Patterico's Pontifications

5/31/2010

Mexico-Bound Passenger Detained

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 1:14 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Last week the federal government issued a Terror Watch for a Somali who might try to enter Texas via Mexico:

“The Department of Homeland Security is alerting Texas authorities to be on the lookout for a suspected member of the Somalia-based Al Shabaab terrorist group who might be attempting to travel to the U.S. through Mexico, a security expert who has seen the memo tells FOXNews.com.

The warning follows an indictment unsealed this month in Texas federal court that accuses a Somali man in Texas of running a “large-scale smuggling enterprise” responsible for bringing hundreds of Somalis from Brazil through South America and eventually across the Mexican border. Many of the illegal immigrants, who court records say were given fake IDs, are alleged to have ties to other now-defunct Somalian terror organizations that have merged with active organizations like Al Shabaab, al-Barakat and Al-Ittihad Al-Islami.

In 2008, the U.S. government designated Al Shabaab a terrorist organization. Al Shabaab has said its priority is to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, on Somalia; the group has aligned itself with Al Qaeda and has made statements about its intent to harm the United States.”

Last night, a Paris-to-Mexico flight was diverted to Canada and a passenger on the U.S. no-fly list was detained. He may also be a Somali:

“Abdirahman Ali Gaall was arrested Sunday at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, said Robert Gervais, an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada spokesman. He was taken off and arrested under an outstanding warrant.

Gervais said details of the arrest would be made public at Gaal’s detention review hearing on Wednesday.

The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed Monday the passenger was on a U.S. no-fly list and said the man was known to them.
***
“He was calm as if he knew what was going to happen,” said Mauricio Oliver, a 36-year-old Mexican passenger. “They handcuffed him and they took him.”

Oliver said a flight attendant told him the man was from Somalia, but other passengers gave conflicting information about his nationality.”

I wonder if there is a connection between these stories.

– DRJ

5/18/2010

Intelligence Failures

Filed under: Air Security,Obama — DRJ @ 7:33 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a report on the Obama Administration’s NCTC intelligence failures that culminated in the Christmas Day attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253:

The Senate Intelligence Committee report at times contradicted the Obama administration’s assertion that the nearly catastrophic Christmas Day bombing attempt was unlike 9/11 because it represented a failure to understand intelligence, not a failure to collect and understand it.

The congressional review is more stark than the Obama administration’s report. It lays much of the blame at the feet of the National Counterterrorism Center, which Congress created to be the primary agency in charge of analyzing terrorism intelligence.

“NCTC personnel had the responsibility and the capability to connect the key reporting with the other relevant reporting,” the congressional summary said. “The NCTC was not adequately organized and did not have resources appropriately allocated to fulfill its missions.”

The NCTC is the government’s clearinghouse for terrorism information and is the only government agency that can access all intelligence and law enforcement information.

Lawmakers found that the NCTC was not organized to be the sole agency in charge or piecing together terrorism threats.”

The office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA agreed there had been shortfalls and said they had already taken “corrective actions,” but warned it might not be enough.

– DRJ

5/15/2010

Canadian Fighters Escort Plane

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 5:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The AP/Washington Post report Canadian fighter jets escorted a Cathay Pacific jet into Vancouver because of a bomb threat:

“Canadian fighter jets escorted a Cathay Pacific airliner incoming from Hong Kong to a safe landing in Vancouver International Airport on Saturday due to a potential unspecified security threat, a North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesperson said.

The Canadian Press news agency cited Canadian Defense department officials as saying there was a bomb threat aboard the plane, which originated in Hong Kong, but they could not provide details.”

Fox News and the CBC filed similar reports, but the CBC version adds this:

“The fighter jets are authorized to respond to security threats with measures including lethal force.”

That’s an interesting difference.

– DRJ

5/5/2010

NY Car Bomber May Be Taliban Trained

Filed under: Air Security,International,Terrorism — DRJ @ 9:07 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Allahpundit at Hot Air discusses a Wall Street Journal report that Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square car bomber, may well have been trained by the Taliban in Pakistan. From the Wall Street Journal:

” U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to links between Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban, with one senior Pakistani official saying Mr. Shahzad received instruction from the Islamist group’s suicide-bomb trainer…

Mr. Shahzad received training in explosives in a camp run by Qari Hussain, the official said. Mr. Hussain is a senior commander with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistan Taliban’s formal name, and trains suicide bombers, the official said. Mr. Hussain is also a cousin of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistan Taliban’s chief. The 30-year-old Mr. Shahzad has admitted to investigators that he received training from militants in Waziristan, U.S. officials said…

One thing that puzzles U.S. terrorism experts: the lack of sophistication in the planned attack, considering Mr. Hussain’s reputed expertise and emphasis on suicide bombs. One theory is that Mr. Shahzad may not have been fully embraced or fully trained by the Pakistan Taliban, who may have been suspicious of a U.S. citizen seeking training.

“They may not have shown him all their tricks, but just set him loose. If he pulls off an attack, great, they got a ‘freebie,’ and if not, no harm done,” said Brian Fishman, a terrorism analyst at the New America Foundation in Washington, a think tank that focuses on security issues.”

That makes sense but there is another possibility. Maybe Shahzad was motivated but nervous or inept:

“On Saturday night, with his recently acquired Nissan Pathfinder loaded with his makeshift explosives, Shahzad drove southbound along Manhattan’s East River on FDR Drive to the 49th Street exit, the source said.

Shahzad then pulled over and reached into the Pathfinder’s rear compartment where he attempted to set into motion the process needed to set off the homemade bomb, the source said.

The source, who did not explain how Shahzad had attempted to set off the bomb, said he then took a number of turns and wound up entering Times Square by driving south down Seventh Avenue. The source said Shahzad told investigators he turned right onto 45th Street toward Eighth Avenue because he saw a place to pull over.

It’s unclear why Shahzad left the Pathfinder’s engine running and hazard lights blinking.

But because of an incredible goof, Shahzad couldn’t use his escape car. He had accidentally left the keys to that vehicle in the Pathfinder that he thought was about to blow up, the source said.”

In addition, even though he earned a BA in computer applications, an MBA and had been granted an H1B skilled worker visa, Shahzad reportedly spoke limited English and was unremarkable. His job history consisted of an “entry-level job as a budget analyst at a marketing firm,” a position that presumably would not require engineering or high-tech skills. Thus, even with training, it might have been hard for someone with Shahzad’s skills to carry this out.

MORE: CBS reports Shahzad has been on a watchlist since 1999 because of his foreign travel and for bring a large sum of money into the U.S.:

“Sources tell CBS News that would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad appeared on a Department of Homeland Security travel lookout list – Traveler Enforcement Compliance System (TECS) – between 1999 and 2008 because he brought approximately $80,000 cash or cash instruments into the United States.

TECS is a major law enforcement computer system that allows its approximately 120,000 users from 20 federal agencies to share information. The database is designed to identify individuals suspected of or involved in violation of federal law.”

So it appears he was already on a watch list even before Monday’s update because of the car bomb. Sheesh. How many people like him are there? And maybe the Obama Administration should reinstate its profiling program for travelers from nations like Pakistan — the air security program it dropped in early April 2010.

– DRJ

5/4/2010

How Did the Bomb Suspect Board Airliner? (Updated)

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 4:56 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

AP asks How did the bomb suspect board airliner?

“The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

But it didn’t. At the last minute, the pilot was notified, the jetliner’s door was opened and Shahzad was taken into custody.”

It sounds like agents manually checked the names after the plane departed the gate, but was his name on the No-Fly List or not?

– DRJ

UPDATE: The AP provides more detail on how Shahzad almost slipped through security:

“The reliance on airlines to check government lists has been a known problem for years. The government has long planned to take over the responsibility for matching passengers to watch lists, but the transition has taken longer than expected. The new program is still in the test phase for domestic airlines and is still months away from beginning with international carriers.”

The article also recounts how the Obama Administration tried to minimize the slip up.

4/9/2010

Qatari Diplomat Headed Back to DC (Updated)

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 8:09 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Qatari diplomat caught smoking on a United Airlines DC-to-Denver flight — and then joked he was lighting a shoe bomb — will have to find another way back to Washington, D.C. United Airlines has banned him from its flights:

“A Qatari diplomat who created a bomb scare mid-flight earlier this week tried boarding the same airline for his return flight to Washington. United Airlines said, “No.”

United spokesman Mike Trevino says they banned Mohammed Al-Madadi (Al-Mah-DAH-dee) from a United flight Thursday because he violated airline and Federal Aviation Administration policies when he tried smoking on a flight from Washington to Denver Wednesday.”

Unless another airline lets him board, the government of Qatar may have to pay for a private flight to D.C. Reports indicate he will soon be headed home to Qatar.

– DRJ

UPDATE: The reports were correct. The Qatari diplomat left the United States Friday night.

Did the media or the embassy ever say whether he went through with his consular visit to the convicted Qatari terrorist al Marri while he was in Denver?

4/7/2010

Possible Shoe-Bomber on DC-Denver Flight

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:39 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Via Ace’s Gabriel Malor, Malkin and the Daily Beast:

“Federal air marshals restrained a man who attempted to light his shoes on fire aboard a United Airlines plane headed from Washington, D.C., to Denver Wednesday night. An explosives team headed to the airport to examine the scene, and though they’re unsure whether the man actually had any explosives, they believe the incident was an attempt at a “shoe bomb.” Authorities said the suspect was Mohammed al Modadi, a diplomat at the Qatar embassy in Washington. The FBI told ABC News that al Modadi had diplomatic immunity as the third secretary and vice-consul. Two fighter jets were scrambled from Buckley Air Force Base to accompany United Flight 663, a Boeing 757, as it flew the last 40 miles of its flight to Denver. (It landed safely and was directed to a remote location at the airport.)”

This ABC News report quotes federal sources that say the suspect attempted to “light his shoes on fire”.

H/T S.

– DRJ

1/29/2010

Flight Diverted to Florida

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 9:25 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A Continental flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Bogota, Columbia, was diverted to Florida because authorities feared a passenger on the No-Fly list had been allowed on board:

“A Continental Airlines jet flying from Newark Liberty International Airport to Colombia was diverted to Jacksonville, Fla., earlier today over concerns a passenger was on the government’s watch list of suspected terrorists banned from commercial flights. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

Flight 881, which left Newark at 3:03 p.m., was diverted to Jacksonville International Airport at about 5:45 p.m. due to a “potential person of interest,” Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Ann Davis said.
***
The government was expected to investigate how the passenger was allowed to board the plane before he was positively deemed safe.

Airlines are required to check the government’s no-fly list before issuing a passenger a boarding pass.”

Hopefully it won’t be long before the TSA and/or airlines can figure out how to identify whether a passenger is on a No-Fly list before a flight takes off.

– DRJ

1/23/2010

Authorities Warn of Female Suicide Bombers

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 10:08 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

ABC News reports American law enforcement has warned that Al Qaeda in Yemen has at least two female suicide bombers with Western passports and non-Arab appearance:

“They have trained women,” said former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant.

There are others who are still out there who have been trained and who are clean skins — that means people who we do not have a record of, people who may not look like al Qaeda terrorists, who may not be Arabs, and may not be men,” said Clarke.”

Plus there have been an increased number of passengers prevented from flying because they are on the No-Fly list. Either the system is working better or there are more attempts to probe American security:

“The alert comes during a week in which American law enforcement officials described an “unusually high” number of people on the no-fly list attempting to board flights to or in the United States.

At least six people on the no-fly list were denied boarding in a 48-hour period between Saturday and Monday this week, according to the officials.”

Some of the passengers were attempting to fly to or from several American cities:

“Two of the six were stopped at London’s Heathrow Airport.

On Saturday, an Egyptian man on the no-fly list was stopped from flying on American Airlines flight 113 from London to Miami.

The next day, Sunday, a Saudi Arabian passenger was stopped from boarding United Airlines flight 929 to Chicago. Officials said the man was sent back to Saudi Arabia by the British.

In two other overseas cases involving people on the no-fly list, a man in Nairobi, Kenya was kept off a flight Sunday that would have connected in Amsterdam to Dallas, and a passenger attempting to fly on American Airlines to Los Angeles was stopped in Saint Maarten before he could board a connecting flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, according to officials.

American officials say there were two additional incidents, in Minneapolis and in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in which people on the no-fly list were denied boarding, questioned and then allowed to leave the airport without being detained.”

Officials also verified passenger reports from the Christmas Day flight that someone helped Abdulmutallab change planes in Amsterdam.

– DRJ

1/5/2010

Irish Passenger is Lucky No. 8

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 8:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

From Orin Kerr: Slovak authorities put “real explosives in the luggage of innocent passengers as part of a security test.”

Authorities found 7 out of the 8 test samples but failed to warn the 8th passenger, who found out the hard way when he was arrested upon his return to Dublin.

– DRJ

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