Yemen underwear-bomb plot: I was right

May 13, 2012

A few days ago, when writing about the revelation of a Al Qaeda plot to blow up a commercial flight with a new and improved underwear bomb and our penetration of said plot, I speculated as to why we were hearing about what should have been a top-secret operation:

With the economy in the crapper and the public mood so bad that even a convicted felon gives Obama a run for his money in a Democratic primary, Obama needs all the good news he can get.

You can bet on it: The One and his team couldn’t wait to brag about this. And all it cost was letting AQAP know just how much we had penetrated them.

I’m sorry to say I was right:

Detailed leaks of operational information about the foiled underwear bomb plot are causing growing anger in the US intelligence community, with former agents blaming the Obama administration for undermining national security and compromising the British services, MI6 and MI5.

The Guardian has learned from Saudi sources that the agent was not a Saudi national as was widely reported, but a Yemeni. He was born in Saudi Arabia, in the port city of Jeddah, and then studied and worked in the UK, where he acquired a British passport.

Mike Scheur, the former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit, said the leaking about the nuts and bolts of British involvement was despicable and would make a repeat of the operation difficult. “MI6 should be as angry as hell. This is something that the prime minister should raise with the president, if he has the balls. This is really tragic,” Scheur said.

He added: “Any information disclosed is too much information. This does seem to be a tawdry political thing.”

He noted that the leak came on the heels of a series of disclosures over the last 10 days, beginning with a report that the CIA wanted to expand its drone attacks in Yemen, Barack Obama making a surprise trip to Afghanistan around the time of the Bin Laden anniversary and “then this inexplicable leak”.

The agent was apparently a Yemeni studying in Britain who was recruited by MI6 and spent over a year in Yemen covincing Al Qaeda that he was ready and willing to be a suicide bomber. When he got his hands on the bomb, he was spririted out of the country. Now Al Qaeda can be certain who the mole was; this guy is going to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, wondering when the revenge hit will strike.

And it’s bad enough that we blew our own secrets, but we compromised British and Saudi intelligence, too. As the article goes on to point out, the British may well think twice and then think again before sharing with us. The danger, of course, is not just a loss of trust between intelligence services that have a long tradition of close cooperation, but that, for failure to share information, we might miss a terrorist plot in the making and wind up with a lot of corpses and a lot of grieving families wondering how it could have happened.

All because either Obama himself or someone on his team wanted to make him look tough for his reelection campaign.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is not happy and he’s asking questions:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) blamed administration “chest-thumbing” for the leak of information over an intelligence operation which thwarted a plot to bomb an America-bound airliner.

“I think there was a little premature chest-thumbing,” said Rogers on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “I’ve ordered a preliminary review. And I’ll tell you something, this has been a damaging leak. We shouldn’t underestimate what really happened here.”

(…)

Rogers was asked by host Bob Schieffer if he believed information about the operation was leaked to the press by administration officials “to take credit for it.”

“I said chest-thumping, but it clearly raises some serious questions that we are going to have to ask,” responded Rogers. “We do know that the CIA was trying to stop the story and we know that there was a scheduled White House or at least planned press conference on the particular event. Those two disparate positions lead one to believe that someone was at odds over how much they should or shouldn’t talk about it.

“It’s clear that the information was leaked. That information as presented at some point to the CIA,” added Rogers. “The CIA at that point tried to put the story back in the can for security reasons. People’s lives were at stake during this operation. And that’s where it gets a little murky, which is why I ordered the review. “

To top it all off, while the administration was apparently anxious to blab to all and sundry about the operation, they neglected to tell the ranking members of the Intelligence Committee, even though they’re required to do by statute. Probably shouldn’t be surprised, though; it’s not as if they’ve shown any respect for Congress’ oversight function in the past.

I’m tempted to quote again Bill Clinton on the amateurs in the White House, but that would be too flip. These amateurs aren’t just earnest bumblers; they’re doing real harm.

And it’s worrying.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The foiled bomb plot: great news, but…

May 9, 2012

On the one hand, this is great news: We infiltrated Al Qaeda’s Arabian subsidiary [AQAP] and kept a lot of people from being killed, while at the same time delivering flaming justice to one of the masterminds of the attack on the USS Cole:

The CIA takedown of an Al Qaeda plot to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner involved an international sting operation with a double agent tricking terrorists into handing over a prized possession: a new bomb purportedly designed to slip through airport security.

U.S. officials Tuesday described an operation in which Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, working closely with the CIA, used an informant to pose as a would-be suicide bomber. His job was to persuade Al Qaeda bomb makers in Yemen to give him the bomb.

After weeks operating undercover in Yemen, the double agent arranged to deliver the device and a trove of vital intelligence to U.S. and other authorities waiting in another country, officials said. He is now safely out of Yemen.

Experts are analyzing the device at the FBI’s bomb laboratory at Quantico, Va., to determine whether it could evade current security systems. Officials said it appears to have a more advanced triggering device than that of the so-called underwear bomb that fizzled instead of exploding aboard a packed passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

U.S. officials said President Obama was informed of the bomb in early April and was assured that it did not pose a threat to the public. Officials emphasized that the terrorists had not chosen a target or purchased air tickets, and that the plot to blow up an airliner never reached the operational stage.

And, according to the Washington Post:

The most recent strike killed an alleged operations planner wanted in connection with the attack on the USS Cole warship in Yemen in 2000. U.S. officials said that Fahd al-Quso was probably involved in directing the plot but that the drone strike was ordered because of his larger role in AQAP.

So, latest underwear bomb plot foiled, double-agent safe, we got our hands on Al Qaeda’s latest toys, and a terrorist murderer brave jihadi got the payback he so richly deserved. What’s not to like, right?

Well, there’s what’s on that other hand…

Don’t get me wrong; this is great news, and the CIA and Saudi intelligence service deserve pats on the back. But…

Why are we hearing about this at all??

One of the greatest secrets you can have in intelligence work –especially when dealing with a deadly enemy– is that you’ve compromised their security. That you’ve cracked their codes, found their safe houses, planted a bug in their meetings, slipped a mole deep inside… so many things. You want them kept secret because you can exploit the advantage again and again, disrupting and demoralizing your enemy because they can’t figure out how you’re always one step ahead. These are secrets you go to your grave with, because, once blown, they’re useless.

So, I ask again: Why are we being told this? The LA Times article provides a hint:

U.S. intelligence officials had planned to keep the bomb sting secret, a senior official said, but the Associated Press learned of the operation last week. The AP delayed posting the story at the request of the Obama administration, but then broke the news Monday.

“When the AP got it and started talking about it, it caused all kinds of problems with the operation,” said a U.S. official who would not be quoted by name discussing the classified operation. “The investigation never went to its full conclusion.”

AP spokesman Paul Colford said the news agency held off publishing until U.S. officials told the AP that security concerns were allayed.

“We were told on Monday that the operation was complete and that the White House was planning to announce it Tuesday,” he said.

So we have two different stories. In one, the AP learns about the operation and, with security compromised, the government felt it might as well tell, since the information was going to come out, anyway. It’s a common story.

In the other, AP waited, found out the administration was going to open up on Tuesday, and so decided to get its story out, first.

Call me a cynic, but the second seems much more plausible. Remember that this is the same administration that, after killing bin Laden, didn’t want to be seen “spiking the ball.” Now, a year later and with a difficult reelection campaign underway, the president and his minions are running around doing the  “Gutsy Call” end-zone dance like a NFL rookie scoring his first touchdown. With the economy in the crapper and the public mood so bad that even a convicted felon gives Obama a run for his money in a Democratic primary, Obama needs all the good news he can get.

You can bet on it: The One and his team couldn’t wait to brag about this. And all it cost was letting AQAP know just how much we had penetrated them.

Final thought: What was the “opportunity cost” of this latest bit of chest-thumping? Are there any more of these newest bombs out there? Other plots in the offing? How much are we now not going to learn of because AQAP will surely change their security measures?

Sometimes, silence really is golden.

PS: And lest we forget, they’re still trying to kill us.

LINKS: More from Hot Air.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


How we tracked Awlaki

October 1, 2011

At Big Peace, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (1) provides the inside story of how we tracked down Al Qaeda’s rising star, Anwar al-Awlaki:

Awlaki lived in the southern Yemen province of Shabwa, an area beyond the reach of Yemen’s military and central government. Much of Yemen is like the Wild West, with no central governing authority. The numerous tribes settle disputes among themselves. Awlaki came from the Awalik tribe.

Intelligence gathered last year from Yemeni authorities and from debriefings with several American converts who returned to the United States after training with Awlaki, helped narrow Awlaki’s location to a 100 square mile area. He moved at night, often in convoys of armored SUVs in order to prevent U.S. drones and surveillance from determining which vehicle he was in. But the drones, which have advanced in the ability to recognize faces on the ground, hovered above the area where Awlaki was believed to be. Electronic intelligence – including telephone intercepts –also were used, although Awlaki was said to be careful in limiting his use of electronic communication, aware that he could be tracked that way.

In the past several months, American drone operators were confident they had identified Awlaki as he moved from among a series of underground bunkers. An initial drone missile targeting him was fired at an al-Qaida training camp but missed him.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agents collected as much personal data about Awlaki as they could from his extended family living in western countries. For example, he had an ex-wife living in Ireland that no one knew about until a close relative living in the United States identified the family tree for agents in early January. The relative proved to be a goldmine of information about Awlaki’s siblings, parents, wives, and children.

Intelligence officials learned about the American relative in January through other Yemeni expatriates living here who knew her. She agreed to cooperate and provided extensive information about close relatives living either with him, elsewhere in Yemen, or in different parts of the world. Telephone numbers belonging to a close relative living in Yemen’s capital Sanaa that the American relative provided to U.S. intelligence officials proved the most critical.

The relative knew that Awlaki called that number. The National Security Agency (NSA) quickly was able to triangulate the phone numbers and determine almost exactly where Awlaki was when he called the Sanaa number. The American relative also provided information on other Awlaki relatives who apparently had direct contact with Awlaki, either through email or other electronic means. That knowledge helped track other communication and confirm Awlaki’s whereabouts.

I’m not surprised the ex-wife was willing to talk, given this deeply spiritual man’s preferred hobbies.

It really is a fascinating story: once they had a good idea of the area Awlaki was hiding in, they flooded the skies with drones and kept watching. We also had informants on the ground posing as his students. (2) Finally they got word he was moving in a convoy during the day from one bunker to another. The CIA had passed on earlier shots before, out of fear of too many civilian casualties, but this one looked good and so…

Bye-bye, Anwar. (3)

I draw a few lessons from this:

  • I’ve read elsewhere that the investigative work was carried out by the same group that tracked down bin Laden. These guys are good.
  • If you make a name for yourself among jihadists and you take us on, we will find you and you will either take a bullet to the head or go boom. Our choice, not yours.
  • If you’re going to live the life of a terrorist on the run, stop calling family! On second thought, scratch that. Make all the calls you want.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Footnotes:
(1) The IPT is Steve Emerson‘s outfit. They do great work.
(2) In other words, we have spies in their midst. Your first thought may be to ask why we’re revealing this, but consider: whether fact or disinformation, it plays with AQAP’s minds and throws a heaping helping of doubt and suspicion into their internal operations. Whom can they trust, even among their “brothers?”
(3) Bite me, Glenn Greenwald. (Among others.)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Traitor Anwar al Awlaki is dead. This is war, not a police matter.

September 30, 2011

"I say again, the infidels will never find me! Wait. What's that noise?"

And, we sincerely hope, he is in a place decorated in fire and brimstone.

I’ve waited most of the day to post the good news, because it’s happened many times over the years since 9/11 that we’ve announced a major kill, only to have the target show up in another video thumbing his nose at us. But now it’s confirmed: we nailed the traitor Anwar al Awlaki:

Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Islamic militant cleric who became a prominent figure in al-Qaida’s most active branch, using his fluent English and Internet savvy to draw recruits to carry out attacks in the United States, was killed Friday in the mountains of Yemen, American and Yemeni officials said.

The Yemeni government and Defense Ministry announced al-Awlaki’s death, but gave no details. A senior U.S. official said American intelligence supports the claim that he had been killed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

Yemeni security officials and local tribal leaders said the was killed in an airstrike on his convoy that they believed was carried out by the Americans. They said pilotless drones had been seen over the area in previous days.

And we didn’t just get Awlaki; this same strike also took out another traitorous dirtbag, Samir Khan, the editor of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) online magazine, “Inspire.” Khan also had regularly threatened the lives Dr. Rusty Shackleford and  his family. Shackleford is the main Jawa at The Jawa Report, an important counter-jihad blog that’s done invaluable work against Al Qaeda’s online presence,  so this news is doubly sweet.  Replacing these two won’t be easy for Al Qaeda; as men born in America, they had a unique ability to communicate jihadist thinking to radicalized Muslims in the West who might not speak Arabic well enough to understand the garbage spewed by the likes of Zawahiri and bin Laden.

Naturally, this set off caterwauling among Leftists and hardcore libertarians (and jihadist sympathizers) about the targeted killing of American citizens, denying them due process in a court of law. I can understand the argument and I have a reasoned, thoughtful reply:

Boo-freaking-hoo! Cry me a river!

Forget the whining from CAIR, they’re nothing but tools of the Muslim Brotherhood. But leftists like the ACLU and Ron Paul-worshipping libertarians need to pull their heads out of their collective rears and realize one thing: this is war, not a police matter. Traitors like Awlaki, Khan, and al Qaeda mouthpiece Adam Gadahn chose to side with those who make war on their (former) country. Awlaki in particular was described as having operational control over AQAP’s foreign strikes. He was involved in the attempted bombing of a Northwest flight over Detroit; he was at least the spiritual mentor to Major Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter; and he may have had an operational role in 9-11, itself. And who knows what else he was planning?

To quote what I’ve been told is the First Rule of Texas Common Law:

“He needed killing.”

And so did Samir Khan, and so does Gadahn, and so does everyone who takes up arms for Al Qaeda. I’m very much a Jacksonian about this: they are traitors and they are trying to destroy my country. They want to kill my people. They need killing.

Again: this is war, not a police matter.

If traitors who join the jihad against us want to surrender, fine: we’ll give them a fair trial, hopefully followed by a hanging. But, if we spot them going about their merry jihadi way, then…

“Gentlemen, you may fire when ready.”

And, to the group that tracked Anwar al-Awlaki and took him and Khan out, good work!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Bombing plot foiled? – Updated. New: explosives found

October 29, 2010

(Scroll down for updates.)

They’re still trying to kill us:

Authorities were investigating “potentially suspicious items” on Friday on cargo planes that landed at airports in Newark, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, the Transportation Security Administration said.

“Out of an abundance of caution the planes were moved to a remote location where they are being met by law enforcement officials and swept,” the TSA said in a statement.

They’re also checking a UPS truck in New York, on which they may have found a bomb.

This may be partly why the terrorist chatter has picked up over the last few weeks.

Updates as they become available.

LINKS: More at Hot Air.

UPDATE: More from CNN -

Airports in some of the United States were on high alert Friday after investigators found a suspicious package on a plane in the United Kingdom the night before, a law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said.

The suspicious package, which contained a “manipulated” toner cartridge, tested negative for explosive material, the source said, but it led to heightened inspection of arriving cargo flights in Newark, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a UPS truck in New York.

Police also were investigating a suspicious package at the distribution center of an airport in East Midlands, in the United Kingdom, an airport spokesman said. Authorities said they could not immediately connect that investigation to the ones unfolding in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Authorities seemed most focused on inspecting cargo planes.

Investigators were examining two UPS planes that landed at Philadelphia International Airport and another at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, said Mike Mongeot, a UPS spokesman.

Authorities are focusing on flights coming from Yemen into the United States, according to the source.

Note: Anwar al-Awlaki, an American imam who has called for jihad attacks against the US, is hiding in Yemen.

UPDATE 2:  Explosives were found in Dubai on a plane headed for the US:

A suspicious device discovered in an air cargo shipment in Dubai that was headed for the U.S. contained explosive materials, an official UAE security source said Friday.

It was the first confirmation that any of the suspicious packages reported Friday contained explosives.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said late Friday the “explosive device” was found in the last 24 hours in a courier company’s regional hub and originated in a shipment from Yemen.

This looks like a carefully thought-out plan to use several “delivery paths,” some true and some false, in the hope that one or more gets through. Let’s hope we’ve found them all.

UPDATE 3: Synagogues may have been the target. Allahpundit wonders if al Qaeda has switched to mail bombs because getting a person into the US has become too difficult. I doubt it. More like they’re trying every avenue of attack, figuring one will work.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Marital rape against Islamic law

April 17, 2010

Having written time and again about how Islam represses and justifies violence against women, it’s nice to be able to cite a scholar of Islam who says “No, it doesn’t, and knock it off:”

There is no law in Yemeni legislation that defines a minimum age for marriage. However, there are Islamic legislations that prevent men from forcing their wives into intercourse.

Renowned religious scholar Mohammed Hassan said that the Islamic Jurisprudence prohibits forced intercourse between the husband and wife.

“If a woman is forced to bed by her husband, she should know that he is committing a sin and should be punished according the jurisprudence. She should not think that Islam discriminates against women, it is the sole act of this man,” he said.

He emphasized that, in Islam, marriage is a relationship based on kindness and empathy as read in the Roman’s Chapter in the Quran verse 21: “And among His signs is that He created spouses for you from yourselves for you to gain rest from them, and kept love and mercy between yourselves; indeed in this are signs for the people who ponder.”

Sadly, Mr. Hassan’s opinions are in a distinct minority. One can only hope that this someday changes.

(via The Jawa Report)


Ft. Hood shooter’s imam on assassination list

April 11, 2010

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, the “spiritual adviser” of the Ft. Hood jihadi and a suspected facilitator of the 9-11 hijackers, has the first American citizen to be targeted for assassination by the CIA:

A Muslim cleric tied to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner has become the first U.S. citizen added to a list of suspected terrorists the CIA is authorized to kill, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

Anwar al-Aulaqi, who resides in Yemen, was previously placed on a target list maintained by the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command and has survived at least one strike carried out by Yemeni forces with U.S. assistance against a gathering of suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

Because he is a U.S. citizen, adding Aulaqi to the CIA list required special approval from the White House, officials said. The move means that Aulaqi would be considered a legitimate target not only for a military strike carried out by U.S. and Yemeni forces, but also for lethal CIA operations.

“He’s in everybody’s sights,” said the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the topic’s sensitivity.

Good. Awlaki may have US citizenship, but he’s sided with America’s enemies and provided aid and comfort to them. He’s a traitor who’s made his choice, so he can pay the price.

And while I’ve been heavy in my criticism of President Obama, he earns praise for this. Guys like al-Awlaki deserve to be treated as enemies in wartime, not as suspected criminals to be investigated and brought to trial. He should take the opportunity this presents to rectify his mistake in approving civilian trials for Khaild Sheikh Muhammad and other al-Qaeda plotters and instead return them to the military justice system, where captured enemies belong.

LINKS: More at Hot Air.


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