Did DHS hang ABC’s Brian Ross out to dry?

September 1, 2010

Following up on this story, Annie Jacobsen wonders just what is going on with the tale of the two perhaps-terrorists arrested in Amsterdam, and why ABC’s Brian Ross was made to look like a fool:

Sometime on Monday afternoon, a “law enforcement official” (which is now how DHS asks press to refer to them) gave ABC’s Brain Ross a breaking news story with an attention-grabbing quote. The two men taken off the Chicago-to-Amsterdam United Airlines flight had been charged by Dutch police with “preparation of a terrorist attack.”

As far as the DHS national security machine is concerned, it doesn’t get any more serious than that. And that quote is certainly not something a veteran newsman like Brain Ross is going to get wrong.

FBI agents were sent to Detroit to search al Soofi’s apartment. One neighbor told reporters that the front door of an apartment al Soofi once lived in appeared to have been kicked down.

All throughout the following morning, DHS and TSA officials at headquarters refused to answer questions on the record. I spoke to three TSA agents and two DHS agents, none of whom would provide me with any on-record information other than a previously released official statement describing the investigation as “ongoing.”

Suddenly, around 11:00 a.m. PST, the Department of Homeland Security provided a New York Times reporter with utterly contradictory news.

This reporter then was interviewed on National Public Radio, providing the world with an exclusive, totally different version of events. ABC’s Brian Ross had rushed to judgment, the Times reporter said, explaining that news is a competitive business and insinuating that the desire to make money had gotten in the way of good judgment (nevermind what the unnamed DHS official originally said). According to the Times, what had happened was a just a mistake, a mix-up, a confusion of sorts. It was United Airlines who had changed the mens’ itineraries in the first place — after they missed their flight to Yemen via Washington, D.C. It was United Airlines who instead re-booked the two men to Amsterdam. It was all one big misunderstanding.

Wait a minute.

The Times reporter appears to have forgotten to ask his unnamed law enforcement official, aka DHS, the most important question of all: is that really how it works over at the Department of Homeland Security these days? They make good old-fashioned mistakes, and then hang ABC’s Brian Ross out to dry?

Jacobsen then goes on to list several reasons why DHS’ story is either implausible, or it reveals gross incompetence. To name one, are we really to believe that, if the second story is correct and United caused the mix up itself, that DHS didn’t think to contact United first to find out if there was a real problem, before issuing an intercontinental alert? It’s not as if baggage errors are something new. Does the FBI always kick down doors in lost-luggage cases? (Mind you, I’ve sometimes felt like doing that myself while stuck in a baggage-claim area…)

Regardless, a good reporter was left with substantial egg on his face by a DHS pushing two different stories, and it makes one wonder even more just what was going on with the two travelers and their suspicious luggage.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


They’re still trying to kill us

August 30, 2010

I’m not sure what to make of this story, other than TSA is a bunch of boobs:

Two men taken off a Chicago-to-Amsterdam United Airlines flight in the Netherlands have been charged by Dutch police with “preparation of a terrorist attack,” U.S. law enforcement officials tell ABC News.

U.S. officials said the two appeared to be travelling with what were termed “mock bombs” in their luggage. “This was almost certainly a dry run, a test,” said one senior law enforcement official.

A spokesman for the Dutch public prosecutor, Ernst Koelman, confirmed the two men were arrested this morning and said “the investigation is ongoing.” He said the arrests were made “at the request of American authorities.”

The two were allowed to board the flight at O’Hare airport last night despite security concerns surrounding one of them, the officials said.

The men were identified as Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi, of Detroit, MI, and Hezem al Murisi, the officials said. A neighbor of al Soofi told ABC News he is from Yemen.

Airport security screeners in Birmingham, Alabama first stopped al Soofi and referred him to additional screening because of what officials said was his “bulky clothing.”

In addition, officials said, al Soofi was found to be carrying $7,000 in cash and a check of his luggage found a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives. Officials said there was no indication of explosives and he and his luggage were cleared for the flight from Birmingham to Chicago O’Hare.

So, what did they need to actually stop him? An autographed photo of Osama bin Laden and travel brochures for Waziristan?

This sure sounds like another terrorist dry run, which happens more often than most people think. And it’s a healthy reminder that there is still an enemy out there seeking to get to Paradise over our corpses. But, what were they doing sending the suspicious goods one direction, while taking themselves to Amsterdam? Was the whole point to see what they could get on board, and Amsterdam was their route back to whomever they report to?  If so, part one succeeded gloriously, and TSA again makes us ask “Why on Earth are we paying you guys?”

I’ve long argued that we make a mistake by concentrating on the tools and not the people, but this Keystone Cop episode make me wonder if profiling* would do any good, given the boneheads we apparently have “guarding” our security.

*(Oooh! I used the “p-word.” That must mean I’m a racist Islamophobic hater… or something. I shall have myself reported for sensitivity training, immediately.)

LINKS: More from Hot Air.

UPDATE 8/31/2010: Dry run unlikely? Perhaps, though the bundled items still make me very suspicious, and saying the pair was allowed to continue to Amsterdam for “investigative purposes” sounds like after-the-fact CYA.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)