Delta CEO Demands Answers In Foiled Plane Bombing

Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson i i

In a message to employees, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson said he wants to know how an alleged terrorist could make it aboard a Northwest flight despite security measures taken since Sept. 11, 2001. Katsumi Kasahara/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Katsumi Kasahara/AP
Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson

In a message to employees, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson said he wants to know how an alleged terrorist could make it aboard a Northwest flight despite security measures taken since Sept. 11, 2001.

Katsumi Kasahara/AP

Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson didn't mince words when he addressed airline security in a New Year's Eve phone message for employees.

"We're obviously disappointed," Anderson said, in reference to the failed watch list and airport screening procedures that allowed a suspicious passenger with explosives to board one of the airline's Northwest flights on Christmas.

"The things that have occurred over the last decade to this industry," he added, "and the work we've done over the last decade really ought to give us a better result than the peril that our crews and passengers faced on Christmas."

Eleven crew members and 278 passengers were aboard Delta's Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit when a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, allegedly tried to blow up the plane. He has been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft.

Abdulmutallab appeared on an extensive air travel security list of people considered suspicious, and his father warned U.S. officials about him. Yet he was still permitted to board the flight in Amsterdam.

Abdulmutallab, who allegedly told investigators he received al-Qaida training, also went through a metal detector and his baggage was searched before he boarded, but neither search detected any explosives. Abdulmutallab did not pass through a full body scanner, which might have detected the substance known as PETN that was reportedly in a syringe sewn into his underwear.

Anderson cited 14 years of toughened airline security beginning with the explosion that brought down TWA Flight 800 over the Atlantic in 1996 and continuing through the responses to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"To have this occur again is disappointing to all of us," he said. "You can be certain we will make our points very clearly in Washington."

The criticism prompted a statement from the Transportation Security Administration, which briefly described actions and measures already announced, including two reviews of watch list policies and airport security measures ordered by President Obama.

The statement also noted the plan announced earlier to send "the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and several top aides to a number of international airports next week to meet with officials and review security procedures for flights bound for the United States."

In the only direct reference to the Delta CEO's criticism, the statement said, "TSA appreciates the cooperation and continuous dialogue with our airline partners."

Anderson also revealed in the phone message that the crew of Flight 253 will be honored in commendation ceremonies next week for what he called "professionalism, bravery and courage." A passenger and crew members subdued Abdulmutallab after the explosive device he allegedly tried to set off started a fire.

The Senate Intelligence Committee begins a congressional probe of the incident in hearings scheduled for Jan. 21.

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