Noe så banalt som et feilstavet navn gjorde at State Department ikke oppdaget at den terrormistenkte Umar Faroul Abdulmutallab hadde visum til USA.
Detaljen sier noe om hvor sårbart dagens globale kommunikasjoner gjør moderne samfunn.
Da faren til Abdulmutallab gikk til den amerikanske ambassaden for å fortelle om sin bekymring for sønnen, gikk rapporten videre til sentrale myndigheter. Man foretok et søk på navnet, men det var feilstavet, dermed kom det ikke opp at sønnen hadde åpent visum til USA. Hadde det gjort det, kunne han vært satt på listen over folk som enten ikke fikk slippe inn, eller som skulle sjekkes ekstra.
A timeline provided by the State Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, showed that an initial check of the suspect based on his father’s information failed to disclose he had a multiple-entry U.S. visa. The reason was that AbdulMutallab’s name was misspelled.
«That search did not come back positive,» said one official, who called it a quick search without using multiple variants of spelling.
On November 20, a State Department cable to Washington on AbdulMutallab — based on the information from his father — lacked any mention of his visa, the officials said.
The spelling mistake was corrected two days later, and the State Department notified the National Counterterrorism Center of the correct spelling, the officials said.
However, the State Department remained unaware that AbdulMutallab had the multiple-entry visa until after he allegedly tried to blow up the airplane more than a month later, the officials said.
Under new procedures announced by the government, the State Department will include visa information in all cables involving possible terrorist alerts.
The State Department officials maintained that the failure to discover the visa, by itself, would not have prevented AbdulMutallab from boarding the plane on December 25. His name, they said, never made it to a no-fly list, nor was he recommended for losing his visa because the NCTC classified him as «P3B,» which stands for a «possible» terrorist.
Only a «3B» classification as a terrorist can bring the loss of a visa or inclusion on a no-fly list, they said.