It worked like “clockwork” once Abdulmutallab was pinched, Napolitano insisted. Here’s what clockwork looks like eight years after the most infamous coordinated hijackings in history:

Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.

In a letter to American Airlines pilots, the APA called for better communications at the time of potential security threats. “Some pilots were left out of the loop” when the TSA told management at American, a unit of AMR Corp. (AMR), and other airlines, to contact only the pilots of inbound transatlantic flights. The Northwest flight came into Detroit from Amsterdam. To ensure overall safety, “The TSA should have mandated that information about this security event be passed on to all airborne flights,” the APA Government Affairs Committee wrote.

Aside from that and failing to stop Abdulmutallab from getting on the plane with a bomb, the system worked. Speaking of which, another missed red flag was suddenly un-missed this afternoon. In addition to the fact that cryptic information about a mysterious Nigerian meeting with terrorists in Yemen somehow wasn’t linked to a Nigerian father reporting his extremist son missing in Yemen in November, we’ve got this piece of the puzzle from an unnamed U.S. intel official:

A high-ranking counterterrorism official told CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier Wednesday that U.S. intelligence agencies “knew Al Qaeda was promising a Christmas surprise” but weren’t able to piece together the details in time to prevent the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight arriving in Detroit.

“We’d been tracking this stuff for months, without being able to connect the dots of what was happening, and what was going to happen,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The problem is they get 8,000 messages a day at the [National Counter Terrorism Center]. But we couldn’t come up with something that was credible … so we assumed al Qaeda was still in the planning stages.”

Abdulmutallab bought his round-trip ticket for Christmas Day travel in Ghana on December 16 — under his real name. Even if the airline databases in Ghana aren’t available to U.S. intel, the ones in Europe, where he made his connection, probably are. In which case, how’d they miss a “Christmas surprise” that involved a Nigerian suspected of terrorist sympathies by his own father traveling on Christmas?

I wonder what the next red flag to have been missed will turn out to be. Hmmm.