(ADDED NOTE: I now see the big problem with this post -- it's a long piece and the original research comes at the end. That bit of original research is, I think, important stuff. So if you're pressed for time, scroll down to the words "The ICTS mystery." You'll see that phrase in boldface mid-way through point ten. Can't miss it.)
Let's start the New Year paranoid.
I've tried to avoid writing about the Nigerian wanna-be terrorist Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab (known to his family as Farouk), the 23 year-old Islamic lonelyheart
whose abortive effort to blow up Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day ended with an intact jet and a charred genital region. The lesson: If you sew PETN into your underwear, you may put a damper on your sex life. Not that the virginal Farouk had
Correspondents seem to expect me to come up with a radical new conspiracy theory to explain this incident. Alas, I don't have such a theory. The best I can offer is a summary of some of the unconventional claims which have popped up in various news and blog articles. If you are the kind of nitwit who presumes that mentioning
an odd claim automatically equals acceptance and approval
of such a claim, please dive head-first into a vat of fire ants.Oddity 1: Did Farouk have a passport?
The initial reports said that he did not
. We heard that he had boarded the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight by impersonating a refugee from Sudan.
Later, we were told that he did
have a passport: See here
for a picture of the thing. But if he did have a passport, the following report becomes doubly inexplicable...Oddity 2: Who was that well-dressed accomplice?
Kurt and Lori Haskell, of Newport MI, were on the flight. At the boarding gate in Amsterdam, they saw Farouk arrive in the company of an as-yet unidentified man.
While Mutallab was poorly dressed, his friend was dressed in an expensive suit, Haskell said. He says the suited man asked ticket agents whether Mutallab could board without a passport. “The guy said, 'He's from Sudan and we do this all the time.'”
Mutallab is Nigerian. Haskell believes the man may have been trying to garner sympathy for Mutallab's lack of documents by portraying him as a Sudanese refugee.
The ticket agent referred Mutallab and his companion to her manager down the hall, and Haskell didn't see Mutallab again until after he allegedly tried to detonate an explosive on the plane.
The "he-had-a-passport-all-along" reports did not come out until after
the Haskell account hit the headlines. The sighting of an accomplice was thus effectively discredited. As CBS
But the Dutch counter-terrorism unit's investigation into Abdulmutallab's passport pokes holes in the theory that the alleged bomber had help evading security.
Note that CBS suddenly places us in the realm of "theory," as opposed to eyewitness testimony.
Note as well that the Washington Times (linked above) saw fit to mention the "impersonating-a-Sudanese" story without mentioning Haskell's "accomplice" story -- even though the Haskells, as far as I can see, were the original source for the "Sudanese" bit.
they?Oddity 3: Security videos.
Kurt Haskell has asked the FBI about any security videos which would confirm his story, but the FBI has refused to answer
. These days, it would be silly to believe that Farouk was not
photographed at the airport.
Oddity 4: Were there Aftrican helpers? This story
from an African news journal contains a noteworthy paragraph:
Upon arrival in Lagos, he changed that ticket and boarded a flight to Detroit via Amsterdam. Although Nigerian authorities claimed he "sneaked into Nigeria” on Christmas Eve to board the KLM flight to Amsterdam, Saharareporter sources said Farouk had been around Lagos before and after he went to Ghana, for some reason, to purchase the ticket that he later changed in Lagos. It would appear that Nigerian security officials are covering up privileged people that may have provided material support to Umar as he prepared to depart for the US, although it is conceivable they may have helped him without knowing his mission.
"Privileged people"? As Jerry Seinfeld used to say: "Who are
Incidentally, this same report also mentions that Farouk may have a sister in New York, that he was in Lagos for his father's retirement party (even though other reports say that he was estranged from his family), and that the formerly loquacious paterfamilias has now ordered all family members not to talk to the media.
Oddity 5: What does it take to get on the "no fly" list?
Farouk's father, a very prominent banker in Nigeria, became concerned about his son's religious extremism and warned the American embassy
. It seems odd for a father to rat out his son. And why did Farouk attend Dad's retirement party if Dad was ratting him out?
Farouk spent time in Yemen
, where he seems to have associated with Al Qaeda militants. The CIA
apparently knew that someone called "the Nigerian" was in contact with Al Qaeda in that country. In May, Farouk was blocked
from re-entry into Britain.
Let's repeat that: He was blocked from re-entry into Britain
Farouk appeared on the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, which is compiled by the good folks at the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center. That database contains about half-a-million names.
Yet he was not placed on the "no fly" list.
So who has
appeared on the list? ACLU attorney David Fathi, David Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet
fame, Army colonel and Democratic political candidate Robert J. Johnson, congressman John Lewis (also a Democrat), Nelson Mandela and Ted Kennedy. In 2007, Princeton professor Walter F. Murphy could not board an airliner; he was told that he was placed on the list because he had given speeches critical of George W. Bush.
I guess Farouk just didn't have what it takes.Oddity 6: Is there an Al Qaeda connection?
The CIA says that Farouk was "the Nigerian" who communicated with Al Qaeda in Yemen. He has confessed
to training with an Al Qaeda bomb-maker. Yet the Obama administration downplays all talk of a conspiracy. Moreover
A Yemini-based Al Qaeda group has claimed responsibility for the attack, praising Abudulmutallab's attempt to blow up Flight 253 with about 3 ounces of the powerful explosive PETN stashed inside a pair of specially-made underwear, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian.
Responding to this report, the CIA dropped a rather interesting piece of information:
"We learned of him in November, when his father came to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and sought help in finding him. We did not have his name before then," said Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman.
The father's warning was taken with sufficient seriousness to be passed along to the CIA. And the CIA already knew of a person called "the Nigerian" who was palling around with Al Qaeda types in Yemen. So the question is: Did the the CIA connect Farouk to "the Nigerian" in November? The careful wording of Gimigliano's statement leaves the possibility wide open.
For what it is worth, Chris Wallace of Fox News says that the CIA had been tracking Farouk
since August. Yet he didn't make the "no fly" list.
In an "official" statement, an Al Qaeda group claimed responsibility for the attack, which was carried out (supposedly) in retaliation for bombing raids on an Al Qaeda base in Yemen. As "Casual Observer" at FDL notes
, those bombing raids took place on December 17 and 24. However:
Harold Demuren, the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, says Abdulmutallab’s ticket came from a KLM office in Accra, Ghana. Demuren said Monday that Abdulmutallab bought the $2,831 round-trip ticket from Lagos, Nigeria, to Detroit via Amsterdam on Dec. 16.
The chronology doesn't work.Oddity 7: Instant mythology.
In right-wingerland, a bogus story
is making the rounds. According to this yarn, Farouk had two Al Qaeda helpers identified as Gitmo detainees released into the custody of Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation.
You read that right. They were sent to Saudi Arabia to attend a Jihad rehabilitation center where they were given paint and crayons. Isn’t that nice!
And the propaganda just never stops...Oddity 8: Is there a tape?
Previously, we mentioned the airport security videos which may or may not support the Haskell narrative. But we also have persuasive accounts of an amateur videotape
taken within the aircraft itself during the incident. This report comes from passenger Patricia Keepman, who sat roughly 20 rows behind Farouk:
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."
flight? Who does
See also here
In the midst of passengers trying to subdue Abdulmutallab and flight attendants working to put out the fire, Taylor says he looked behind him and saw a man filming the situation about two to five rows back.
"I looked behind me as the flight attendant ran through, and I looked and there was a guy with a camera," Taylor says.
Taylor says he notified the FBI of what he saw, in hopes of helping them to obtain footage of the foiled attack.
"There’s definitely footage from the time it was mission critical, to the time they hauled (Abdulmutallab) to the front," Taylor says. "I told them 100 percent there was a guy filming."
Taylor and Keepman place the videographer in the same location. Their accounts are congruent and convincing.
So why haven't we seen the tape? Why haven't we heard from the person who did the filming?
A Dutch film-maker named Jasper Schuringa was on the flight, but he did no filming. In fact, he helped to subdue the crotch-bomber.
Oddity 9: Travel arrangements.
Farouk came from a well-off family, but he had been estranged from his father for some time -- or so says the father. So where did he get the cash for his travels? If his family had shut off the spigot, who provided his egg-and-cheese money? We can trace him going back and forth to the UK, Ghana, Yemen, Amsterdam and the U.S. He paid for the final journey in cash
-- which should have been a tip-off.
Oddly enough, he bought a round-trip ticket
-- an odd choice for a man who planned to blow up his flight.
The flight went from Lagos, Nigeria to Amsterdam. Why did he purchase the ticket in Ghana?
No-one has attempted to answer an obvious question: Where did he put on the PETN-laden underwear -- Ghana or Lagos or Amsterdam? If Amsterdam, who was his contact? (I very much doubt that PETN is as easy to obtain as pot is in Amsterdam.)
Oddity 10: The inevitable Israeli connection.
Well, you knew that a link of some sort had to crop up sooner or later. We can't have a conspiracy theory round-up without mentioning the Israeli security services.
Our reader b, in a comment appended to a previous post, found grounds for suspicion in the fact that Farouk boarded the jet -- with help from a well-attired Indian, or so we're told -- at Schiphol airport.
Guess whose main European HQ is based there!
I typed that before I confirmed who runs security there. Not that that's a surprise.
The reference goes to the Israelis. A Google query on "Schiphol Mossad" will turn up a number of interesting stories.
Before proceeding, perhaps we should review an interesting blast from the past
, which reveals a little-known aspect of the 2001 "shoe bomber" incident. The following example of a "controlled" security breach may be relevant to the more recent Christmas attack:
Six months prior to Reid's near shoe bombing of American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami in December 2001, while memories of 9/11 were still fresh in everyone's mind, Reid attempted to board an El Al flight from Schiphol to Tel Aviv. Reid was taken aside by El Al security and identified as a terrorist suspect. Reid paid for a one-way ticket with cash and would not reveal what he planned to do in Israel. However, rather than turning Reid into Dutch security for further action, he was allowed to board the El Al flight by Israel's Shin Bet security so his movements during his five days in Israel could be monitored. Six months later, Reid attempted to ignite his shoe on the flight from Paris to Miami. Israel had not informed British, American, or any other security agency of the concerns about Reid. Reid's aunt, Claudette Lewis who raised Reid in south London, was quoted as saying she believed her nephew had been "brainwashed."
Reid later said El Al failed to detect that he had explosives in his shoes on the flight to Tel Aviv, an amazing revelation considering the Israeli airline's tight security.
You may also want to read about the strange history of El Al flight 1862
, which crashed in 1992 after taking off from Schipol.
The ICTS mystery
When Reid went on his next fateful trip -- the one where he tried to light his shoe -- he passed through a check from an Israeli-owned security service called ICTS
. ICTS employs a large number of Shin Bet veterans and has strong links to Mossad.
All of which brings us back to Farouk and the Christmas event.
Most of the conspiracy-oriented websites are now claiming that ICTS ran security at Schiphol -- for example, see here
. ICTS has offered this strong denial
Following the terrorist attack on DL/NW Flight 253 on 25 December 2009 , there have been incorrect reports linking ICTS Europe to the event.
We would like to make it clear that ICTS Europe Holdings B.V. is not connected in any way to the mentioned events. ICTS Europe does not provide any security services, nor any other services, whether directly or indirectly, at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and is not connected in any way to any of the companies that provide security services at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
The ICTS disclaimer offers a startling contrast to this PR announcement from January 14:
ICTS International N.V. (Nasdaq: ICTS) announced today that it has formed a partnership arrangement with ICTS Europe Holdings BV, an unaffiliated party, to provide security services at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in The Netherlands. The partnership named ICTS Netherlands Airport Services has been awarded two contracts having an aggregate value of $15,000,000 Euros a year or annually. The contracts are for three years and relate to two sections of the airport to provide security, employees, guards and control in the airport, establishing a central check point and security arrangements for airport employees and other related services.
And then we have this announcement
(pdf) from 2008:
CTSN Netherlands, ICTS Europe subsidiary in The Netherlands, was awarded a new contract with OpenSkies airline, British Airways’ premium carrier subsidiary, to provide High risk security operation services supported by technology at Schiphol Airport.
Hm. Looks to me like we've caught ICTS in a clear fabrication. Their denial of involvement with Schiphol should be rated C for chutzpah
Apparently, ICTS is attempting to rely on an old dodge: It was not ICTS but a subsidiary
firm which did business at Schiphol. On the same company website where ICTS claimed to have nothing to do with Schipol, we read this
Folkstoneweg 42, Columbus Building
1118 LM Schiphol Airport
Tel: +31 20 20 65 650
Fax: +31 20 20 65 659
Location: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
For further confirmation, see the announcement here
Incidentally, ICTS (through another subsidiary, named Huntleigh) also runs the security at Detroit airport.
And who runs security at the airport at Lagos International Airport, a.k.a. Murtala Muhammed International Airport, a.k.a. LOS? This is where Farouk flew out to Schiphol -- presumably wearing, even then, his PETN briefs. (Oddly, this airport was modeled after Schiphol
.) Farouk went through two checks; KLM (the carrier) provided the second check, but I don't know who conducted the first one. Still another ICTS subsidiary -- MUSC -- provides maritime security services for the Nigerian government. Nigeria restored relations with Israel in 1992, after a 19 year break; some accounts hold that the two governments are now quite close.
* * *
I am not attempting to provide a simple one-size-fits-all conspiracy theory to explain all of these anomalies. Let me repeat: I do not have such a theory
. Undoubtedly, many of these oddities will soon be explained.
Still, at present, we have some reasonable questions that demand answers. In particular, I'd like to know why ICTS lied.
If the Israeli-run security firm had not denied the undeniable, the stories about that company would have stayed mired within the murky realms of the conspiracy blogs.