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Latest terror attempt won't be the last

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to blow up Northwest Airlines' Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day when the device on his body apparently burst into flames without exploding. But the 23-year-old Nigerian succeeded in demonstrating, eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks, that terrorists are still busy plotting to kill Americans and the nation needs to be just as thorough and imaginative in fortifying its defenses, our editorial today argues.Abdulmutallab illuminated the challenges of trying to keep would-be terrorists from acquiring explosives and visas and boarding airplanes, especially in faraway foreign countries where the United States has little control over passenger screening. Abdulmutallab's father had tipped off the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria in October about his son's radical religious views, getting Abdulmutallab's name added to a terror threat list. But a database of 550,000 names has no value if it doesn't trigger preventive action, such as when someone — as Abdulmutallab successfully did — tries to buy a pricey ticket with cash or board a long flight with no checked baggage.Meanwhile, the incident and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's initial claim that "the system worked" has set off a round of partisan sniping.