Not as egregious as the lapses we already know about but every data point counts. Remember that story over the weekend about how British intel had this guy’s name years ago and forgot to mention it to the U.S. until now? Well, they didn’t forget:
Intelligence that the Detroit plane bomb suspect tried to contact radical Islamists while a student in London was passed on by British authorities to the US, Downing Street has said.
The name of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was included in a dossier of people believed to have made attempts to deal with known extremists that was shared with American intelligence.
But he was not singled out as a particular risk, Gordon Brown’s spokesman said, insisting that Abdulmutallab was not radicalised until after he left the UK in October 2008.
Fair enough, but if this is true, then U.S. intel had Abdulmutallab’s name in the system twice over, once from the Brits and once from the report his father filed at the embassy in November. The NCTC had reason to believe that Al Qaeda in Yemen was planning to use a Nigerian for whatever it was they were planning; one would think that fact, combined with two independent reports on Abdulmutallab’s jihadist tendencies, would have been enough to upgrade him to the no-fly list.
Meanwhile, turns out credible jihadis started bantering online about PETN just a few weeks before Abdulmutallab booked his ticket — and a few weeks after the Saudis warned John Brennan about underwear bombs:
A private Israeli intelligence company told ABC News Monday there was a surge of online discussions in extremist Islamic forums about blowing up planes three weeks before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to bring down Northwest Flight 253. The discussions recommended using “improvised detonation chain” devices, exactly like the one used onboard the Detroit-bound flight…
Three weeks ago company founder Gadi Aviran and colleagues noticed a surge in Internet traffic from well-known extremists talking about how to bring down planes using combinations of chemicals including PETN, the chemical used by Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day…
From those details and level of expertise displayed Aviran says he knew the threats were serious and sent a warning to his company’s clients worldwide which include in his words, “Western governmental agencies.”
If Aviran knew, I’m assuming our guys did too. The big question via the Counterterrorism Blog: Why did AQ in Yemen try to “upstage” Bin Laden and the boys in Pakistan with its very own freelance attack on the U.S.? One possible answer: Er, because they thought they could pull it off and figured Bin Laden would be pleased. Another possible answer: Knowing that Yemen is coming apart at the seams, they’re deliberately trying to draw U.S. reprisals in hopes of galvanizing public opinion against the government and toppling the regime. The Wash Times reports today that that’s actually become a top goal of the organization, and in light of this horrifying Foreign Policy piece about how fragile the country is — “Yemen is going to explode” — it doesn’t seem far-fetched. The strategic goal would be to turn the country into another Waziristan, with Saudi Arabia suddenly in the role of Pakistan in having to stamp out (or coopt) a giant flaming bag of jihadist shinola on its doorstep. The sooner Yemen is destabilized, the sooner the Kingdom is potentially destabilized, and then who knows how far things go from there.