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The British government has confirmed that the young Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight on Christmas Day was refused entry into Britain earlier this year and his name was added to a so-called watch list.
Somehow, somewhere, security officials did not pick up on the information at their disposal that allowed an individual on a security watch list onto a plane bound for the U.S. from Europe with a valid entry visa.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's name should have come up on a computer screen. Apparently, this did not happen and now the Obama administration has ordered investigations into how travelers are placed on these lists and how that information is then handled and distributed.
Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian who had studied mechanical engineering at University College London between 2005 and 2008, was refused a visa to reenter Britain in May.
British official refuse to say on what grounds this was done, but media reports suggest his application to study at another institution was turned down because the course work there was deemed to be bogus.
Britain's top law and order chief, Home Office Minister Alan Johnson says the correct procedures were followed in this case.
"As soon as someone is refused a visa, they go on our watch list in case they try to enter without a visa or on a false visa. And the fact that all of our visas are fingerprint, bio-metric fingerprints based on ensuring that that person's identity is proven is a very important factor in this," he said.
That information should have been passed on to U.S. databases, but it is unclear if that actually happened.
Also, the effectiveness of such watch lists is being called into question, as the man charged with trying to bring down flight 253 on Christmas Day was not on the U.S. 'no fly' list.
Despite billions being spent on aviation security since 911, security was breached on Christmas Day as the trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam approached Detroit.
As in other cases during the past few years, average travelers are now the ones paying the price by spending even more time in international airport terminals and undergoing increased screening, while security officials attempt to figure out just went wrong and who was responsible.