Christmas Attack

U.S. Discovered Bomber Midflight

American intelligence were closer to stopping al Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab than previously thought—but it was still a case of too little too late. U.S. border security found out about the bomber's identity when he was already aboard the plane and en route to Detroit; they planned to detain him when the plane landed. The Los Angeles Times reports that, had the intelligence been discovered sooner, Abdulmutallab could have been interrogated before he boarded the flight in Amsterdam; however, even then, American officials' actions would have been limited by Dutch authorities, who would ultimately decide whether the intelligence was strong enough to search or ground the man. A Homeland Security official said that, though U.S. border officials have access to passenger data, in-depth vetting by Customs and Border Protection only begins after the flight manifest has been created, a few hours before takeoff—leaving the window for identifying dangerous passengers dangerously small.