AP: Qatari diplomat was on his way to visit jailed Al Qaeda agent

Here’s a fun twist.

A Qatari diplomat who caused a bomb scare after sneaking a smoke in an airplane bathroom was traveling for a consular visit to see an imprisoned al-Qaida agent.

A State Department official and another person close to the matter say Mohammed Al-Madadi was going to meet Ali Al-Marri for an official visit. Consular officials frequently visit foreigners held in the United States to make sure they are being treated well.

Al-Marri’s a Qatari national who pled guilty last year to conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda. He admitted attending terrorist training camps from 1998 to 2001 and was told by Khaled Sheikh Mohammed to enter the United States by — ta da — September 10, 2001. If al-Madadi had been visiting him on his own time, the plane incident would suddenly look rather highly nuanced indeed, but since he was there on official embassy business, I’m not sure what to make of it. Could be that they really were just checking on how well one of their citizens is being treated in an American jail (al-Marri complained of abuse before), could be that the Qatari diplomatic team is up to things it shouldn’t be up to. Although if it’s the latter, would al-Madadi really have called attention to himself on the plane with that sort of joke? A courier is only useful if he’s not suspected of being a courier, right?

Assuming this really is all a fabulous co-ink-ee-dink, I think for once Josh Marshall has it precisely right: “I’m curious whether under international law a diplomat can be expelled from a host country simply for being a raging [email protected]#k.” Answer: Affirmative. Sort of.

The envoy from Qatar who sparked a bomb scare aboard a Denver-bound plane will being sent home from the United States, a senior State Department official told CBS News.

Authorities say the diplomat, identified as Mohammad Al-Madadi, grabbed a surreptitious smoke in a jetliner’s bathroom and he made a joke when confronted by federal air marshals that he had been trying to light his shoes – an apparent reference to the 2001 so-called “shoe bomber” Richard Reid…

A senior State Department official said there would be “consequences, diplomatic and otherwise” if he had committed a crime.

Foreign diplomats have broad immunity from prosecution. The official said if the man’s identity as a Qatari diplomat was confirmed and if it was found that he may have committed a crime, U.S. authorities would have to decide whether to ask Qatar to waive his diplomatic immunity so he could be charged and tried. Qatar could decline, the official said, and the man would likely be expelled from the United States.

ABC’s reporting that no charges will be filed, so he’s free to return to the skies and wave his diplomatic immunity credentials around like the entitled A-hole he is. Said one passenger upon hearing the news: “I think it’s wrong. I’d get busted. I don’t think that (immunity) should be a factor.” Oh well! Here’s GMA’s recap of how everything went down, featuring comments from an aviation expert about how the air marshals did precisely the right thing. And they did it efficiently, too: Follow the CBS link up top and note how little ruckus there was on the plane.