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The government Tuesday probed how the Pakistani-American suspect in the failed New York car bombing was able to board a plane in an escape bid — despite apparently being on a no-fly list.
Faisal Shahzad was sitting on an Emirates Airlines flight on Monday night in New York as it headed towards the runway, when the plane was slowed at the last minute and he was pulled off the aircraft by security personnel.
Reports said Shahzad had been put on a no-fly list in the frenzied hours before his arrest, as investigators struggled to close a net after picking up a treasure trove of clues left by the failed attack on Saturday night.
Asked whether the airline had possibly erred by allowing Shahzad onto the aircraft, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “that’s part of the investigation we’re looking.”
“I think it’s important to understand that the system is built with necessary and built-in redundancy.”
That system allows for US Customs and Border Patrol to examine a flight manifest after it has been cleared by a carrier to double check if any suspicious passengers had been let onto the plane.
Gibbs however declined to offer details about the no-fly list system, saying to do so might aid people that wanted to outwit the redundancies in the system.
He did say however, that even had the flight been airborne, that US officials had the authority to order the pilot to turn around and land, with a suspicious passenger on board.
“There’s a series of built-in redundancies, this being one of them, where Customs and Border Patrol checks a locked manifest to ensure that, again, if there’s a mistake by a carrier, it can be double-checked,” Gibbs said.
Earlier on Tuesday, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized the fact that Shahzad had managed to clear security at John F. Kennedy airport.
“I don’t want to speculate how that happened. Clearly the guy was on the plane and shouldn’t have been,” Bloomberg said.
Emirates said in a statement that its flight EK 202 (from New York to Dubai on May 3)… “was called back by the local authorities prior to departure. Three passengers were removed from the flight,” Emirates Airlines said.
“Full security procedures were activated, including the deplaning of all passengers and a thorough screening of the aircraft, passengers, and baggage. Emirates is cooperating with the local authorities,” it said in a statement.
The three passengers were escorted from the aircraft by “US authorities,” a spokeswoman for the carrier, which is based in the Gulf city-state, told AFP without elaborating.