The New American (among others) reported the story of Kurt and Lori Haskell, husband and wife attorneys who described seeing a “well-dressed man” accompanying Abdulmutallab at the gate in Amsterdam and speaking to boarding agents regarding his ability to board the plane.
Although the Haskells’ story was initially dismissed by law enforcement, agents now confirm that they are actively investigating the identity of such a man and they theorize that the unidentified man may have been sent by the planners of the Christmas Day terror attempt to ensure that Abdulmutallab didn’t back out.
According to the statement of authorities investigating the thwarted attempt to bomb an airplane within the United States, Abdulmutallab left his native Nigeria and studied in England where he began a fateful association with preachers of radical Islam. Once converted to this violent strain of Islam, the new zealot traveled to Yemen where it is believed that he received training in the tactics of terror from an increasingly active cell of the al-Qaeda organization.
In the days following his arrest on the tarmac at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the would-be bomber informed his interrogators that there were many more like him being educated and equipped by al-Qaeda operatives based in Yemen.
While exactly what Abdulmutallab meant by fellow trainees who were “just like [him]” is unclear, there are reports of new intelligence indicating that the next wave of Muslims prepared to become “martyrs” in the cause of jihad against the West are not like Abdulmutallab at all.
Reports published Friday by abcnews.com indicate that al-Qaeda in Yemen may have added female recruits to the corps of killers tasked with working their way onto flights bound for the United States. The most arresting aspect of this new threat is the demographic of the potential suicide bombers. “They are training women,” says Richard Clarke, the chief counterterrorism adviser to former President Bill Clinton.
Law enforcement agents confirm Clarke’s warning and added that the female al-Qaeda associates may be non-Arab and “traveling on Western passports.” Given the American intelligence and security apparatus’s inability to “connect the dots” when the dots are large, red, and readily visible, there is room to doubt that these sentinels will be very effective in the detection and deterrence of perpetrators with cleaner records and fewer flares of fanaticism.
News of this insidious plot and the ostensibly undetectable and distaff brigade of bombers tapped to carry it out comes during a week of already alarming swell in the number of people included on the “no-fly list” that have tried to board flights within or bound for the United States. Security officials described the level of such suspicious activity as “unusually high” and claimed that at least six such people were refused passage last weekend.
Officials report that two of the six were detained at London’s Heathrow Airport. The successful denial of entry may be due in part to the heightened security posture at all of the airports in the United Kingdom in place since the Christmas Day attempt.
In fact, the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown elevated the threat risk from “substantial” to “severe,” the first such increase since last summer.
Of the rest of the roster of suspect passengers disallowed embarkment, one involved a man in Kenya who intended to fly from Nairobi to Amsterdam and then on to Dallas. Another was a man with a ticket for an American Airlines flight from Saint Maarten to Los Angeles.
While a case-by-case accounting of the specific details of the detainment was not provided to reporters, law enforcement spokesmen assured the public that all the “no-fly list” members were appropriately interrogated before being allowed to leave the airport. Security officials did not reveal whether any arrests were made incident to the half a dozen denials.
That a security system that has failed so miserably and embarrassingly in the past few months (Ft. Hood and Detroit) has managed to prevent a possible (much less plausible) plan to perpetrate additional attacks on the peace and safety of the United States is specious. In the wake of the inexplicable and nearly fatal failure of the security barriers to protect Americans from people known to the intelligence community to be in communication with an American expatriate and fundamentalist cleric — now believed to be a headhunter trolling cyberspace for new talent zealous to join the ranks of radicals — it seems unlikely that this system will be any more effective in stopping a new breed of terrorists that depart radically from previous profiles.
Ever since fleeing the land of his birth to escape more intense dissection of his connection to three of the 9/11 hijackers, Anwar al-Awlaki has used his web savvy to disseminate a deadly dogma, whose articles of faith call for the annihilation of America and the violent and unrepentant resistance to the encroachment of Western values and Western armed intervention in the Muslim world.
The precise nexus between Umar Abdulmutallab and al-Awlaki is still uncertain, the influence exerted by the American-born imam on Nidal Hasan, the army psychiatrist who is accused of murdering a dozen of his fellow soldiers on November 5, 2009 at a processing center in Ft. Hood, Texas, is well-documented, principally by al-Awlaki himself.
Al-Awlaki told a reporter from al-Jazeera that Hasan sent him about 20 emails, some of which foreshadowed the evil he was contemplating by asking the cleric’s opinion of the permissibility of killing one’s fellow soldier if that soldier was being deployed to kill Muslims. Al-Awlaki denies encouraging Hasan to murder anyone, but on his now defunct website he proclaimed that Hasan was a hero and that the only justification for a Muslim to enlist in the American armed forces was if they planned to “follow Hasan’s lead.”
As it stands today, it is more likely than not that there are dozens of zealots being prepared for deployment around the globe, charged with the task of terrorizing American interests inside and outside the borders of the United States. The profiling of these willing human weapons of mass destruction is being made nearly impossible given their atypical gender, ethnicity, and nationality. These terrorists are being taught to hide in plain sight and given the ineptitude of American security sentries in the face of obvious threats, there is little hope that these more subtle threats will be detected and defused in a timely manner.
Photo of Iraqi bombimg suspect: AP Images