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Making Sense of the Chaos: Security News, Updates

We’re tracking the evolving security implications of last week’s failed airplane bombing. This blog will be updated throughout the afternoon as news breaks and new guidelines are added or adjusted.

2:27 p.m.: Just minutes ago, the AP reported that the new rules have been eased:

“Airline officials say in-flight security rules have been eased after a two-day clampdown.

At the captain’s discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight, two industry officials briefed on the situation said Monday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because federal safety officials had not publicly announced the changes.”

1:57 p.m.: United has also added a change-fee waiver for travel from Canada. Customers traveling through December 30 who bought their ticket prior to today may change their reservation for no charge.

1:52 p.m.: After saying yesterday that “the system worked,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano now admits, “Our system did not work in this instance. No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is underway.”

1:10 p.m.: The New York Times reports that Britain refused the suspect’s application for a visa renewal. The suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was denied “after officials determined that the academic course he had given as his reason for returning to Britain was bogus.” The Times also reports Abdulmutallab was placed on a watchlist, “a procedure that would normally involve American authorities being informed of the action Britain had taken.” It’s not clear, however, if the U.S. was informed.

Increasingly, the focus of this investigation seems to center on Abdulmutallab’s ability to board the plane at all, let alone with concealed explosives. Considering his father warned the American embassy, and now with the U.K. revealing preexisting concerns about him, one wonders how, exactly, Abdulmutallab made it onboard. Reports also say Abdulmutallab purchased his one-way ticket with cash, which, Scott McCartney writes, should have flagged him for a pat-down at least.

And so the most crucial aspect of the investigation seems to be finding the breakdowns that allowed Abdulmutallab to fly, and addressing them.

As for her comments yesterday, she said she was referring to the coordinated response to the threat, not the process of avoiding the threat in the first place.

12:23 p.m.: As if all the security chaos weren’t enough, a winter storm will continue disrupting travel between the Midwest and East Coast today, with more wintry mess expected later this week. If you are planning to travel, check with your carrier to see if it is waiving change fees due to weather.

12:10 p.m.: American has waived change fees for travelers flying to the U.S. from Canada, citing “long lines created by new international screening procedures.” Customers scheduled to travel through December 30 can postpone their trip for no cost until as late as December 31. Tickets must have been purchased prior to December 27.

Other airlines have announced modified bag fees, allowing passengers to check their carry-on baggage at no extra cost. This rule applies specifically to carry-on size bags. Bags that are too big to be carried on are not exempt from normal fees.


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