any known security problems at foreign airports.

Tough penalties should be imposed on countries that did not comply with US airport screening standards, he said. "What's crucial is that we send many more of our TSA agents to the airports to check on their compliance," he added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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