Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The shoe bomber and the undies bomber

Josh Marshall has been working on the interesting contrast between the legal and political handling of Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (Marshall vs Thiessen). Both are being treated identically from a legal perspective (in regular criminal proceedings), but Republicans are now demanding enemy combatant status for the latter. Here's some more opinion of the Reid case when the Bushies were still in charge. First, then press secretary Ari Fleischer in February 2003 --

Q Ari, with the threat level now at orange, what does that mean for us ordinary citizens? How are we to be protected or how can we protect ourselves against chemical, biological attacks?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think Secretary Ridge addressed this in his remarks, and General Ashcroft did, as well. I provided you the information about what this means to the government, what the government would be doing. As you've heard, everybody in our society can play a role in being vigilant and that's what has been called for.

Now, I recognize that it can sometimes be a nebulous phrase, but nevertheless, everybody -- Richard Reid is the perfect example of where vigilance stopped an attack that could have been a devastating one.

And the job of the average citizen is to continue to be vigilant, while knowing that the agencies of the government that the taxpayers pay for, at the federal level, the state level and the local level, will be kicking it into higher gear to provide greater protections, based on the new warning.

If the hapless Janet Napolitano had just used the "vigilance" line inside of the infamous words about the system working, she'd be on more solid ground.

More substantively, here's Bush's counterterror czar and now omnipresent terror pundit Fran Townsend in February 2006 explaining the so-called Library Tower/"West Coast" plot --

Khalid Shaykh Muhammad was the individual who led this effort. He initiated the planning for the West Coast plot after September 11th, in October of 2001. KSM, working with Hambali in Asia, recruited the members of the cell. There was a total of four members of the cell. When they -- KSM, himself, trained the leader of the cell in late 2001 or early 2002 in the shoe bomb technique. You all will recall that there was the arrest of the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, in December of 2001, and he was instructing the cell leader on the use of the same technique.

After the cell -- the additional members of the cell, in addition to the leader, were recruited, they all went -- the cell leader and the three other operatives went to Afghanistan where they met with bin Laden and swore biat -- that is an oath of loyalty to him -- before returning to Asia, where they continued to work under Hambali.

The cell leader was arrested in February of 2002, and as we begin -- at that point, the other members of the cell believed that the West Coast plot has been canceled, was not going forward. You'll recall that KSM was then arrested in April of 2003 -- or was it March -- I'm sorry, March of 2003.

So Richard Reid, she says, used a shoe bomb technique that was developed by KSM in late 2001 (it's item 4 in his 31 admitted plots), was almost immediately in US custody, but KSM wasn't tracked down till 2003? What were they doing with Reid in the intervening period?

Townsend was asked about the Reid connection --

Q Is there any connection between Richard Reid and this plot, or did they get the idea from Richard Reid? What came first?

MS. TOWNSEND: It's not clear what came first. It was clearly the same technique that they were intending to use, the shoe bomb. More than that, we don't have the intelligence to tell us whether the cells -- that is, Richard Reid and this cell -- knew each other or had contact with one another. We just don't know that.

Yet earlier she had said that the shoe bomb technique came from KSM. She seems pretty relaxed about a huge potential lead via Reid to KSM having being let go cold. And the breaking up of the West Coast plot via enhanced interrogation techniques and not a Richard Reid connection is critical to Marc Thiessen's defence of the Bush administration, soon to be collected in his forthcoming book.

Was Reid ever asked anything?

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