by Tom Burghardt
January 11, 2010
Tom Burghardt is a researcher
and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In addition to publishing in
Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, his articles can be
read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press,
Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks.
He is the editor of Police
State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning,
distributed by AK Press.
New revelations about the failed
Christmas Day attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253
continue to emerge as does evidence of a systematic cover-up.
With the White House in crisis mode since the attempted bombing, President
Obama met for two hours January 5 with top security and intelligence
Obama said that secret state agencies,
"had sufficient information to uncover the
terror plot... but that intelligence officials had 'failed to connect
The New York Times reports.
The latest iteration of the "dot theory" floated
by the President, aided and abetted by a compliant media, claims,
"this was not a failure to collect
intelligence" but rather, "a failure to integrate and understand the
intelligence that we already had."
"Mr. Obama's stark assessment that the government failed to properly
analyze and integrate intelligence served as a sharp rebuke of the
country's intelligence agencies," declared the Times uncritically.
While the President's remarks may have offered a
"sharp [rhetorical] rebuke," Obama's statement suggests that no one will be
held accountable. Indeed, the President "was standing by his top national
security advisers, including those whose agencies failed to communicate with
While the President may be "standing by" his national security advisers, the
question is, are the denizens of America's secret state standing by him? One
well-connected Washington insider, MSNBC pundit Richard Wolffe, isn't
Wolffe, the author of a flattering portrait of Obama,
Renegade - The Making of a President,
when asked on
MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann January
4 what is the White House "focus here right now?"
Wolffe's startling reply:
"Is this conspiracy or cock up? It seems
that the president is leaning very much towards thinking this was a
systemic failure by individuals who maybe had an alternative agenda."
"I will accept that intelligence by its nature is imperfect" the
President said, "but it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not
fully analyzed or fully leveraged."
The question is why? And more pertinently from a
parapolitical perspective, what "alternative agenda" is playing out here
that would put the lives of nearly 300 air passengers at risk?
British Evidence -
Down the Memory Hole
Antifascist Calling reported last week,
The Sunday Times and
The Observer newspapers disclosed that
MI5 had built a dossier on Abdulmutallab which showed,
"his repeated contacts with MI5 targets who
were subject to phone taps, email intercepts and other forms of
It has since emerged, the
Associated Press reported January 4,
that British authorities began assembling a security file on Abdulmutallab
shortly after his arrival the UK in 2005 when officials claimed he was in
contact with "known radicals."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesperson Simon Lewis said on
"Clearly there was security information
about this individual's activities, and that was information that was
shared with the U.S. authorities. That is the key point."
In a climb-down from Lewis's admission,
The Wall Street Journal reported that Home Secretary Alan Johnson,
whose brief includes MI5, said in an appearance before Parliament Tuesday,
"Whilst we did provide information to the
U.S., according to standard operational practices, linked to the wider
aspect of this case, none of the information we held or shared indicated
that Abdulmutallab was about to attempt a terrorist attack against the
The Brown government has steadfastly refused to
say just when the file on Abdulmutallab was passed to the U.S., letting
stand the implication it was sent before the aborted Christmas Day attack.
The cover story being floated by MI5 now mendaciously claims the agency did
not send Abdulmutallab's security dossier on to American officials,
"because of concerns about breaching his
human rights and privacy,"
The Sunday Times reported January
"MI5 has privately conceded that as early as 2006 its surveillance
operations had picked up 'multiple communications' between the
23-year-old Nigerian student and suspected terrorists in Britain," The
Sunday Times disclosed.
Despite these concessions, we're now to accept
at face value the absurd claim that information on a terrorist suspect
wasn't passed along by British spooks to their closest ally "because of
guidance from [MI5's] legal department."
Trying selling that fairy tale to Republican victims of the secret
state's "human rights and privacy" campaign in Northern Ireland as The
Sunday Herald revealed during their multiyear investigation into
Britain's dirty war!
Under intense pressure by the United States about these disclosures, the
Brown government has gone to great lengths to stress,
"the importance to Britain of close
intelligence cooperation with the United States."
Still reeling however, from U.S. threats to
cut-off intelligence sharing last summer if torture evidence was disclosed
to the public by the British High Court, the government is moving to avoid a
similar controversy over the Abdulmutallab affair.
In late July,
The Guardian revealed that,
"Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state,
personally intervened to suppress evidence of CIA collusion in the
torture of a British resident, the high court heard today."
The Guardian also reported that MI5 chief
Jonathan Evans said in a speech in October that the,
"Security Service had been 'slow to detect
the emerging pattern of US practice in the period after 9/11'."
While the torture files were eventually released
in late October by a High Court order, it is certainly reasonable to ask:
what other "U.S. practice(s)" are being suppressed today by the Brown
The Independent confirms this and
"The Downing Street comments were reported
to have angered the US government, but after talks with the White House,
Mr Brown's spokesman tried to lower the diplomatic temperature. He said
relations remained 'excellent' between the two countries."
As part of a new and improved sanitized
narrative, the Home Office now claims that Abdulmutallab's transformation
into an erstwhile suicide bomber began only after he left Britain.
This, despite revelations by The Sunday Times
last week, that he stoked MI5's interest precisely because of his repeated
contacts with individuals,
"who were subject to phone taps, email
intercepts and other forms of surveillance."
In a further development that can't please the
The Guardian reported January 7, that
Yemen's Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security, Rashad al-Alimi,
told a news conference that "information provided to us is that Umar Farouk
joined al-Qaida in London."
The Wall Street Journal reports that
al-Alimi said Thursday, that Abdulmutallab had,
"no links" to al-Qaeda "when he first came
to Yemen in 2004 and 2005 to study Arabic" and that he "was radicalized
during his time in the U.K., where he had studied between his two stints
in Yemen," charges that "senior British counterterrorism officials"
dismiss, claiming "there was no evidence to back them up."
Why then, would Abdulmutallab's web browsing
habits, cell phone conversations as well as "other forms of surveillance" on
"targets of interest" to British spooks indicate a "lack of evidence"?
It would seem to suggest just the opposite.
Indeed, Abdulmutallab had been in,
"close contact" with "a key suspect in an
Al-Qaeda plot to murder British citizens," according to MP Patrick
Mercer, the chairman of the parliamentary counter-terrorism
Mercer told The Sunday Times January 10,
that the alleged airline bomber "had been in touch" with the suspect,
currently a resident in a high-security British prison awaiting trial,
"while both men were students in London."
Feeling the heat, Lewis has backtracked from his initial statement and now
claims that information revealed Monday was simply a,
"routine exchange of information," and not
specific warnings that "Abdulmutallab posed a terrorist threat."
This beggars belief.
Indeed, the Brown government's
climb-down is clearly intended to "disappear" inconvenient evidence from
the official record, thus suppressing the actual content of MI5's security
dossier on Abdulmutallab, and will only heighten suspicions that a
transatlantic cover-up of the affair is in full-swing.
A Failure to
"Integrate and Understand," or a Thin Tissue of Lies
Making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows last week, John O. Brennan,
President Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, claimed that U.S.
"had snippets of information" about the
suspected bomber but "we didn't have any type of information that really
allowed us to identify Mr. Abdulmutallab."
Washington Post reported January 4 that
Brennan mendaciously claimed,
"We may have had a partial name. We might
have had an indication of a Nigerian. But there was nothing that brought
it all together."
Indeed, the 25-year CIA veteran and former CEO
of The Analysis Corporation, the firm which built and maintained
bloated watchlists for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's
National Counterterrorist Center, went so far as to cheekily proclaim,
"there is no smoking gun piece of
intelligence out there that said he was a terrorist, he was going to
carry out this attack against this aircraft," or that America's
multibillion counterterrorist apparatus only had "bits and pieces of
Let's take a look at those informational
"snippets" and summarize what is quickly emerging as growing evidence of
U.S. foreknowledge of an imminent attack on an American passenger plane:
May: the British government
withdrew its student visa for Abdulmutallab, a graduate of the
prestigious University College London and placed him on a watchlist,
barring his entry into the UK. MI5, and presumably their MI6
military intelligence colleagues in Yemen, compiled a dossier on the
would-be bomber, citing his "political involvement" with "extremist
networks" that have enjoyed on-again, off-again ties with NATO
military intelligence organizations across the decades.
This information, as Brown government
spokesperson Simon Lewis, who let the cat out of the proverbial bag,
was shared with their American counterparts.
August: U.S. intelligence
agencies, including the CIA and NSA, intercepted cell- and satellite
phone traffic which revealed that a Yemeni affiliate of the
Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets, also
known as al-Qaeda, were finalizing preparations for an operation
that would utilize a "Nigerian."
Newsweek revealed in their
January 11 issue, that the dodgy cleric, the American-born Anwar al-Awlaki,
who communicated extensively with the disturbed Ft. Hood shooter,
Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, posted "a provocative message on his
English-language Web site: 'COULD YEMEN BE THE NEXT SURPRISE OF THE
According to Newsweek, "Al-Awlaki seemed
to hint at an upcoming attack that would make Yemen 'the single most
important front of jihad in the world'."
Washington Post reported in
2008 that al-Awlaki had extensive contacts with 9/11 hijackers Nawaf
Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour and was suspected of
having assisted the 9/11 plot. According to the Post, "three of the
hijackers had spent time at his mosques in California and Falls
Despite, or possibly because, of these
dubious connections "he was allowed to leave the country in 2002."
According to the
History Commons, it is only in
2008 that the U.S. government concludes that the shady imam "is
linked to al-Qaeda attacks."
However, Al-Awlaki's provenance as a new
"terrorist mastermind" should be viewed with suspicion, given
well-documented links known to have existed amongst the 9/11
hijackers and American, Saudi and Pakistani secret state agencies.
October: the same month Al-Awlaki
was hinting at a "surprise," Newsweek revealed that John O. Brennan
"received an alarming briefing at the White House from Muhammad bin
Nayef, Brennan's Saudi counterpart. Nayef had just survived an
assassination attempt by a Qaeda operative using a novel method: the
operative had flown in from the Saudi-Yemeni border region with a
bomb hidden in his underwear. The Saudi was concerned because he
'didn't think [U.S. officials] were paying enough attention' to the
A familiar trope we've heard in the
aftermath of other terrorist strikes.
Newsweek published an exclusive
report January 4, that two U.S. "intelligence agencies and the
Department of Homeland Security circulated a paper within the
government last fall that examined in some detail the threats that
bombs secreted in clothing - or inside someone's body cavities -
might pose to aviation security."
According to information leaked to the
newsmagazine by anonymous "national-security officials," the report
"was prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center in conjunction
with Homeland Security and the CIA," and that "one principal point
of discussion in the document was whether the detonation of a bomb
hidden in clothing on an airliner would have a different explosive
effect than the detonation of a bomb secreted in a body cavity under
This chilling report, prepared in the
wake of intelligence information provided U.S. security agencies by
Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism czar, should raise provocative
No other media outlet however, has
followed the trail.
November 19: Abdulmutallab's
father, a prominent Nigerian banker and former high state official,
visits the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, telling State Department and CIA
officials he believes his son is a threat. A cousin tells
The New York Times that the
father told U.S. officials, "Look at the texts he's sending. He's a
Although Embassy personnel promise "to
look into it," the cousin told the Times that "they didn't take him
November 20: the CIA prepares and
files a report on Abdulmutallab that is sent to agency headquarters
in Langley, Virginia "but not disseminated to other intelligence
agencies," unnamed "officials" tell the Times. Embassy staff also
wrote and sent a cable known as a "Visa Viper," to the State
Department and National Counterterrorism Center and a security file
is opened on the suspect.
December 9-24: Abdulmutallab
travels to Ghana from Ethiopia and pays cash, $2,831 to be precise,
for a ticket on a Northwest Airlines flight from Lagos through
Amsterdam to Detroit, landing on Christmas Day. "It is now known"
The Independent on Sunday
reported January 10, "that the Ghanaian hotel he listed on his
immigration form was not the one where he was actually staying."
According to IoS, although the FBI "has
officers on the ground in Ghana and believe it is likely the
terrorist may well have had his final al-Qa'ida briefing, and
supplied with equipment and explosives, there," no steps are taken
to apprehend the suspect.
"All this" IoS comments, "was more than
a month after his father, a wealthy Nigerian banker, had met
officials at the US embassy in Abuja to share concerns about his
December 22: during a White House
Situation Room briefing Newsweek reports that "a document presented
to the president titled 'Key Homeland Threats' did not mention
Yemen, according to a senior administration official."
December 25: Abdulmutallab boards
Flight 253 in Amsterdam with only a carry-on bag for his
international flight; the would-be lap bomber holds a 2-year entry
visa into the United States. As is standard procedure, the
Department of Homeland Security is notified an hour prior to
departure that he is a passenger on the plane.
December 25: the
Los Angeles Times disclosed
January 7 that "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."
Homeland Security officials "declined to
discuss what information reached the U.S. border officials in
Amsterdam on Christmas Day."
Despite suspicions by Customs and Border
Protection agents, who had accessed NCTC's TIDE database, the flight
crew is not notified of Abdulmutallab's presence aboard the airliner
and additional security precautions therefore, are not made.
House Review - Crafting the Cover-Up
remarks January 7 announcing the White
preliminary review of alleged
"intelligence failures" responsible for the near detonation of a bomb aboard
Flight 253, President Obama said that,
"America's first line of defense is timely,
accurate intelligence that is shared, integrated, analyzed, and acted
upon quickly and effectively."
Echoing remarks made Tuesday, Obama reiterated
the trope that the secret state,
"failed to connect the dots in a way that
would have prevented a known terrorist from boarding a plane for
In a maneuver to deflect public attention from
the glaring similarities between the 9/11 provocation and the
near-tragedy Christmas Day over Detroit, Obama claimed that
"intelligence reforms" instituted under the previous regime had "largely
achieved" the goal of generating said "timely intelligence."
Leaving aside overwhelming evidence that secret state agencies and a
data mining program had amassed terabytes
of data on
the 9/11 hijack team, including detailed
profiles and intelligence dossiers, and that
Bush administration had been repeatedly warned by elements
within their own counterterrorism agencies as well as their
foreign counterparts in Britain, Egypt,
France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Morocco and Russia, in other words possessed
"timely intelligence" that an attack was imminent, the "connect the dot"
meme, as with 9/11, is handmaiden to today's transparent cover-up.
The President then alleged that despite knowledge of the "al Qaeda affiliate
in Yemen," and that secret state agencies had amassed considerable
information on Abdulmutallab's ostensible Yemeni confederates, and that,
"we knew they sought to strike the United
States and that they were recruiting operatives to do so," as with 9/11,
"the intelligence community did not aggressively follow up on and
prioritize particular streams of intelligence related to a possible
attack against the homeland."
The preliminary review released by the White
House presents an even more damning indictment of these purported
According to the declassified version of the report,
"The U.S. Government had sufficient
information prior to the attempted December 25 attack to have
potentially disrupted the AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] plot
- i.e., by identifying Mr. Abdulmutallab as a likely operative of AQAP
and potentially preventing him from boarding flight 253."
The document further charges that,
"the Intelligence Community leadership did
not increase analytic resources working on the full AQAP threat."
Despite evidence to the contrary, the
administration claims that,
"the fundamental problems... are different
from those identified in the wake of the 9/11 attacks" and that "firmly
entrenched patterns of bureaucratic behavior as well as the absence of a
single component that fuses expertise, information technology
(IT) networks, and datasets ... have now, 8 years later, largely been
However, as I documented last week in "The
Strange Case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab," as with 9/11, a
similar pattern of concealing information from relevant
counterterrorism officials who might have intervened and rescinded the
suspect's U.S. visa, and thus preventing him from boarding Flight 253, were
Indeed, the CIA's Nigerian station had prepared a dossier on Abdulmutallab
that included biographical details and texts handed over by the family, an
analysis of NSA electronic intercepts, reports from their own on-the-ground
operatives in Yemen that were sent to the agency's Langley headquarters,
"but not disseminated to other intelligence
The New York Times revealed
The CIA says it is now taking steps to "improve"
its handling of "terrorist-threat" information.
Agency spokesperson, George Little told
the media that CIA Director Leon Panetta specifically ordered the
Company to implement several "new measures," including,
"formally disseminating information on
suspected extremists and terrorists within 48 hours," expanding "name
traces" and "reviewing information" on individuals from "countries of
concern" to determine whether the Agency should recommend "changes in
status on U.S. government watch lists."
One would have thought these were precisely the
policies already implemented after the September 11, 2001 attacks!
And yet, here we are eight years later
and the CIA, perhaps more concerned with protecting their
intelligence assets - a motley crew of
killers and sociopathic riff-raff that include neofascists, mafia
kingpins, drug traffickers and terrorists - from scrutiny by law enforcement
officials, have to be ordered by the reputed head of their Agency to protect
something as trivial as the lives of airline passengers, is stark commentary
on the state of affairs in an allegedly democratic republic!
It cannot be ruled out that the CIA was interested in recruiting
Abdulmutallab as an asset.
After all, the Nigerian youth came from a
prominent family, was a graduate of an up-scale British university and was
well-versed in the close relationships amongst British and Yemeni Islamist
networks. Indeed Abdulmutallab, like MI6's man during the Yugoslav
destabilization campaign of the 1990s, the reputed 9/11 bag man, ISI asset
and al-Qaeda leader,
Omar Saeed Sheik, a graduate of the
London School of Economics, would seem to fit the bill quite nicely.
On the face of it, however you care to slice it, the "connect the dots"
conspiracy theory floated by the White House doesn't pass muster.
Two separate agencies, the CIA and
NCTC, had all the information required
to identify the would-be bomber and yet both, if we are to believe the
official narrative, failed to do so. This despite the inconvenient fact that
NCTC was stood up precisely as a central repository to collate, fuse and
"connect" each seemingly minute piece of intelligence, the "dots," flowing
into the U.S. security apparatus.
The White House cover story, accepted uncritically by
the media, suggest that a mass of disparate
data points - raw intelligence - when taken separately, is not incriminating
in and of itself. However, after each fragment is subjected to the massive
data mining and analytic capabilities of the U.S. Government which "fuse"
these datasets into a coherent whole, only then will a dodgy pattern emerge.
In Abdulmutallab's case however, each seemingly innocuous piece of
information on its own should have set alarm bells ringing.
That this didn't happen Christmas Day cannot be
explained away as either incompetence or "firmly entrenched patterns of
bureaucratic behavior" but rather, by conscious action, or if you prefer,
sinister inaction by factions within America's secret state.
As of this writing, it is not yet possible to provide a comprehensive answer
as to why these events unfolded as they did.
I am however, certain of one thing:
administration, the security agencies presumably under its
control and the corporate media, johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to
covering-up imperialism's multitude of crimes, are lying to the
There are however, several preliminary
hypotheses which can be advanced, all of which raise further troubling
questions worthy of additional investigation.
Were the Christmas Day events a pretext to expand the "War on Terror" into
yet another strategic petroleum chokepoint as analyst
F. William Engdahl
suggests in an excellent piece published by Global Research?
Nor can we dismiss out of hand the analysis offered by the
World Socialist Web Site that the
failed Christmas Day airline plot was a maneuver by extreme right-wing
elements deeply embedded in the U.S. National Security State "to destabilize
and undermine the Obama administration."
To this can be added Richard Wolffe's
provocative statement that factions within the secret state may have had
their own "alternative agenda," and thus failed to act.
Add to the mix, the systematic outsourcing of intelligence and security
functions to a host of giant
defense firms, outside of democratic
control; in other words, rightist grifters who answer to shareholders and
not the American people, and suddenly another piece of Wolffe's "alternative
agenda" comes into sharp focus.
Chock-a-block with ex-CIA officers, NSA analysts, FBI agents and U.S.
Special Forces veterans of America's dirty wars who now staff the privatized
U.S. security complex, in other words well-paid mercenaries who know
a thing or two on how to run a clandestine operation, and we just might have
another plausible theory why a "dot" or two was ignored Christmas Day.