The New Republic: Why Search The Fanatics? The Muslim radical from Nigeria, whose father turned information about him in to the American embassy in Lagos, was on the long list of perceived threats, not the short one.
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The New Republic: Why Search The Fanatics?

A TSA officer screens an airline passenger's luggage in Terminal C at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport December 27, 2009 in Dallas, Texas. Pre-flight screenings were stepped up after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, of Nigeria was accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day. Tom Pennington/Getty Images hide caption

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Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A TSA officer screens an airline passenger's luggage in Terminal C at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport December 27, 2009 in Dallas, Texas. Pre-flight screenings were stepped up after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, of Nigeria was accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

So the Muslim fanatic from Nigeria, whose father turned information about him in to the American embassy in Lagos, was on the long list, not the short one. Like Mohammed Atta. And Major Hasan. And presumably lots of others.

What are the standards for making it to the short list? It's clear that they are absurdly — shall we say? — excessive.

Josh Meyer of the Los Angeles Times reports that Napolitano, who is secretary of homeland security, "said that without specific evidence of suspicious activity, Abdulmutallab could not be formally classified as the kind of greater security risk that would bar him from traveling to the United States."

This is a matter very much worth debating ... in the public arena and maybe in Congress. But the fact is that he wasn't even searched. Or searched carefully. I know he has said that he'd sewn a syringe with an explosive chemical compound into his underwear. Very clever of him. Of course, Homeland Security would by stymied by his privies. What security agency wouldn't be?

This seems quite cut and dry to me. Someone on the long list (even a list with half a million names) trying to get on to an airplane should be strip-searched, whether Ms. Napolitano herself wants to do the poking or not.

And, of course, the Republicans are trying to make this a partisan matter. It happened on Barack Obama's watch so he's to blame. Hogwash!

But, please, let's not "civil liberties" this one to death.