Terror suspect prevented from flying to Chicago

April 12, 2011 5:58:18 AM PDT
Nearly a decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, Homeland Security officials say they believe they have found a reliable way to keep suspected terrorists from getting into the U.S. on regular passenger flights.

In this Intelligence Report: The story of one terror suspect who was recently stopped while trying to fly to Chicago.

We know the Sept. 11 attackers used jetliners as weapons in 2001. But, for years after that, there was never a good method of preventing known or suspected terrorists from boarding planes overseas and flying to Chicago or anywhere else in the U.S. as long as they took off their shoes and passed the metal detector test like everybody else. That allowed even members of al-Qaeda into this country.

Three months ago in Amman, Jordan, a possible terror suspect who is considered a threat to American security had packed his bags for a flight to Chicago. His U.S. visa had already been revoked. He was listed on the Homeland Security department's terrorist watch list. But he was not on the no-fly list because he had no history of threatening aircraft.

For years after Sept. 11 the Jordanian terror suspect would have been allowed to board the plane for Chicago and fly to O'Hare Airport because there was no cross-checking of the two lists until the plane was in the air.

But, on that day this past January, law enforcement officials never allowed the Jordanian man to board the Chicago-bound plane under a new policy that compares names on the terrorists list with those on the no-fly.

The new policy began in early 2010 after concerns that someone might try to blow up a plane if known terrorists were allowed to board planes even if they were turned back upon arrival to the U.S.

The counter-terror plan began after an al-Qaeda operative from Nigeria tried to blow himself up on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009. Under the policy at the time, even though the bomber was a known terror suspect, he was allowed on the plane in Europe because he was to be detained in Detroit.

Since that incident, under new rules, more than 350 people linked to al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Pakistani terror groups have been kept off U.S.-bound airplanes.

Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri is the al-Qaeda bomb-maker who authorities say built the Detroit device and the air freight bombs destined for Chicago synagogues last October is among those who would not be allowed on airplanes to America. He has just been designated a terrorist by the State Department. That interrupts funding from U.S. accounts, blocks U.S. property ownership and prevents U.S. transactions--including the purchase of plane tickets.

There are lots of people around the world who want to harm the United States and Americans. the no-fly list currently has about 30,000 names. Homeland Security's terror watch list includes 450,000 names; all of them are or may be threats to national security, and they are not all foreigners: 6,000 are U.S. citizens.