Foiling the Next 9/11 and Not Even Knowing It
The United States may have narrowly missed a repeat of the 9/11 attacks in June -- and, apparently, even the FBI doesn't realize it.
On June 4, a 24-year-old Muslim man named Raed Abdhul-Rahman Alsaif was arrested for trying to bring a seven-inch knife on board a U.S. Airways flight at Tampa International Airport, destined for Phoenix. The blade was seen by a screener and Alsaif was caught before he could get onto the airliner. Of course, he says he is innocent, as some forgetful friend gave him the luggage bag and failed to mention that a knife was embedded inside the material, which the criminal complaint states was "artfully" concealed in such a way as to allow for it to be retrieved once the flight took off.
Alsaif graduated from the Islamic Saudi Academy in Virginia in 2003. For those that don't remember, this school has been embroiled in a little bit of controversy the past two years. In October 2007, the U.S. Commission on International Religion Freedom requested that the State Department close the school, citing the use of textbooks filled with extremism. The commission again reported on the school's radical curriculum in June 2008. One graduate has been convicted of working with al-Qaeda, while two former students were kicked out of Israel upon landing due to clear signs they were planning suicide bombings.
Private investigator Bill Warner notes that when Alsaif was booked and photographed by police in October on his second arrest on drug charges, he had a beard -- a beard that was shaven off before he attempted to board the U.S. Airways flight. For those that think this is all attributable to coincidence, there's another key element to consider.
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.