Instead of the typical slow holiday news cycle, the week between Christmas and New Year's featured near non-stop coverage of the Christmas Day terrorist attack on Delta Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam. Yet in all of the talk, one aspect was relatively unexplored: The brave actions of Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the respected Nigerian banker who contacted American authorities to report his son’s disturbing radicalization, and what the U.S. government's failure to take his warnings seriously means for others who might be considering reporting love ones who have joined the jihad.
According to the U.S. State Department, Mr. Mutallab met with U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria on November 19th to relay concerns he had about his son. In response, the embassy officials followed procedures—sending a “Visas Viper Cable” containing Mutallab’s information about his son to the State Department in Washington, DC, where it was then forwarded to the National Counterterrorism Center for their review. Asked by reporters if the cable contained the information that Mr. Mutallab’s son, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had a valid visa to enter the United States (valid until 2010), State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly stated “the Visas Viper Cable, it doesn’t require the embassy to report that the person has a visa. It requires them to report on the person’s name, date of birth, place of birth.” Asked why the State Department didn’t take the extra step to cancel his visa, Kelly simply stated that the State Department “absolutely has the authority to revoke [visas]” but added that “it’s not [State’s] responsibility.”
So, to review, while Mr. Mutallab took the extraordinarily courageous step to go to the American Embassy to report that his son had become more radical and might present a threat to himself and others, the embassy official did the absolute minimum in reporting this through official channels. The State Department bureaucrat sent only what protocol required, but didn’t bother to consider what extra steps might be prudent, such as reviewing his visa status or revoking his valid visa in order to make it, at the very least, a little more difficult for him to enter the United States.