Should Obama and his advisers decide on retaliation (unlikely), Israeli counter-terror sources report that al Qaeda’s operatives in Yemen are no longer hanging around their bases twelve days after the airliner episode but had packed up and made tracks for fresh hideouts in the northern mountains.
Had the White House National Security Council, US intelligence and counter-terror agencies properly studied al Qaeda’s failed attempt to assassinate Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, deputy interior minister and commander of the Saudi anti-terror campaign in Yemen five months ago, they might have detected pointers to al Qaeda’s latest terror offensive and its methods.
Like the Nigerian bomber Umar Abdulmutallab, the Saudi minister’s would-be assassin, Abdullah Hassan Tali’ al-Asiri, who did not survive the attack, used explosives hidden in his underwear to fool the prince’s bodyguards. He won an audience with the prince by posing as an informant, the same trick used by the Taliban suicide bomber to penetrate a US base and kill 7 CIA agents and a US soldier last month.
This emerging prototype was missed by US intelligence experts.
For the first time, Saturday, Jan. 2, US president Barack Obama belatedly accused al Qaeda of the failed attempt Christmas Day to blow up Delta Flight 253, charging its Yemeni affiliate with arming and directing him to the attack.
Obama, who has called a meeting of US security agency chiefs for Tuesday, Jan. 5, cannot expect serious brainstorming because it would be inhibited by a mindset that refuses to refer to the failed mass-murderer as an illegal or enemy combatant or terrorist but only as a “suspect.” Treated like a common or garden criminal, the Nigerian has been committed to an ordinary lock-up. This has given him the opportunity to hire American lawyers, who right away shut his mouth and advised him not to cooperate in answering questions about his accessories and masters.
With this invaluable intelligence door closed, the US president has turned to measures for enhancing the security of US air travelers and air traffic bound for US ports and demanded the matching-up of the counter-terror watch and no-fly lists. Abdulmutallab appeared on the first but was left off the second as a result of the failure of US intelligence agencies to share incoming data about his record.
Furthermore, since Obama’s Monday, Dec. 23 pledge: “We will not rest until we find all who were involved,“ the days slipping by without a US reaction have given al Qaeda the chance to plot more airliner attacks from a safe location.
Had the attempted assassination on the Saudi prince been properly scrutinized and analyzed, there was much valuable input to be gained from the attempt, betraying as it did Al Qaeda methods which were later replicated in the attempted bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner and, again, in the deadly attack on Dec. 30 against the CIA contingent at Forward Operation Base Chapman, in the remote Afghan Khost province.
The bomber, who has not been identified yet, not only gained entry with explosives in his possession to the well-guarded US base, but detonated the device while the agents were unarmed and working out in the base gym.
How was this accomplished? The bomber had in fact been employed as a CIA informer and was therefore known at the gate and familiar with the routines of Base Chapman. Furthermore, he knew enough to time his attack for the day of the arrival in Kabul of a high-ranking CIA official. There has been no word about this official’s fate.
Friday, Jan. 1, the Pakistan Taliban claimed the attack had been carried out by a “turncoat” working for the CIA who had defected in order to kill senior American intelligence agents in revenge for the US drone attacks which killed their operatives inside the Pakistan border. Matching up lists of would-be terrorists may address bureaucratic glitches but it will not cure the fundamental attitudes pervading US intelligence for twenty years which does not let them get into the minds of al Qaeda plotters enough to second-guess their plans. DEBKA
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