Patterico's Pontifications

1/3/2010

US, UK Close Yemen Embassies (Updated)

Filed under: Air Security,Government,Obama — DRJ @ 4:58 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The United States and Britain closed its embassies in Yemen today because of security threats from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:

“President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, cited “indications al-Qaida is planning to carry out an attack against a target” in the capital, possibly the embassy, and estimated the group had several hundred members in Yemen. Security reasons led Britain to act, too; it was not known when the embassies would reopen.”

The government also announced a plan to target people traveling from predominantly Muslim countries for special screening:

“The Transportation Security Administration announced Sunday that, starting Monday, passengers flying into the United States from Nigeria, Yemen and other “countries of interest” will be subject to enhanced screening techniques, such as body scans and pat-downs.

Yemen is a poor, decentralized and predominantly Muslim country on the Arabian Peninsula. It is the ancestral homeland of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and the site of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors. A 2008 attack on the U.S. Embassy killed one American.

Given the active threat from al-Qaida, “we’re not going to take any chances,” Brennan said from Washington during appearances on four Sunday talk shows.”

The Presidential candidate who vowed to meet with America’s enemies is now effectively profiling people from Muslim and other countries.

Good.

– DRJ

PS — A U.S. embassy is closed but not a word from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? So much for working together.

UPDATE — Yemen will be even more dangerous in the coming weeks and months since the White House still plans to release the Yemenis at Guantanamo back to Yemen:

“Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Brennan explained that, “Of the recent batch that we sent back, about six, many of them are in custody within the Yemeni system right now.” He did not elaborate on the meaning of “many.” “We will decide and determine when, when we should send additional people back,” Brennan continued. “But we’re going to do it in the right way, because Guantanamo should be closed. It was used as a propaganda tool by al-Qaeda, and the president is still committed to it.” The message was clear: Guantanamo inmates are going back to Yemen.”

This would almost be funny if it weren’t so serious.

12/29/2009

Abdulmutallab in London

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:38 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The UK Times has more information about Northwest Flight #253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s time in London:

  • Abdulmutallab was a former president of the Islamic Society at University College London.
  • The Islamic Society “advertised speakers including political figures, human rights lawyers and former Guantánamo detainees” during events such as Abdulmutallab’s conference entitled “War on Terror Week.” The Society also sponsored a seminar called Jihad v Terrorism, “a lecture on the Islamic position with respect to jihad”.
  • Abdulmutallab “is the fourth president of a London student Islamic society to face terrorist charges in three years. One is facing a retrial on charges that he was involved in the 2006 liquid bomb plot to blow up airliners. Two others have been convicted of terrorist offences since 2007.”
  • US intelligence authorities are investigating conversations between Abdulmutallab and at least one al-Qaeda member.
  • The material Abdulmutallab ignited on Northwest Flight #253 shot 6 foot flames up the cabin wall.
  • The Dutch say Abdulmutallab had a valid passport and visa: “He had a passport and a valid visa for the United States and KLM had clearance on the passenger list to carry him to the US.”
  • – DRJ

    Abdulmutallab in Houston (Updated)

    Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:36 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Houston’s ABC affiliate KTRK is investigating Northwest Flight #253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s time in Houston:

  • Abdulmutallab may have signed up and paid for Islamic education classes in Houston during the summer of 2008. It’s not clear if he attended any classes.
  • The classes were provided by the Al Maghrib Institute, “a non-profit organization aimed at teaching an in-depth study of the Islamic religion” that operates throughout the United States and Canada.
  • The Al Maghrib Institute notifies the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Transportation Security Administration of any foreign students such as Abdulmutallab.
  • The Al Maghrib Institute has scheduled a Wednesday morning press conference. Presumably whether Abdulmutallab attended the Houston course will be answered then.
  • There isn’t much information on Abdulmutallab’s time in Houston yet, but hopefully the media will keep investigating.

    – DRJ

    UPDATE 12/30/2009: The Al Maghrib Institute confirmed today that Abdulmutallab attended a 2-week summit with 150 other students in August 2008. Apparently Abdulmutallab did not attend the local mosque while he was in Houston:

    “Abdur Rahman T. Adesokan, the imam of Masjid-ul-Mumineen, the main Nigerian Muslim association in Houston, said he had not spoken to any members of the Nigerian Muslim community who had met Abdulmutallab. He also said he didn’t believe that Abdulmutallab visited the community’s mosque here.

    “We are not happy with this, none of our community is happy with what happened or that he’s Nigerian,” Adesokan said. “It is bad, bad, bad.”

    We need more Muslims talking like this.

    Obama Cites ‘Systemic Failure’ in Terror Attack

    Filed under: Air Security,Obama,Terrorism — DRJ @ 5:03 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    President Obama acknowledged a “systemic failure” enabled the terrorist attack on Northwest Flight #253:

    “The president, in his most extensive comments so far on what went wrong in the security process, said information about the terror suspect was not properly shared among intelligence agencies. He said that information, particularly a warning to authorities from the 23-year-old suspect’s father in Nigeria, should have landed him on a no-fly list well before he boarded the Northwest Airlines flight in Amsterdam.

    “The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America,” Obama said. “A systemic failure has occurred, and I consider that totally unacceptable.”

    Did it really take Obama 4 days to decide there was a “systemic failure” in the government’s handling of the events that led up to this attack? After all, even the CIA has admitted Abdulmutallab was on the government’s radar for a month:

    “We learned of Abdulmutallab in November, when his father came to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and sought help in finding him,” Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman said. “We did not have his name before then. Also in November, we worked with the embassy to ensure he was in the government’s terrorist database-including mention of his possible extremist connections in Yemen. We also forwarded key biographical information about him to the National Counterterrorism Center.”

    Once again, Obama has asked for an investigation and improvement of the government’s terrorist watch list. And when I say once again, I really mean once again. Where was this reform that Obama pledged to undertake as both a candidate and as President-elect?

    – DRJ

    12/28/2009

    Abdulmutallub Spent Time in Yemen (Updated)

    Filed under: Air Security,International,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:17 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Northwest Flight #253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab visited Yemen at least twice, including from August to December 2009:

    “In a statement, the Yemeni Foreign Ministry says Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was in Yemen from early August until early December after receiving a visa to study Arabic in a school in San’a.

    Monday’s statement said Abdulmutallab had previously studied at the school, indicating it was not his first trip to Yemen.”

    The article implies Abdulmutallab may have received a Yemeni visa because he had a valid visa to visit the United States and other Western countries.

    – DRJ

    UPDATE — Despite the fact that Abdulmatallub’s family tried to locate him for weeks, asked for help from Nigerian and American officials, promised to cooperate with an investigation, and warned that he “had developed radical views, had disappeared and might have traveled to Yemen,” Tom Maguire [sarcastically] says there just weren’t enough clues for the Obama Administration. Or maybe there wasn’t the right clue:

    “Too bad the authorities weren’t handed enough clues. Now if only the Nutjob Bomber had posted something fishy about ObamaCare on Facebook …”

    So I guess that explains why no one questioned Abdulmatallub when he bought an international ticket to Detroit using cash and then reportedly showed up at the airport with no passport and no checked bags.

    Another Flight #253 Mystery (Updated)

    Filed under: Air Security,Obama,Terrorism — DRJ @ 1:45 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Who is the mystery videographer of Northwest Flight #253?

    Fascinating snippet from WTMJ 620 radio in Milwaukee (“Oconomowoc Family Survives Terrorist Attempt”):

    “…They were sitting about 20 rows behind Abdulmutallab, in a center aisle with her husband and daughter a row ahead of her and their two new adopted children, a six-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy.

    Her daughter said that ahead of them was a man who videotaped the entire flight, including the attempted detonation.

    “He sat up and videotaped the entire thing, very calmly,” said Patricia. “We do know that the FBI is looking for him intensely. Since then, we’ve heard nothing about it.”

    Doug Ross wonders if it was al Qaeda trying to “learn from any failure by taping the entire incident.”

    – DRJ

    UPDATE: Was there a 3rd man, too?

    Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Flight 253

    Filed under: Air Security,Obama,Terrorism — DRJ @ 11:44 am

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    The Saudi-and Yemeni-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on Northwest Flight #253:

    “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the attempted attack on a U.S. airliner on Christmas day, saying it was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen.

    In a statement posted on the Internet, the group said 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab coordinated with members of the group.”

    Way to go, Janie.

    – DRJ

    Shall We Fly? (Updated x2)

    Filed under: Air Security,Obama — DRJ @ 11:17 am

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Just 9 days after 9/11, President George Bush told Americans: “I ask you to live your lives and hug your children.” He was criticized for it, even by Republicans, but it was good advice. America could not afford — either economically or from a security standpoint — to be cowed by 9/11.

    I’ve been thinking about what President Barack Obama will tell America following the Flight 253 terrorist attack, especially since the British and Abdulmutallab say there may be more attacks. The Obama administration is reportedly debating what his response should be.

    Initially, I assumed the Administration’s concern was for potential jihadi listeners but they may also be conflicted about what to tell Americans. Should Obama tell Americans to “live your lives” — that is, to keep flying as if nothing happened? Anything else could decimate an already damaged airline industry, but doing so will make Obama sound even more like Bush.

    We’ll know soon. ABC News reports Obama will address the terrorist attack today. I wonder if he will also explain why the British put Abdulmutallab on an official watch list and refused his visa, but the Americans did not?

    – DRJ

    UPDATE: ABC News’ report on Obama’s remarks. Video is here.

    UPDATE 2 — The restrictions on passenger movements announced 2 days ago have apparently been eased — probably because someone realized the restrictions weren’t helping.

    12/27/2009

    UK Times: Abdulmutallab is a 9/11 Defender (Updated)

    Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 8:36 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Northwest Flight #253 terrorist suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — the son of a Yemeni mother and one of the richest men in Africa — is a 9/11 Defender.

    – DRJ

    UPDATE — From The Sun: Is Abdulmutallab the first of many?

    “COPS fear that 25 British-born Muslims are plotting to bomb Western airliners.

    The fanatics, in five groups, are now training at secret terror camps in Yemen.

    It was there London-educated Umar Abdulmutallab, 23, prepared for his Christmas Day bid to blow up a US jet.

    The British extremists in Yemen are in their early 20s and from Bradford, Luton and Leytonstone, East London.

    They are due to return to the UK early in 2010 and will then await internet instructions from al-Qaeda on when to strike.

    A Scotland Yard source said: “The great fear is Abdulmutallab is the first of many ready to attack planes and kill tens of thousands.”

    Fortunately the UK is monitoring them. Unfortunately the US probably isn’t, so will we stop them from getting US visas like Abdulmutallab?

    What a Difference a Day Makes

    Filed under: Air Security,Obama — DRJ @ 8:21 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    As a Presidential candidate and as America’s newly elected President, Barack Obama’s agenda for airline security was clear and consistent:

    Improve Airline Security: Barack Obama believes we must redouble our efforts to determine if the measures implemented since 9/11 are adequately addressing the threats our nation continues to face from airplane-based terrorism. Airline passengers are still not screened against a comprehensive terrorist watch list. Such a list must be developed and used in a way that safeguards passengers’ privacy while ensuring the safety of air travel.”

    Look what happened to Obama’s airline security goals sometime after Inauguration Day:

    Improve Airline Security: Redouble our efforts to adequately address the threats our nation continues to face from airplane-based terrorism.”

    Hope and Change is so much easier when you don’t have to actually implement your platform.

    – DRJ

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