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US Learned Of Abdulmutallab En Route

From a seemingly reassured Los Angeles Times:

U.S. learned intelligence on airline attack suspect while he was en route

U.S. border enforcement officials discovered alleged extremist links in a database while the suspect was headed to Detroit on Christmas Day, new disclosures show.

By Sebastian Rotella

January 7, 2010

U.S. border security officials learned of the alleged extremist links of the suspect in the Christmas Day jetliner bombing attempt as he was airborne from Amsterdam to Detroit and had decided to question him when he landed, officials disclosed Wednesday.

The new information shows that border enforcement officials discovered the suspected extremist ties involving the Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in a database despite intelligence failures that have been criticized by President Obama.

"The people in Detroit were prepared to look at him in secondary inspection," a senior law enforcement official said. "The decision had been made. The [database] had picked up the State Department concern about this guy — that this guy may have been involved with extremist elements in Yemen."

If the intelligence had been detected sooner, it could have resulted in the interrogation and search of Abdulmutallab at the airport in Amsterdam, according to senior law enforcement officials, all of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

"They could have made the decision on whether to stop him from getting on the plane," the senior law enforcement official said.

But an administration official said late Wednesday that the information would not have resulted in further scrutiny before the suspect departed. Abdulmutallab was in a database containing half a million names of people with suspected extremist links but who are not considered threats. Therefore, border security officials would have sought only to question him upon arrival in the U.S., the administration official said.

Nonetheless, the disclosure shows the complexity of the intelligence and passenger screening systems that are the subject of comprehensive reviews that the administration will release today.

The threshold for requiring a foreign visitor to undergo special scrutiny upon arrival in the U.S. is considerably lower than criteria for stopping a passenger’s departure overseas, according to current and former law enforcement officials. That is why border security agencies rely heavily on terrorism watch lists of suspects seen as urgent threats, officials said.

"The public isn’t aware how many people are allowed to travel through the U.S., who are linked, who intersect with bad guys or alleged bad guys," a national security official said. "It makes sense from an intelligence perspective. If they are not considered dangerous, it provides intelligence on where they go, who they meet with."

Abdulmutallab, after flying in from Nigeria, boarded the nine-hour flight to Detroit at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, one of nine airports around the world where foreign governments permit the presence of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in an advisory capacity

Abdulmutallab told interrogators that he met in Yemen with Anwar al Awlaki, a U.S.-born Yemeni cleric suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, and who is also connected to the accused assailant in the November shootings at the Ft. Hood, Texas, Army base. Communications intercepts detected chatter about Awlaki’s role in a plot involving a Nigerian, U.S. officials have said.

The investigation has also uncovered communications between Abdulmutallab and Awlaki, a senior U.S. anti-terrorism official said Wednesday. The official did not specify whether those communications were via phone or Internet or whether they took place during the period that the Nigerian studied engineering in London, from 2005 to 2008.

"He was definitely in communication with Awlaki," the senior anti-terrorism official said. "That’s been documented."

What a relief.

Border enforcement officials were going to question Mr. Abdulmutallab after the plane landed.

‘The system worked.’

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “US Learned Of Abdulmutallab En Route”

  1. canary says:

    This was my guess on a former post. They were watching him. Figured he’d plan it on American soil, and catch him in act for an iron clad case.

    After the feds got mad at that California Mayor for announcing bridges were at risk, the feds put us at risk planning on catching him attack. Similar thing happened in UK, when they got a photo of some national security papers, blew them up larger and terrorists knew they were on to them. They had to do a quick bust, and when UK security wanted to get them in with the goods in the act. They made that agent resign .
    Makes you feel real safe.

  2. proreason says:

    Oh this story is definitely spun in favor of the fierce terror warriors in Obamatano’s Homeland Good Hands Department.

    They were just minutes from catching the guy you see. It was just a fluke that he was able to set his panties on fire. Another 30 minutes and the iron grip of the terror warriors would have closed around his neck, and he would have be vigously gently interrogated after lawyering up.

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