"The buck stops with me," declared President Obama on Thursday as he spoke about the results of an internal investigation into the failed Christmas Day airline bombing attempt. The president avoided blaming any particular agency or official for the security failures that allowed Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board an American airliner heading from Amsterdam to Detroit wearing explosives in his underpants.
Now, after the fact, this incident has sparked a renewed interest in Yemen, a country I warned about as a "powder keg" back in August, and a slew of new security measures at airports to make our travel experience more miserable than it currently is.
Travelers will soon get used to going through full-body scanners, like they have gotten used to taking off their shoes at security checkpoints at airports, since Richard Reid, a/k/a the shoe-bomber, tried unsuccessfully to take down another airliner in late 2001. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda and other groups will try to find other methods to bypass the new security measures until they succeed.
Last summer, Abdullah Asieri, one of Saudi Arabia's most wanted men, avoided detection by two sets of airport security including metal detectors and palace security, by borrowing a trick from the Colombian cartel. Asieri had a pound of high explosives, plus a detonator inserted in his rectum. His target was Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, head of Saudi Arabia's counter terrorism operations. The bomb was remotely detonated via a cellular phone call, but the Prince miraculously was left lightly wounded. The assassination attempt failed, but al-Qaeda managed to defeat security.
The US security failure is not at airports, but rather with overseas intelligence agencies. The President did not name the agency, but I will: the CIA which has done a shoddy job of gathering information in Arab and Muslim countries and has relied heavily on information provided by security agencies of corrupt and despotic regimes.
What Americans should be worried about is not the few failed attempts by the likes of Reid or Abdulmutallab, but rather by what happened recently with the suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a medical doctor who had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence and then agreed to work for the CIA. He was assigned a Jordanian handler who had a close working relationship with the CIA and was subsequently sent to Afghanistan to help locate top al-Qaeda leaders. In reality, he was also a jihadist sent to infiltrate US intelligence: a "triple agent!"
The reason this succeeded is due to the fact that Afghanistan is an intelligence nightmare, and the CIA does not have enough Arabic or Pashto speakers on the ground. This is also the case in Yemen, Somalia, and Northern Africa, a fact that was confirmed to me by a former CIA employee. Many of he CIA's so-called Middle East specialists lack the language skills needed to analyze the material provided to them and rely on translations, which, as part of my experience producing a news show from the Middle East, I have discovered can be misleading and inaccurate. Many CIA agents are no different than those so-called experts on al-Qaeda that one sees on CNN or FOX news.
This latest infiltration of the CIA is worse than a thousand Abdulmutallabs, and will certainly cause a set back to the agency for years to come, something that the President did not talk about.
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