Friday, August 11, 2006

Tip Followed '05 Attacks on London Transit

WaPo reported It all began with a tip: In the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings on London's transit system, British authorities received a call from a worried member of the Muslim community, reporting general suspicions about an acquaintance.

We need more such tips. Thank you. And thank God.
From that vague but vital piece of information, according to a senior European intelligence official, British authorities opened the investigation into what they said turned out to be a well-coordinated and long-planned plot to bomb multiple transatlantic flights heading toward the United States -- an assault designed to rival the scope and lethality of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings.

CQ blogged
One U.S. intelligence source, however, said some of the British suspects arrested had made calls to the United States.
This last bit of information sounds intriguing. The question of American ties did come up yesterday, but the parameters of the plot appeared to indicate against it. The plan obviously intended to destroy the airplanes rather than use them as guided missiles, such as was done on 9/11. The flights involved mostly American carriers and American destinations, but it seems more likely that the terrorists would have detonated their explosives over the Atlantic rather than inside American borders, in order to cover the evidence that would reveal their tactics.

The terrorists would not have needed assistance from America in order to accomplish this. In fact, extraneous communication into the US would have increased the chances of exposure, and would have been avoided under rational leadership -- which I admit is a stretch. For those reasons, the initial statement of DHS and the FBI made sense. If Craig Whitlock and Dafna Linzer's source is correct, however, it points to a wider scope for this plot.

If the terrorists needed to make several calls into the US, then that points to some coordination, either logistically or operationally. It's hard to see what kind of logistical support they would have needed from the US. They got their money from Karachi, and if they needed assistance with the technology of the explosives, one assumes their Pakistani connections would have supplied it. Operational coordination strongly suggests that the plot had an American phase that has not yet been explained.

People have forgotten, or perhaps never knew, that the 9/11 attacks had a second phase overseas that never launched. Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about the case of Mohammed Afroze, who received a seven-year sentence for his plot to kill Indians on 9/11. He led a cell of terrorists who planned to board several international flights and attack the Indian Parliament, Rialto Towers in Melbourne, and the House of Commons and Tower Bridge in London. The plot only failed after Afroze and his fellow terrorists lost their nerve at Heathrow and fled.

Al-Qaeda has tried making a global statement before. Perhaps they were trying to do so again.

Yesterday's quick response to the threat from the British plot won rare praise for the Department of Homeland Security. Their quick implementation of new security restrictions showed efficiency and flexibility, and at the moment was assumed to support the British in their efforts to secure international travel. If the Post is correct, DHS may have had more motivation in its efforts than reciprocity with the British.

Blue Crab blogged I predict a carry-on luggage ban will be coming sooner or later.

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