Changing Theories on the AQAP Failed IED Attack on Saudi Prince

Experts are now questioning prior accounts of the August 28, 2009 failed IED assassination attempt by a suicide bomber on Saudi prince Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

AQAP quickly claimed control of the attack. It was believed that the suicide bomber, Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, had hidden the bomb in his anal cavity, and that it was activated by remote control cell phone signals. Here's a pretty good Stratford account.

The video above, which shows a happy al-Asiri describing the attempt ahead of time, also contains the cell phone call that occurred during al-Asiri's meeting with the prince 14 seconds before the bomb went off (killing only al-Asiri), and explains the then widely-accepted version of how it went down. [More...]

The U.S. was well aware of the failed attempt right after it happened because we got a briefing from the Saudis. The whole world was aware because it was a big deal in the media.

As for the statement by AQAP taking responsibility for the Saudi attempt, from the same Stratford article:

Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, who was on the list of 85 wanted persons, was able, with the help of God, to enter Nayef’s palace as he was among his guards and detonate an explosive device. No one will be able to know the type of this device or the way it was detonated. Al-Asiri managed to pass all the security checkpoints in Najran and Jeddah airports and was transported on board Mohammed bin Nayef’s private plane.”

Now, the version is changing in an effort to tie the assassination attempt to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his failed bomb attempt on the Xmas day flight to Detroit.

Via Newsweek:

Saudi officials initially thought the bomb had been secreted in the operative's anal cavity. But after investigating the matter more thoroughly, they concluded it had likely been sewn into his underwear, thereby allowing the operative to bypass security checks before his meeting with the prince. A main purpose of Nayef's briefing for Brennan was to alert U.S. officials to the use of the underwear technique.

U.S. officials now suspect that Nayef's attempted assassin and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect aboard the Northwest flight, had the same bomb maker in Yemen, intelligence experts tell NEWSWEEK.

There was no way to determine what substance was in al-Asiri's device. But, now they think it was PETN, just like Abdulmatallab used.

The Saudi government has not yet released a final report on the incident, but the early explanation that Al Asiri had a bomb hidden in his rectum and that was somehow exploded by a cellphone signal has been discarded, Saudi and foreign sources say. Instead, it is now believed he too had PETN hidden in his underwear.

Al-Asiri was not a neophyte recruit. He was on the Saudi's top list of 85 militants. He was meeting with the Prince to surrender himself and make amends. The Prince was very involved in the Saudi rehab program and often met with the ones who surrendered.

Al-Asiri was able to avoid some airport security because he had been flown in on the Prince's jet. He spent 30 hours at the Palace before being brought in to see the Prince. He was subjected to security searches, just not intrusive ones.

Al-Asiri's bomb was assembled and installed an ready to go when he got to the Palace. Abdulmatallab had to put his together in the airplane bathroom, and he had a syringe as a detonator, there was no remote control.

Some say al-Asiri was a test run for Abdulmatallab. He may have been, but our intelligence agencies knew all about the attempt, so I'm not sure what about it, including the theory change, would link him specifically to the known information about Abdulmutallab.

Newsweek seems to be saying that when Brennan got his briefing, it was as to the change in theory, from anal cavity to underwear. So I guess there's a question of whether he shared the information. But I'm not seeing what difference it would have made whether the bomb was in al-Asiri's underwear or anal cavity with respect to Abdulmutallab. It still had to be set off by remote control, and that alone makes it far different than Abdulmutallab's attempt.

Maybe I'm just being cynical, but I have to wonder: Is this news to get us ready for the whole body imagers the TSA is going to order en masse? To justify spending hoards of money on counterterrorism and intelligence efforts in Yemen, so they can do things like identify the bomb-maker, but not developmental aid or assistance for their rehab program for repatriated prisoners? Or something else? It's just too convenient that the change of theory for al-Asiri comes to light in the media when they're on the ropes about Abdulmutallab.

On a related note, Newsweek reports Obama did ramp up efforts in Yemen after the failed attack on the Prince and the briefing, which included forensics, that White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan received from the Saudis.

White House officials say President Obama has been keenly focused on the Qaeda threat from Yemen for months. As the NEWSWEEK story reports, the president has authorized a covert war in the country: when Yemeni jets bombed Qaeda targets on Dec. 17 and 24 (including a strike that tried, but failed, to kill al-Awlaki), the United States supplied intelligence, missiles, and military support. American spies and special forces are on the ground, assisting the Yemenis.

Regarding those strikes, the LA Times reports we gave Yemen the information via NSA surveillance:

Just before Christmas, U.S. intelligence analysts listening in on Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen intercepted communications indicating a gathering of the masterminds of the Yemen network, who were discussing several imminent suicide bombings against Western targets in that country.

The intercepts gave analysts the tip they had been waiting months for, and Yemen launched an attack, killing as many as 30 suspected militants. Top leaders and Awlaki, however, apparently survived.

< AQAP and Terrorism Related Events in Yemen and Saudi Arabia | U.S. and U.K. Close Yemen Embassies >
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  • Display: Sort:
    "a covert war in the country" (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by oldpro on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 12:44:05 AM EST
    authorized by the president.

    Great.  Our other covert wars all went so well.

    The Independent has an article (none / 0) (#1)
    by Politalkix on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 12:40:54 AM EST
    on scanners.

    Question (none / 0) (#3)
    by Politalkix on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 12:54:33 AM EST
    If the TSA installs scanners in airports will
    (1) Muslim women fly if they think that their whole body is getting imaged?
    (2) Will right wing blowhards fly since there is a possibility that some people may find out that their
    d**ks are not as big as they like people to imagine?

    :-) :-)

    Answers/guesses: (none / 0) (#4)
    by oldpro on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 01:01:32 AM EST
    1.  Who cares?
    2.  We already know that.  It's why they have guns...lots and lots of BIG guns.  The number is in inverse ratio to you-know-what.  You can trust me on this.  Pass it on.

    Impossible to be too cynical (none / 0) (#5)
    by ruffian on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 06:53:34 AM EST
    when it comes to official stories of these attacks. Certainly seems to me that the 'facts are being fixed' to suit whatever policy is contemplated.

    The Netherlands and Nigeria have already said they will be using the body scanners. I saw something about England buying more of them too.

    Note to self: buy stock in body scanner company.

    Full body scanners to be put in UK airports (none / 0) (#7)
    by Politalkix on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 09:56:12 AM EST
    Its hard to believe (none / 0) (#6)
    by ding7777 on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 07:59:50 AM EST
    that al-Asiri's cell phone wasn't confiscated as a routine Intel procedure (just backtracking the traffic on the phone could provide useful information)  

    How does one successfully rehabilitate (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 10:11:46 AM EST
    a terrorist?

    One way is to legalize drugs (none / 0) (#9)
    by Yes2Truth on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 10:40:15 AM EST

    That would put a big crimp in the budgets of
    intelligence services that create terrorists and
    "terrorists"...such as those who were involved in
    so many false flag operations of the past
    20 years.

    Do you honestly believe what you wrote? (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 02:04:14 PM EST
    I don't.  

    9/11 wasn't about blowing up planes (none / 0) (#10)
    by esmense on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 10:48:11 AM EST
    It was an attempt to destroy institutions -- the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, possibly the Capitol or White House. In the context of those aims, stripping everyone naked and subjecting them to cavity searches before boarding planes probably wouldn't add much to our national security.

    So much hysterical, terrified focus on individuals with resources that enable them to, at best, off themselves and a limited number of bystanders, whether in the air or on the ground, in a society that has long tolerated, and encouraged the conditions for, relatively frequent espisodes of mass murder (by gun) seems odd to me. Is there really a big difference between the deranged individual whose mania is fed by a "foreign" religion and the one who too fervently embraces the wilder notions of Ayn Rand? Perhaps its natural to obsess so much about the first poor soul -- but why do so many shrug off the second? With some even suggesting that such displays of public violence (depending on choice of weapon and/or ethnicity) are the price we pay for our "freedoms?"

    Have you read Krakauer's (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 02:06:42 PM EST
    "Under the Banner of Heaven"?  In writing about the fundamentalist Mormons he points out the similarity of their fervor with that of Muslims, Christians, OK City bombers et al.  

    I just read last year (none / 0) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 03:01:06 PM EST
    Have you read Krakauer's latest book--- (none / 0) (#14)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 03:17:54 PM EST
    about Pat Tillman investigation? I gave it to my brother for Christmas and await his review--and possibly loaning it to me!

    I have not yet (none / 0) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 03:39:09 PM EST
    I bet I can get it loaned to me by the same person who loaned me Under the Banner of Heaven, he's the biggest gossip in my husband's unit here.  Just loves gossip, adores it :)  How could he not have the book?

    Does this fellow, perchance, have a copy (none / 0) (#16)
    by oculus on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 03:43:32 PM EST
    of the novel "The Help"?  Bestseller list and really popular choice of bookclubs, including mine.  I don't want to buy it and would not have chosen to read it.  I am # 202 on libs waiting list.  Walmart has it on line for under $10--but no copies visible at nearest Walmart when I checked last night.  

    I will ask him (none / 0) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 03:46:58 PM EST
    He also loaned my spouse 'Men Who Stare at Goats' about a year before this new movie thing was even announced.  I had never heard of the First Earth Battalion before.