May 07 2010
As we learn more and more about Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square Bomber who is also a naturalized American citizen, we also are seeing signs that something is going horribly wrong inside the classified halls of the Obama administration’s war on terrorists. As I noted in previous posts, news reports that emerged since the Ft Hood bombing and Christmas Day bombing attempt late least year show a pattern that indicates AG Holder (presumably with the backing of the President) began to roll back surveillance of suspects with potential terrorist ties. It was part and parcel of the debate to close GITMO and focus our national security efforts only on certain regions and people with established ties to terrorist groups. New leads were to be treated differently, and Bush era investigations were to be shut down.
The term ‘lone wolf’ was created to indicate the new rules for triggering surveillance, with higher levels of firm evidence required beyond simple communications. These would be applied to new suspects who wandered into the surveillance nets – those that stayed up. And American citizens appear to be designated off limits from any scrutiny – bringing us back to the barriers that allowed the 9-11 high jackers free reign once inside our borders.
The nexus of the last three attacks (Ft Hood, Christmas Day bomber and now Times Square bomber) appears to be American citizen turned traitor Anwar al Aulaqi. As the NY Times notes today, he is the common ‘red dot’ connecting all three incidents:
It is no surprise to counterterrorism officials to find that an accused terrorist had been influenced by Mr. Awlaki, 39, now hiding in Yemen, who has emerged as perhaps the most prominent English-speaking advocate of violent jihad against the United States.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration took the extraordinary step of authorizing the killing of Mr. Awlaki, making him the first American citizen on the Central Intelligence Agencyâ€™s hit list.
Mr. Awlakiâ€™s English-language online lectures and writings have turned up in more than a dozen terrorism investigations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, counterterrorism experts have said. And in two recent United States cases, Mr. Awlaki communicated directly with the accused perpetrator.
Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, exchanged about 18 e-mail messages with Mr. Awlaki in the year before the shootings, asking among other things whether it would be permissible under Islam to kill American soldiers preparing to fight in Afghanistan. After the shootings, Mr. Awlaki praised Major Hasan as â€œa heroâ€ on his Web site, which was taken offline by the Internet host company shortly after the posting.
In addition, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic airliner on Christmas Day, is believed to have met Mr. Awlaki during his training by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
It is unclear whether Mr. Shahzad ever directly communicated with Mr. Awlaki.
What is stunning about this whole story is how apparently the surveillance of people tied to al Aulaqi were shut down last year. To me that indicates it was really the monitoring of al Aulaqi that was shutdown, causing a cascade of blindness related to anyone (like Major Hasan) tied to him. This effected surveillance actions and investigations initiated during the Bush administration and apparently active when team Obama took office. It was a horrible blunder which we know killed 14 people at Ft Hood and injured dozens of others.
In the following timeline (click to enlarge) we see how the Joint Terrorism Task Force investigations of Major Hasan was shutdown around the time it would require a mandated 90 day application to continue, and during a period when far left liberal voices were establishing far reaching limitations on who was to be considered a suspected enemy combatant (original post here).
It now appears that this adjustment in who was considered a potential risk vs lone wolf left the Obama administration blind to Umar Farouk Abdumutallab – the Christmas Day bomber – and now Shahzad.
An indication of how badly the Obama administration has been caught off guard is the historic assassination order now on al Aulaqi. As an American citizen, al Aulaqi is due a trial before he can be executed. I actually find the kill order disturbing and unconstitutional without a guilty verdict from a federal court in hand. This seems to be a panic reaction from Team Obama, to stop something soon no matter what the cost. It is there attempt at a Jack Bauer moment.
ABC News outlines a list of terrorist who’s who possibly connected to Shahzad.
But according to these sources, Shahzad also had a web of jihadist contacts that included big names tied to terror attacks in the U.S. and abroad, including the figure who has emerged as a central figure in many recent domestic terror attempts – radical American-born Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki.
Besides Awlaki, sources say Shahzad was also linked to a key figure in the Pakistani Taliban, its Emir Beitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone missile strike in 2009. The Mehsuds had been family friends of Shahzad, who is the son of a former high-ranking Pakistani military officer.
Sources told ABC News that Shahzad was childhood friends with one of the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai massacre of 2008, in which more than 170 people died.
The question is, if these connections pan out, how is it our national intelligence missed all this? How could someone who had been under a JTTF investigation from 2004 not have his background connections like this unknown?
Andy McCarthy discusses another sign of total disarray inside the Obama administration, as it broadcasts all kinds of sensitive data in an attempt to appear to be on top of things:
[W]hat hasnâ€™t been apparent until now is how news coverage of this story fundamentally changed the investigation. Law enforcement officials usually say they can’t talk to reporters about an ongoing investigation, but there were leaks in this case from the beginning â€” partly because of the dynamic between two powerful law enforcement forces in New York City….
Details about the Times Square investigation were all over the local newspapers, even as authorities were still trying to puzzle out who was responsible. Any element of surprise that law enforcement might have had was evaporating.
I posted on another incident were too much was being reported and only helping our enemies to succeed the next time by explaining how they failed this last time. All the details involving the phone trail have done nothing but provide a tutorial on how to better avoid detection in the future.
So why all the missed signs? Why all the leaked details of the investigation? Why the kill order on al Aulaqi when it appears last year his Free Speech rights were sacred as he and Hasan were talking about Jihad? It seems to me the Obama administration screwed up so badly when they closed down investigations last year that they see a time coming when they will need every bit if evidence they can muster to show they tried to be vigilant.
Update: The Washington Post has a review of what investigators have been able to discover as they review Shahzad’s history, a history that includes an investigation by a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in 2004 – though what was known then is not clear. Some disturbing details:
Shahzad’s transition “was a gradual thing that started years ago,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official with access to interrogation reports from the probe. “It wasn’t suddenly, ‘I found God, and this is the right path.’ There is a combination of religion and anger.”
The official noted that Shahzad had made at least a dozen return trips to Pakistan since arriving in the United States in 1999 and that the CIA’s campaign of Predator strikes and Pakistan’s recent military operations are focused on a part of the country very close to where Shahzad grew up.
Sadly, years ago Shahzad was being monitored by federal agents. Â So his actions are not a surprise, and if someone had remained vigilant they might have detected this supposedly slow transition.
“We have nothing that is contradictory to what he is telling us,” said a senior Obama administration official, adding that undisclosed new information from Shahzad’s interrogation “sheds some light” on his motivation.
The investigation has turned up tenuous links between Shahzad and high-profile figures of jihad. A U.S. official said Shahzad was associated with at least one individual who was in contact with Anwar al-Aulaqi, the American-born cleric in Yemen who has been tied to the suspect in the attempted Christmas bombing on a Detroit-bound plane as well as the man charged in last year’s fatal shootings at Fort Hood, Tex.
The Post then goes on to say there was no direct contact detected so far. But to know someone who is in contact with al Aulaqi seems quite disturbing in itself. Who would associate with that kind of traitor? It’s not like al Aulaqi’s beliefs are secret – he has tons of web videos out.
Investigators are examining the significance of large sums of money that Shahzad brought into the United States. Between 1999 and 2008, Shahzad declared $80,000 in cash when he returned from various trips overseas, said another law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
Well, there clearly is nothing suspicious about that! Â Look at how the WaPo tried to find some way to make this all look harmless:
“Terrorists know banks are being watched, so are they moving bulk cash to finance their operations?” The official added that it is not unusual for immigrants — particularly those like Shahzad who come from well-heeled families overseas — to travel to the United States with stacks of currency.
What a blatant and nonsensical contradiction! Well heeled families also understand the concept of bank transfers so their children don’t get robbed of massive amounts of cash. What kind of pretzel logic (or lame excuse) is this? All I see is a bunch of incompetence or badly crafted spin.