WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Thank God for wardrobe malfunctions. On Dec. 22, 2001, Richard Reid failed in an attempt to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 using 50 grams of the explosive PETN and became known as "the shoe-bomber." Since then, we have all had to remove our footwear prior to boarding commercial aircraft bound for U.S. airports.
On Christmas Day eight years later, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, wearing a bomb made from 80 grams of the same explosive, attempted to bring down Northwest Flight 253 en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. Had this 23-year-old Nigerian-born, Yemini-trained al-Qaida terrorist succeeded, he might have revived Detroit's economy through casket sales alone. He hid the device in his crotch and is now infamous as "the underpants bomber." One can only imagine what items of clothing we will have to remove in order to fly in the future.
A day after the attempted murder of 288 passengers and crewmembers in the skies over Michigan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed Abdulmutallab failed because "when it came right down to it, the system worked." Two days later, Napolitano apparently received new "guidance" from the vacation White House in Hawaii.
On Dec. 28, she reversed course and said, "Our system did not work in this instance," and added, "An extensive review is underway." She has yet to recant her bald assertion that there is "no indication" the incident is connected to a "larger plot." This is of course the same secretary of homeland security who warned us in April last year that the "greatest threat to U.S. security" is from "right-wing extremists" and "disgruntled military veterans."
After three days of silence -- and scores of finger-pointing leaks about how an individual known to U.S. intelligence services and already on a "terror watch list" could board a commercial airliner with a bomb in his pants -- Barack Obama roused himself to comment on the matter. Though his administration previously barred using the term "war on terror," the president referred to the incident as an "attempted act of terrorism" and claimed, "The United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses." He also acknowledged that "there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.