2009-12-29

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and NWA 253: Roundup

CNN, December 27:
The alleged terror incident aboard a passenger flight from Amsterdam to Detroit has raised questions as to how a Nigerian man carried explosives through stringent security measures.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged with attempting to destroy a passenger plane after he detonated a device on board a jet on Friday.

Authorities in the United States are investigating whether Abdulmutallab had any connections with terrorist organizations or was acting alone. ...


In from the Cold on Janet Napolitano's claim that "the system worked::
Of course, Napolitano didn't mention all the red flags that Farouk Abdulmutllab managed to raise over the past 4-5 months. Or the failure of various government agencies to connect the dots, and identify the Nigerian as a potential terrorist. Instead, she assures us, that the system worked as advertised. Never mind that we were just moments away from a "man-caused disaster," to use one of Ms. Napolitano's politically-correct terms for a terrorist attack.


Our number one Yemen woman, Jane points out possible Yemeni links:
PETN, our new vocabulary word, was used in both the attack of Prince Naif and in the recent airliner incident. In both cases the explosive device was sewn into underware. The Nigerian says he was trained at a camp near Sana’a (Arhab?), and recruited online by a “radical cleric” who facilitated contact with al Qaeda in Yemen. The Yemeni government hasn’t yet recieved any official communications from the US on the matter. ...

More here.

Debka:
DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources note that in the past year, Washington was strangely deaf to a flood of notices from Saudi, Egyptian and Yemeni security agencies warning that al Qaeda networks had established themselves in Yemen and so gained a jumping-off base into the Arabian peninsula and across the strategic Gulf of Aden. The network was now directly linked from Yemeni shores to Osama bin Laden at his new headquarters in Pakistani Baluchistan.

These warnings went unheeded by the relevant agencies in Washington.

Only two months ago, on Oct. 7, President Barack Obama told the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia: "We're making real progress in our core mission - to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world."

Citing a counterterrorism expert, Obama added: “Because of our efforts, Al Qaeda and its allies have not only lost operational capacity, they’ve lost legitimacy and credibility.”

Only three days before the US president's speech, on Oct. 3, the FBI arrested the Chicagoan David Headley at O'Hare Airport and charged him with targeting and conducting reconnaissance for the al Qaeda branch Lashkar e-Taibe's terror massacre in Mumbai of November 2008, which left more than 170 people dead.

A month later, US Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan shot dead 13 comrades at the Fort Hood base in Texas. Federal investigators persist in refusing to call the crime an act of terror although Hasan was shown to have been in regular correspondence with Anwar al-Awkali, the imam who was religious mentor to 9/11 hijackers and himself, from the time he relocated to Yemen in 2008.

The failed Christmas Day airliner bombing has strong leads to Yemen indicating that the attempt was plotted, planned and aided from that country.

Read the full article at the link. Debka concludes that "the weakness is conceptual rather than technical or human."

Finally, Roderick Jones at Counterterrorism Blog has a comprehensive analysis:
The visible US response to the latest attempted terrorist attack on the country, has so far sadly conformed to past mistakes and strategic blunders. The attempted attack by the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as the NorthWest Airlines flight 253 was coming into land at Detroit airport has led to an increase in security by the TSA, which has so far taken the following form: restrictions surrounding in-flight entertainment on International flights coming into the USA, extra screening on flights coming into the USA, extra screening at domestic airports, restrictions on moving around the cabin one-hour before landing and discussion of restrictions on taking electronics on the airplane and of course the default extra screening of baby food, which seems to happen after every terrorist event. This is eloquently described as, 'TSA Security Burlesque' by an Atlantic Commentator.

It could reasonably be claimed that most people regard the security regime surrounding air-travel as at best a nuisance and at worst a catastrophic drain on economic resources. In large part the west's terrorist opponents have won this battle. Low-cost terrorist attempts at aviation infrastructure create enormous security reactions - truly exhausting and bleeding the west's financial and psychological capital to resist. Nobody who has suffered through a US domestic flight since 9/11 would argue the airline industry is in good-shape. As a key-component in global economic growth destroying the aviation industry is a good place for a nihilistic terrorist movement to start.

What has caused this? At this point, it is the reaction of United States Department of Homeland Security to any terrorist event involving aviation [which then spreads throughout the global aviation system], which heightens the operational success of militant Islamist terrorists against aviation targets. The noted, counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen expertly puts this into focus [in his book Accidental Guerrilla] by highlighting the detrimental effects of US counter-terrorism policy. In short al-Qaeda does not represent an existential threat to the US, it has no path to victory looking at any reasonable scenario including the use of WMD-- but the US can defeat itself by unnecessary over-reaction and a fundamental misunderstanding of basic risk management and terrorist theory. Once again this is being demonstrated by the events in Detroit and the DHS reaction, which creates more disruption than the attack itself, destroys DHS and US credibility by mandating absurd responses, which focus on securing events after they have happened (for example, turning off in-flight entertainment because passengers can see a map - passengers can still look out the window or use their watches). ...