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Thursday, 07 January 2010 08:57

The Nimble Terrorist And The Nimbler Intelligence

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A23 year old Nigerian man boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He had a bomb sewn in his underpants. Close to landing in Detroit, he failed to detonate his bomb, managing only to burn himself. If he had succeeded, 278 passengers and 11 crew would have died.

Mutallab?s father had warned the CIA station chief in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, his son was connected to Islamists in Yemen. Electronic intercepts from Yemen indicated that an attack was being planned involving someone called ?the Nigerian?.

British officials said that ?fragments? of information relating to Mutallab had been passed to the US before the attack, including his nationality, telephone numbers and parts of his name. These were not, however, enough to provide an identity that could have been checked in intelligence databases.

Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Chief, was mocked for insisting that ?the system worked? despite a Nigerian man being free to attempt to blow up an airliner as it approached Detroit.

Mr Obama said: ?The bottom line is this: the US government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack. That?s not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it. Time and again, we?ve learned that quickly piecing together information and taking swift action is critical to staying one step ahead of a nimble adversary".

Source: The Telegraph.


The highlight in this story for me was the fact that Mutallab's father actually warned the CIA sation chief in Nigeria. It's his struggle that interests me. He had a moral compass that enabled him to do something: even if it meant the death or imprisonment of his son. He had a choice to not say anything at all. There would have been little consequences for him personally. In a country peppered with Islamists' memes, keeping quiet was probably the easier option. Yet he decided to speak up to try and save the lives of infidels who lived in a country so far away.

It is people like him who gives me hope. Religious terrorists must have relatives or family members who know, or at least, suspect something. But what barriers are stopping them from speaking up? Once we know, we need to find a way to wedge in and prop open these barriers to communication.

Last modified on Monday, 08 August 2011 23:54

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