NEWS STAND: Who Lost Abdulmuttalab? Mass Murder, European Style

Our take on today's headlines

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Can America catch a bad guy? Any bad guy? For years, the Bush Administration was under fire for letting Osama Bin Ladin slip through its fingers. Now the Obama Administration is catching flak for failing to nail the Underwear Bomber. Driven by Republican accusations of laxity about security, the Obama Administration has gone on the offensive against critics like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who accused the White House of “pretending we are not at war” and continues to restate his frequent charge that President Obama has made America “less safe.”
"It is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer writes on the White House's official blog. "Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer."
Eugene Robinson put it more succinctly in his Washington Post column. “But using a terrorist attack to seek political gain? I have a New Year's resolution to suggest for Cheney: Ahead of your quest for personal vindication, put country first.” 
But the failure to stop the 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab from trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight suggests that America has not made much progress in integrating its intelligence agencies or in introducing the kind of technology it needs to process and highlight crucial information.
As Maureen Dowd points out in the New York Times, there was an expectation that Obama would modernize the anti-terrorist effort. “One thrilling thing about moving from W. to Barack Obama was that Obama seemed like an avatar of modernity,” writes Dowd. It’s not unreasonable that the first Blackberry-tethered, Facebook-savvy chief executive would bring the latest technology to the "war on terror."
Yet, as the New York Times reported Thursday, federal agencies failed to make the connection between Abdulmuttalab’s father’s warnings to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and a National Security Agency intercept of Yemeni conversations about a Nigerian being prepared for a terrorist attack in the U.S.
The U.S. has spent billions since 9/11 to upgrade its intelligence capacities, but somehow, the ability to connect the dots continues to elude those responsible for nationals security. Is it still the turf wars between agencies, bad tech choices, or something in the American character that prevents us from having the kind of intensity it takes to do this kind of tedious, but vital, task?

Mass Murder, European Style
Mass murder by gunfire is not just an American phenomenon. While murder rates are substantially higher in the U.S. than Europe, individuals do go postal everywhere, with tragic consequences. A 43-year-old man in Finland is suspected of killing at least five people in Espoo, near the capital, Helsinki before taking his own life. Police officials identified the suspect as Ibrahim Shkupoli, who had lived in Finland “for some time.” They did not name his country of origin. Four were killed in a shopping center. A woman found dead elsewhere may have been Shkupoli’s wife. And the final victim found was identified as the gunman. Finland has gun ownership profile unlike most of Europe. With a strong hunting tradition, there are some 2 million registered guns in Finland, a country with a population of 5 million. There have been other shooting sprees in Finland in the recent past, CNN reports. In September 2008, student Matti Juhani Saari, 22, killed 10 people before shooting himself in the head at Seinajoki University of Applied Sciences in Kauhajoki, Finland. Saari, who had been armed with a semi-automatic pistol and Molotov cocktails, posted YouTube videos of himself firing weapons before embarking on the massacre. Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, killed seven fellow students and the principal at Jokela High School in Tuusula in November 2007 before shooting himself in the head.

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