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EDITORIAL: Fix system, don't burden passengers

Any cop on a local beat knows that a good tip can prevent or solve a crime. Too bad those running our anti-terrorist efforts didn't grasp this simple tenet for keeping us safe.

The Christmas Day plot to blow up an airliner headed to Detroit could have been foiled before the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, even boarded the aircraft in Amsterdam. His father, the retired chairman of a major Nigerian bank, went to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria last month with a warning that his son had become a zealot involved with radical Islamists.

This was a tip that intelligence agencies should have pursued. At the least, Abdulmutallab's visa should have suspended. Simply adding his name to a database of a half-million was a mistake that could have had horrific consequences. Another lapse in judgment was the Obama administration's initial defense of its procedures. Overwhelming criticism forced Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to backtrack yesterday on her outlandish statement that the father's warning wasn't specific or credible. The White House says it will now review whether its watch-list system is "outdated." That's clear already.

The U.S. is still a target for those who want to destroy us. These plots will not end. The Christmas scare should instill a new urgency to coordinate the handling of intelligence and improve airport screening devices. That might help the next time. Preventing passengers on international flights from going to the toilet during the last hour won't. hN