Sunday, December 27, 2009
Terrorist Attack Thwarted
Interview on Fox News
December 26, 2009
DAVE BRIGGS: Welcome back to Fox and Friends on this day after Christmas. This morning we are learning new information on the suspected terrorist who allegedly tried to light an explosive device on a commercial airliner. The 23 year old Nigerian native claims he had ties to Al Qaeda but does this plot resemble Al Qaeda's other attacks? ALISYN CAMEROTA: Let's bring in Terror Analyst and author of the book "Jihad Incorporated," Steven Emerson. Nice to see you, I guess we just have to realize we still have to worry about terrorism. This is just a reminder. Do you agree?
STEVEN EMERSON: I agree 100% and the question about whether this is Al Qaeda's M.O., modus operandi, is a good one. Al Qaeda is a very adaptive organization. It's constantly testing the perimeters of U.S. security. So they're always trying to figure out new ways to basically neutralize U.S. security measures and obviously as they did with Richard Reed eight years ago, they've figured out a new way of smuggling explosives onto an airline now that could have had a catastrophic effect had the bomb actually gone off.
CLAYTON MORRIS: Ok, there are a couple of major questions that stand out to us this morning. Number one, it appears he was in a federal database here in the United States. Ok.
MORRIS: If that's the case, why then wasn't there a coordinated effect amongst security teams from around the world looking at these alleged terrorists? How did this guy slip through the cracks?
EMERSON: Well, he was in what is called the TIDES database, T-I-D-E-S database, and that's an initial database of people that have intelligence coming in on them that's not corroborated, that they're connected to terrorists. So, he wasn't watchlisted and remember there have been so many complaints about quote, profiling by quote Islamic Civil Rights groups that they stopped basically profiling and that basically lead to not putting this guy onto the terrorist watchlist. There would have been too much of an outcry. Number two, he was put on in the last month, so that means U.S. intelligence-look at the flip side-U.S. intelligence is pretty good in terms of getting the information that's very current. I mean to get someone who is affiliated of Al Qaeda within a month of his affiliation is pretty good for an intelligence agency.
BRIGGS: Steven, this flight was from Amsterdam to Detroit but it appears that this 23 year old boarded in Nigeria. What are the problems that emerge when you are talking about flights originating out of countries such as Nigeria? From what we understand the security is lax to say the least.
EMERSON: Actually, you're 100% right. It's lax in Nigeria and the FAA has actually listed the Nigerian airport as an airport that has lacked security measures. You know that's a real problem. In fact we are going to discover that is the weak loophole in terms of international security for U.S. airlines around the world is countries that have weak enforcement systems like Nigeria, where this man boarded obviously and was able to smuggle on and infiltrate or neutralize the security system. Whatever they had in place there. So that's a real problem. They may have to actually sever direct ties with those airports if they don't clean up their act.
CAMEROTA: What do you see the TSA doing to address this incident to deal with it?
EMERSON: Look, remember that after Richard Reed boarded the aircraft with explosives in his shoe, they instituted new measures to basically mandate taking off your shoes and inspecting the heels of the shoes in case they were hollowed out to carry explosives. And they also stop you after three years ago, after the plot in London to smuggle explosives through liquid explosives onto airlines, so I think we are going to see now new efforts to monitor bringing on powders that can be mixed and combined into incendiary mixes.
MORRIS: So, Steven, does that mean-I hate to be so graphic, but I mean this thing was strapped to his leg. Does this mean we're going to have to take off our pants or have to hike up our pant leg now from now on and have people checking that?
EMERSON: Well, I think they are going to have to ratchet up the actual surveillance aspect of the detection systems so they can actually see what type of plastics or any other types of devices are wrapped around our limbs. You can ratchet up the security of the detection equipment, then you see everything and then it becomes too intrusive. They're going to have to find the right balance.
MORRIS: Steven Emerson, the book is called "Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the United States." Thanks for coming on this morning and sharing your thoughts. We appreciate it, Steven.
EMERSON: You got it. Thank you.
Alleged Terrorist Attack on Passenger Jet
by Steven Emerson
Interview on MSNBC
December 26, 2009
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ALEX WITT: Several new developments this morning after a man apparently tried to set off a device to blow up a U.S. passenger jet. Authorities say the Nigerian man attempted to ignite a mixture of powder and liquid about twenty minutes before the Delta northwest flight landed in Detroit. Witnesses aboard that plane say at least one passenger jumped on the man after others smelled smoke and heard what sounded like firecrackers. The suspect is taken into custody is being treated now in a hospital for burns to his thighs. Officials say he claims to be an agent for Al Qaeda. And there are some new developments from London on this investigation and for more on that angle let's go to MNBC's Tom Aspell who's live for us in our London bureau. Tom, a good morning to you. What can you tell us?
TOM ASPELL: Good morning, Alex. Well, the suspect is 23 year old Abdul Farouk Abdulmutalib. Now, he was registered as an engineering student at London University College from 2005 to 2008. His family had an apartment in Central London where today police have been searching for evidence. His father is reported to have been a successful banker. Now Abdulmutalib may have obtained a visa to the United States in order to attend a religious conference. As a student it would have been easy for him to avoid comprehensive checks from immigration authorities. He was not on the No-Fly List. British police are conducting inquires and searching to see if Abdulmutalib had friends or acquaintances here in London. There is a concern that the British capital may be a hub for homegrown or dormant terror groups. Also of concern is how he might have managed to get explosive materials past scanners in Amsterdam airport. Alex.
WITT: Alright, Tom Aspell, thank you very much for that update. We appreciate that and joining me now live for more on all of this is Terrorism Expert Steve Emerson. Steve, a good morning. Alright, we're having a little bit of issue with your audio there. Can you hear me Steve?
STEVEN EMERSON: Yeah, I can hear you fine.
WITT: Ok, good. We gotcha you now. Great. The White House calling this incident an attempted act of terrorism. No doubt that's the case now, right? I mean, do you think this is isolated, do you think this is group? How are you reading this?
EMERSON: Good question. Whether its organized Al Qaeda or whether its somebody who affiliated themselves with Al Qaeda, but it looks like its somebody who was recruited specifically to target the United States. Al Qaeda as you know, is a very adaptive organization. They're constantly testing the perimeters of U.S. security, Alex, and here they figured out a way to penetrate U.S. security and compromise our security standards by smuggling on explosives without any detection. That's going to change the way we monitor people going on airplanes from now on, I can assure you that this is going to require extensive surveillance much more than before.
WITT: In what regard, Steve, in the who gets on, I mean in terms of who the passengers are, this guy was not on a No-Fly list though on a list that reported him to be hooked up with terrorism officials.
EMERSON: Right he was on the TIDES list which is a database of people who are suspected of being connected to terrorist groups but not corroborated though and the U.S. just got this intelligence in the last month so the U.S. was in the process of trying to corroborate his ties and affliction to Al Qaeda. Now the question is, was he a full fledged member? Was he recruited? Where were the compromises in security, at the Nigerian airport? What about the airport in the Netherlands? What about the security in the United States here? I mean, are we going to have to change our procedures like we did after Richard Reed, the shoe bomber, who as you know, requires people to take off their shoes, slows up passengers going through metal detectors by as much as 50%. Now this is going to require even more patience at the airport lines.
WITT: Hey Steve, what would it have required for this guy to not be acting alone? Is this the kind of thing you think an individual could have pulled off?
EMERSON: No. This looks like to me, this is speculation, Alex, looks like he was recruited because he could meld-he had obviously a British passport, it seems as well as a Nigerian passport. He could get on in Nigeria which has very lax security. It has been cited by the FAA in the past for violating FAA standards. So he could get on, not be detected. Looks like he was a student-didn't have the technology himself. He obviously bumbled or fumbled the combustible mixtures. It looks like somebody else put him up to this and the question is, was it a group or was it just an individual?
WITT: Now what about the student part of this? Does a student visa kind of thing-does that make them more easily to get through the cracks? I mean as "I'm just a student." Weren't the Glasgow bombers, a couple of those guys were on student visas as well, right?
EMERSON: Right. Not the Glasgow bombers; one of the Glasgow bombers was a medical student. But there were students who were caught up in the other plot in 2006 to use liquids out of London in trying to blow up airplanes in London. Certainly a student visa would give him more accessibility to the United States and if in fact he was traveling on a student visa, and I do not have that information, and again that would have provided more of a compromise in terms of U.S. security.
WITT: How sophisticated a device was this? I mean we had a powdery substance put together with a liquid substance that would ignite. Is that commonplace?
EMERSON: No. Obviously not because he could get this onto the airplane without any detection. Number two, it caused second and third degree burns-pretty serious. There was a fire that was actually was ignited that was put out by fire extinguishers. So he came pretty close to actually detonating an explosive device-probably improvised explosive device that almost detonated upon landing at Detroit airport, so I would tell you that this is not something U.S. has any knowledge of ahead of time because they would have put security concerns in place to detect it and they obviously did not know about this. This is going to require a major revolutionary change now in airport screening same as it changed after 9/11 as well the Richard Reed shoe bombing.
WITT: You know, Steve, do you think this is the first time someone has tried to pull off something like this or do you think there are others who have gone before?
EMERSON: I think that they've done reconnaissance, I mean, if we know anything about Al Qaeda, one is that they are constantly adapting and testing U.S. security. Two, they do reconnaissance missions and surveillance ahead of time. They do fly bys to see if they can smuggle such explosives on board and I think here, its clear to me that somebody else must have gone on forward ahead of time and smuggled and test U.S. security and realized they could get away with putting liquid into a syringe as well as smuggling on powder, explosive powder.
WITT: Ok, Steve, that shows that they are very determined and yet they keep failing. Why?
EMERSON: Well that's a good question. There's luck and there's also U.S. intelligence here. U.S. intelligence had no role to play. It was just bad luck on his part, good luck on our part that it didn't detonate. In the same way the Richard Reed shoe bombing in 2001 didn't detonate. That's pretty close. This guy came pretty close to detonating the explosive. In fact, it was detonated. The only question is why didn't it go off in a much more major explosive way that would have caused a rupture of the fuselage. It would have caused the airplane to come tumbling down from the sky, Alex. No one knows at this point because they are still examining the device. Quantico, FBI has the device right now and forensic investigators are examining the explosive, the residue, the signature detail of the bomb itself and to determine how he got it onto a plane and what they can do to deter such events in the future.
WITT: Steve, if people are flying today should they be concerned?
EMERSON: Well they are going-I can assure you if they're flying internationally there is going to be a lot more patience required because the U.S. still does not have an answer to stopping this type of threat. It's a new threat. Obviously Al Qaeda figured out a way of undermining U.S. security and now the U.S. is going to have to find a way to reconfigure its protocol. So I think airline passengers are going to have a lot of patience in the next several weeks as the U.S. digests this.
WITT: Alright, Steve Emerson, as always great to talk with you. Thanks so much.
EMERSON: Sure. Thank you.