Foiling the Next 9/11 and Not Even Knowing It

On the same day, June 4, two other individuals, Roshid Milledge and Damien Young, were arrested in Philadelphia after sneaking a handgun onto a flight. The airline? U.S. Airways. The destination? Phoenix. The departing time? About 35 minutes from the flight Alsaif attempted to board, using the same airliner and with the same destination.

The FBI immediately cast doubt on questions that the two were part of a terrorist plot or even connected to Alsaif.

"This investigation represents an isolated incident, involving only these two individuals," the FBI press release following their arrest states.

I don't know what's more frightening: the fact that the FBI so readily dismissed the remarkably similar arrests as unconnected, or the fact that in the latter case, the handgun actually made it on board the aircraft and the suspects were only apprehended after another passenger reported them as engaging in suspicious behavior. The aircraft was then turned around and brought back to the gates.

Luckily, the FBI does appear to have common sense and the tone has changed. A spokesperson has said, "We don't know if there is a connection, but we are checking it out."

However, the fact remains that the FBI prematurely dismissed a possible connection, reflecting a desire to immediately squash speculation about a wider plot. Either the FBI was aware of the similarities in the arrests and deliberately misled the public, or they failed to look into other data indicating a wider conspiracy before making a conclusion. Either way, it does not reflect well upon the FBI.

The hit-or-miss Israeli website Debkafile reported on July 7 that U.S. and German intelligence believes that 15-20 al-Qaeda terrorists have been trained in Pakistan and Algeria and are now hiding in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, and Egypt. Their mission, according to the report, is to hijack and bomb Western airliners headed to Israel and the United States.

Are we really to believe these three events are unrelated -- the arrest of Milledge and Young, the arrest of Alsaif, and the reported warning about attacks on airliners?

The good news is that a 9/11 plot may have been thwarted. The bad news is that the public and possibly the FBI are unaware that they even have had a success, failing to connect obvious dots. If the coincidences of these cases are not addressed and if they are attributed to chance, then we've truly fallen out of the post-9/11 mindset and only a disaster will wake us up.