s delivers the other side of the story. He tells us why the Obama administration made such an enormous effort to spy on AP in order to track a leaker.
Previously, it had been established the AP had gotten wind of a plot to bomb an airliner on the anniversary of Bin Laden's death. At the government's request, the news organization kept mum about the story until given the go-ahead to publish.
Now we have the key details. Turns out that this bomb plot was actually a sting operation, of sorts. The target was AQAP -- Al Qaida on the Arab Peninsula, the Yemeni terror group:
One goal was to get AQAP’s operational head, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso. That happened one day before the AP story appeared.
A second goal was to find and possibly kill AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, whose first underwear device almost killed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism chief. Soon after, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab used such a device in a failed Christmas Day bombing attempt as his Northwest Airlines flight was landing in Detroit.
Hitting targets in the United States is one of AQAP’s goals. In association with Saudi intelligence, the CIA inserted a Saudi who convinced AQAP that he wanted to be a suicide bomber. Eventually he was outfitted with Asiri’s newest device, which he was to use on a U.S. aircraft. After the device was delivered to U.S. officials, someone or several people leaked the information to the AP.
White House press secretary Jim Carney had announced that there were no Al Qaida plots to observe the anniversary. AP considered this statement a lie, although technically, there was truth in it.
This was a CIA ruse, not a terrorist-initiated plot.
derides the suggestion that the Saudi double agent could have returned to AQAP and resumed his spying chores. The key words in Pincus' story: "After the device was delivered to U.S. officials..." If the bomb plot was foiled -- if the bomb was safely in US hands -- then how (Marcy asks) could the Saudi spook get back into Al Qaida's good graces?
As I pondered that poser, mulling over all the potential scenarios, a lightbulb flashed overhead.
Pincus, are you thinking what I'm thinking...?
Probably not. And even if the idea that just now occurred to me has also occurred to him, no reporter in his august position would allow himself voice such a novel theory in public. Of course, we bloggers are snarling dogs who snap all tethers. Giving voice to novel theories is what we do
. My little brainstorm can be summed up in a single sentence:
What if "crotch-bomber" Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was also a double agent?
What if his arrest, trial and conviction were all ruses? What if he now has a new life under a new name?
That scenario explains many of the lingering oddities that have always surrounded the underwear bombing incident of Christmas, 2009. We've discussed these mysteries in a series of previous posts: See here
Think back, my friends, to the final days of 2009 and the early days of 2010. Think back to the story that had everyone in the world filled with angst and speculation. Suddenly, we can see everything about that incident in a brand new light...
1. Why did a mystery videographer document the entire flight?
Why didn't this cameraman show his (no doubt quite dramatic) footage to the media? Why didn't the FBI try to track him down? It makes no sense to suggest that the videographer was a fellow terrorist, because if the explosion had gone off as planned, the footage would have been destroyed along with the aircraft.
...maybe the videographer worked for the CIA or a friendly agency. Maybe Captain Video knew that the bomb would never go off.
2. Who was the well-dressed accomplice who helped Mutallab board the flight?
Reliable witnesses Kurt and Lori Haskell said that the accomplice helped the crotch-bomber board the flight without a passport.
...maybe the Well-Dressed Man was one of Mutallab's handlers.
3. Why the multiple stories about passports?
As noted above, Mutallab needed help to board the flight because he did not have a passport; reliable witnesses are very clear on this point. But when writers commented on that oddity, a passport suddenly showed up. We never got a clear explanation as to how a man could both have and not have a passport.
...maybe that passport was a last-minute part of Mutallab's "legend."
4. Why did the Nigerians help Mutallab move in and out of that country?
If I recall correctly, this aspect of the story was reported only in African newspapers.
...maybe the CIA recruited the help of the Nigerian authorities.
5. How did Mutallab escape the "no fly" list?
His father, a prominent Nigerian banker, had warned the American embassy that his son had turned into a radical extremist capable of violence. Fox News was told that the CIA had tracked Mutallab for months beforehand. The UK had barred the young extremist from entering the country.
...maybe the father knew that his son was an Al Qaida infiltrator. Maybe the embassy warning was designed to establish cover. And maybe the no-fly list was massaged to allow a double-agent to board.
6. Why didn't the PETN crotch bomb go off after it was set on fire?
I never could understand why American officials took such a shoulder-shrugging "no worries" attitude toward the actual mechanism allegedly placed inside that young man's goody bag. As you may recall, a parade of experts assured us that such a device was always hopeless and harmless: "PETN? Bah. Nothing to worry about. I eat PETN for breakfast. Hell, I've been known to slather it on toast..."
...maybe there was no bomb. Maybe no PETN was ever aboard that aircraft. Maybe this whole exercise in theater was designed to leave AQAP with the impression that Mutallab had honestly tried, and failed, to carry out a suicide mission.
7. Why did Mutallab have a beatific, tranced-out look on his face after lighting his crotch on fire?
You'd think that even the most fervent jihadi would have some
sort of reaction. No matter how zealous a young fanatic might be, fire and testicles simply don't mix.
...maybe the whole thing was a magic trick, a bit of theater. How difficult would it be to rig up fire-resistant underwear, covered with flammable material?
8. How did Mutallab get the money for his travels?
Although his father is well-off, we have been told that he and dad did not always get along. The father has multiple wives, and young Farouk, as the family called him, was born to one of the less-favored wives. More importantly, Dad had ratted out his own son to the Americans months earlier.
...maybe we should always remember that a mysterious source of funding is the first indicator of spookiness.
9. Why did witnesses placed Mutallab at his father's retirement party in Lagos just a few days before the flight?
The father told journalists that he hadn't seen his son for months.
...maybe father and son had one last get-together before young Mutallab went off on his assignment. Maybe they both knew that the young man would then have a new life under a new identity.
If Mutallab was a penetration agent, he no doubt relayed tons of useful information about a shadowy group hiding in the lawless regions of Yemen. Now that the second undie-bomber has been revealed as an agent, whoever is now running AQAP (presuming that the organization still exists) must be asking the same questions I have asked about Mutallab.
Are you about to tell me that my theory is too far-fetched, too James Bond-y to have any credibility? Re-read what Walter Pincus has to say about the Saudi who got into the good graces of AQAP. That
scenario also reads like something out of a spy novel.
I sent Marcy Wheeler a message directing her attention to this post. My final words: "This is your cue to make me look like an idiot by telling me where my theory goes wrong."
Rising to that challenge, she reminded me that Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab appealed his conviction. Well. That
tidbit certainly calls my theory into question, although perhaps a kind reader can effect a rescue. Oddly enough, Farouk asked none other than Kurt Haskell
to function as his witness.
He said he and his wife were on the flight returning from an African safari. While sitting at the airport, he said he saw Abdulmutallab being escorted through security by a man in a tan suit who spoke perfect English.
The airline gate worker initially refused to let Abdulmutallab to board until the man in the tan suit intervened.
He said passengers were kept on the plane after it landed in Detroit without any concern about the explosives on the plane. He said passengers were taken into the terminal without anyone checking their bags or for possible accomplices.
It soon became obvious that the FBI wasn’t concerned about anything he had to say, including the man in the tan suit.
He said Abdulmutallab was allowed to board the plane without a passport and going through security. He said he’s disappointed that the U.S. government allowed Abdulmutallab to get onto the plane.
“Regardless of how media and government try to shape this case, I am convinced that Umar was given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. agent... to stage a false terrorist attack to be used to implement various government policies. It really saddens me that the government won’t admit its role in the event. Because of this case, I will never trust anything the government says, ever.”
Then, Haskell turned to Abdulmutallab.
“Umar, you are not a Muslim martyr. You are merely a government patsy.”
Intentionally given a defective bomb? Okay. I guess that's possible. But how? And who?
This April, he was transferred (for unknown reasons) to the Supermax facility in Colorado
-- the most secure facility
in the country.
By the way:
Most of the earlier news stories used the spelling "Abdul Mutallab," or just "Mutallab," which I have retained. The more recent stories invariably spell the name "Abdulmutallab." Arabic names are notoriously difficult to render in English. Also, although Haskell called him "Umar," I distinctly recall a news story in an African periodical which said that the family always referred to him as "Farouk."