The Terrorists’ Best Weapon: Intelligence Failures – by Ryan Mauro

Ryan Mauro is a fellow with the Clarionproject.org, the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel. He can be contacted at ryanmauro1986@gmail.com.


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Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab received help from Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch in carrying out his attack, but he was also inadvertently helped by, in President Obama’s words, the “human and systemic failure” of the United States’ counter-terrorism apparatus. More and more information is coming to light showing that major vulnerabilities continue to exist leaving the country open to attack.

The government had suspected that Abdulmutallab had ties to terrorists for at least two years. In early August, the CIA later picked up information about an individual called “The Nigerian” who was suspected of meeting with terrorists in Yemen to plan an attack. Then, in November 19, Abdulmutallab’s father, a former minister in Nigeria’s government, went to the U.S. embassy in Abuja and told the CIA about his son’s extremism and ties to Yemen.

The dots were not put together, and to make matters worse, the State Department system to track active visas did not alert the proper officials that Abdulmutallab had a visa to travel to the United States. The next day, when Abdulmutallab’s father’s tip was sent back home, the State Department again did not warn about his visa, enabling him to later travel to the U.S. from Amsterdam on the flight he would try to destroy.

The State Department responded by saying the responsibility to revoke Abdulmutallab’s visa fell under the National Counterterrorism Center. An anonymous U.S. intelligence official involved in the investigation reacted by describing the State Department as providing the Center with “very thin information” that didn’t rise to the standard required for a visa to be revoked and have him placed on the no-fly list that would have prevented him from boarding the airliner.

The U.S. should have been aware of Al-Qaeda in Yemen’s tactic of using plastic PETN explosives that can get through metal detectors, as Abdulmutallab used in the Christmas Day plot. The group previously used that same type of bomb on August 28 when it tried to assassinate Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Interior Minister. Although Abdulmutallab made his way past the metal detectors with the PETN-based bomb, other technology could have prevented the explosive from making its way onto the plane. A machine that uses a burst of air to analyze substances, dogs, full-body scanners, or even a typical search with swabs could have detected it.

The plot itself even has roots in an intelligence and political failure. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which declared responsibility for the attempted bombing, has been strengthened by the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Said Ali al-Shihri was released in 2007 and went to Saudi Arabia’s infamous terrorist “rehabilitation” program, and then became the deputy-leader of Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the one that worked with Abdulmutallab. Muhamad Attik al-Harbi is another former prisoner who joined Al-Qaeda’s ranks in Yemen, although he later went back to Saudi Arabia and left the group. Another was killed by the Yemeni military.

Similar intelligence failures allowed Major Nidal Malik Hasan to commit his November 5 shooting attack on Fort Hood in November that killed 13 people. When he was supposed to be giving a lecture about psychiatry, he talked about Islam, saying that infidels would go to hell and suffer punishments like having burning oil poured into their throats. His former classmates say that he stated that he was more loyal to Sharia Law than the U.S. and that he spoke in support of suicide bombings. As a psychiatrist, he spoke to superiors about bringing war crimes charges against some of his patients who served in the military.

Hasan attended the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, at the same time as two of the 9/11 hijackers when Anwar al-Awlaki was the imam. Al-Awlaki is now known to be an Al-Qaeda recruiter currently residing in Yemen, and he ties these two plots together. He is believed to have given his blessing for the Christmas Day plot, and Hasan exchanged at least 18 emails with him in the six months prior to the attack. After the shooting, al-Awlaki praised Hasan.

The FBI was monitoring al-Awlaki’s communications when they became aware of Hasan, who told al-Awlaki that he was eager to join him in the afterlife. The FBI saw that Hasan was making postings on radical Islamic websites, one of which hailed the effectiveness of suicide bombings and another he argued that they were heroic and did not contradict Islam. The FBI has reportedly found that Hasan had links to other people suspected of being connected to terrorism. Despite all of this information about Hasan’s activities, an investigation was not opened.

The Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas Day airliner plot should serve as reminders that we are only one intelligence failure away from a calamity taking place.

  • tlwinslow

    It doesn't take much intelligence to detect a radicalized Muslim and heighten airport security for him, only about as much as a 5th grader.

    It's too bad that Pres. Obama still doesn't want to do his duty of protecting the American people by instituting Muslim Ideological Profiling (MIP) to detect signs of radicalization, but still wants to play games with their safety by limiting the profiling to country of origin. Sorry, but only radicalized Muslims are going to strap a bomb to their crotch and set it off hoping for Allah's paradise for murdering infidel non-Muslims, and even they rely on the plane being full of them.
    If MIP had been in place since 2000, there would have been no 9/11, Beltway Snipers, Ft. Hood Massacre, of Xmas Condom Bomber. What will it take, another horrible tragedy? Subjecting the 99% of non-Muslims to any kind of heightened security measures because of 1% of the 1% of Muslims is the true violation of civil rights. Islam isn't a race, and while it is only a religion for some, those who become radicalized cross the line into becoming dangerous political and military enemies of the U.S., and should be handled accordingly. It's not unconstitutional to profile only Muslims when it's the Muslim holy book that is the source of the radicalization. As the Supreme Court has already put it, the Constitution isn't a suicide pact. But the govt. must start protecting the American people now, that's its duty, and let the courts sort it out later, the good old American way. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to detect a radicalized Muslim, they give themselves away every time they open their mouths or post on the Internet.

    As the new decade dawns, why not take time to study the history of Islam from its radical beginnings in the 7th cent. when it began a violent offensive against the rest of the world and gave the West hell for over a thousand years until its military defeat in Vienna in 1683 that made the modern world possible. Study free online with the Historyscoper by clicking http://go.to/islamhistory

  • thinker1

    but if the gov prefer dead Americans over offended muslims (remember gen. Casey's statement?), aren't we already dead?

  • CowboyUp

    Rule 1:
    DO NOT depend on the State Department for ANYTHING. The State Dept. seems to cause severe brain damage to anybody almost immediately after going to work there.

    Defending against terrorist attacks is almost impossible in a free country, that's why it's so importamt to go after them over there.

  • tlwinslow

    You're not dead yet are you? Just don't roll over and play dead :) There's plenty you can do.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/Lion_of_Kabul* Lion of Kabul

    I am very disappointed with the PC spin the media is giving on the Crotch Bomber terror “attempt”. It’s all about Nigerians, Yemen and an Al-Qaeda connection, nothing about islam’s integral role in all of the above.

    The only pertinent info the media is disseminating is that I better get used to the fact that some sick fuck is going to fondle my balls the next time I board a plane.

    The extra scrutiny and humiliation for the sake of political correctness is getting to be very annoying.

    Here are some facts,

    1. 911 hijackers…. muslims,

    2. Richard Reid aka Shoe Bomber…. muslim,

    3. Liquid bomb plotters attempting to down 19 airliners over the Atlantic…. muslims,

    4. Flying Imams…. muslims,

    5. Crotch Bomber…. muslim,

    6. The scumbag on my recent flight from Frankfort to Toronto causing a disturbance…. muslim,

    7. The scumbag forcing a Pearson to Frankfort flight to land in Montreal on the 30th of December because of a disturbance…. muslim, &

    8. The authors of a multitude of probing incidents that do not get reported by the mainstream media…. muslims.

    In light of these facts, any intelligent person would surmise that a more rational approach would be to subject just muslims to enhanced security checks when they attempt to fly. And seeing that they are the reason for all the recent knee jerk reaction security measures, it would be reasonable to expect that a special fee be levied on them to defray the added expense of us protecting ourselves from them.

    If the muslims are not happy with this simple solution, they just don't have to fly and everyone would be safer for it.

    Show the morally bankrupt and irrelevant LIBTARDS and the Prez that you’re not as ignorant as they would like you to be by proudly displaying,

    [IMG]http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e289/razorsedgesfor/MLK_KAF.jpg[/IMG]

    MAJOR LEAGUE KAFIR/INFIDEL AND OTHER KAF/AFGHANISTAN MEMORABILIA

    http://www.zazzle.com/Lion_of_Kabul*

  • btok

    Infowars.com
    January 3, 2009
    Prior to the underwear bomber incident on Christmas, the House of Representatives tabled legislation to “reform” the Constitution nullifying Patriot Act. On December 16, nine days before the patsy Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was delivered to the airport in Amsterdam by his handler, Congress decided to shuffle the law off into the New Year.
    Wayne Madsen tells Russia Today the false flag non-attack will be used to push “Patriot Act 3.0.”
    Many of the Patriot Act provisions were set to expire on January 1st.
    David Kravets wrote for Wired at the time:
    Under Wednesday’s action, the NSL-reform [National Security Letters] vote is also delayed until the New Year. And the three expiring provisions will remain in force at least through February. The extension came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) balked at a Senate plan to include Patriot Act amendments into a $636 billion Pentagon funding measure, saying doing so would create “revolt on the left.”
    In fact, the so-called “left” in Congress is as dedicated to implementing the government’s control grid as the “right.” The only difference is that Democrats engage in more hand-wringing over the legislation.
    So-called liberal Democrats have pushed for renewal of the police state law, including the former Saturday Night Live comedian Al Franken, now a Democrat from Minnesota.
    Judge Napolitano comments on the unconstitutionality of the Patriot Act.
    “Heightened terrorist activity in recent days and months — from the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day to the shootings at Fort Hood, to the murder of a Saudi Arabian border guard by Yemeni insurgents, reveal that our need for robust intelligence gathering tools has not diminished since 9/11,” declared Republican Congressman Dan Lungren on December 31.
    The false flag terror operation above Detroit will be used to squelch any opposition to renewing the Patriot Act in February.
    Funny how things work.
    Check out what Government is doing behind your back at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VebOTc-7shU

  • btok

    What about an article about PSYOP failures? The American Marxist President is good at having his Contractors perform them – have them blow up in their faces – but still the shameless Communist President, continues to maintain his Draconian Martial laws in effect!
    Everybody knows this extreme Left Wing Nut job wants to tuck America under Communist rule and control of every facet of American citizen's life! Make sure to vote out his house – and make sure you elect no Elitists come Nov.2, 2010!
    Check out what Government is doing behind your back at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VebOTc-7shU

  • Abdullah_Mikail

    There is no “Al Qaeda Yemen Branch”

  • Abdullah_Mikail

    Think with your mind, not your gut:

    “It is not surprising therefore to learn that the knicker bomber apparently received special treatment at Amsterdam airport before he boarded his flight to Detroit. Eyewitness Kurt Haskell reported that a sharply dressed Indian man escorted him to the gate and told the attendant that the knicker bomber had no passport but needed to get on the flight. The sharply dressed man was told that he would have to speak to the manager, which he apparently did and successfully got the young 'terrorist' on board.

    Now this requires some serious string pulling, and all the hoopla in the press about whether or not the security system worked is just hubris, because if the knicker bomber appeared at the gate without a passport, it is unlikely that he went through the normal process up to that point, including check-in which requires passengers to show their passports. In all probability he was escorted as a VIP to the gate by the sharply dressed man. So how do two suspicious looking terrorists, at least one of them without a passport, get to the gate in an airport and then onto the flight? The answer is they don't unless they have some diplomatic credentials or high-level contacts in the airport.

    Guess who runs the security at Amsterdam Schipol airport? ICTS of course! the same Israeli owned security company that somehow managed to let the shoe bomber on his Miami flight in 2001 and several of those mythical hijackers who allegedly flew out of Boston's Logan airport on 9/11. It is also useful to remember that the shoe bomber was cleared through ICTS and El Al security at Amsterdam airport on a flight to Tel Aviv in July 2001 for what was apparently an all-expenses paid week-long trip to the Israeli city. What precisely he did there remains a mystery.

    All of which leads us to our second tentative conclusion:

    the knicker bomber and his handler were not terrorists. Of course, it all depends on who you think the real terrorists are… “

  • jolyenx

    Terrorist shud have a fair trial and so does America, since Americans like to terrorize innocent people across the globe.
    http://ezinearticles.com/?Virility-Ex-Pills-Rev

  • SpiritOf1683

    Of course they're not terrorists to you because they didn't succeed in murdering infidels. Had 300 been murdered in cold blood, you would have been celebrating, along with the rest of the barbaric effluent who attend your mosque. On the other hand, had the plane exploded in a fireball you would have seen it as a failure because it hadn't matched the death toll of 9/11.

  • SpiritOf1683

    There's almost certainly an “Al Qaeda Abdullard Mikhails House” branch, eh terrorist.

  • CowboyUp

    Bravo Sierra, Abdul, the State Dept. should have put him on the no-fly list, but dropped the ball yet again (along with quite a few others along the security line), and anybody that tries to blow up a civilian airliner is a terrorist (and so are his handlers, who President Bush stupidly released with full dp encouragement and support).

    Israel isn't blow up airliners, aq is. If aq claims the 'credit' they can take the heat.

  • Abdullah_Mikail

    Stung once, blame the bee, stung twice, well, you know the rest.

    Not once, Cowboy, but twice the same Israeli owned security company has done this…passed a basically harmless terrorist with an impotent weapon onto a US bound airliner for what reason?

    So you are saying the Israelis inept bumbling idiots? No, they are not.

    The accomplice in this crime needs to go down, period.

  • CowboyUp

    They haven't even gone as far as Lincoln or FDR did in excercising their wartime powers. I'm for robust intelligence gathering. I understand the threat, and have since the mid 80s. I knew we would have to do something about them sooner or later, but understood the soviet empire (which invented modern terrorist doctrine and trained terrorist cadres and specialists from every continent for over 30 years) had to be stopped first. I'm for doing so before the terrorists can run the butcher's billt up more.

  • CowboyUp

    After the perp.

  • Abdullah_Mikail

    Bravo Zulu.

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