Why Didn’t Customs and Border Agents Stop Shahzad On His Way Out of U.S.? Blame the Airlines, One Former Bush Official Says

May 4, 2010 1:45pm

Yesterday, administration officials put Faisal Shahzad on the no-fly list.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters today that the government became aware of Shahzad’s whereabouts after the plane manifest was completed. His name was matched with that on the no-fly list and the plane was detained before it was able to take off.

But why was he able to board that airplane to Dubai last night?  Why, some are asking, wasn’t Shahzad stopped by customs and immigration?

The answer is: The U.S. doesn’t check anyone’s documents as they exit the U.S. – only as they enter.

A former Bush administration official tells ABC news that after 9/11, the counterterrorism community proposed a new requirement for all those leaving the U.S. to present their papers and documentation, “but the airlines went ballistic.”

The former Bush administration official recalls airline executives and their representatives complaining that this added layer would “cause delay and would be expensive.”

And ultimately that argument won the day.

Since leaving office, the official has noticed that many other Western nations require such a step.

“Everybody else does it on way out,” the official says.

Should the U.S. set up such a process?

“We should probably build a system where when you leave country you interact with the customs and border system,” the former official tells ABC News.

-jpt

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