Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Heathrow liquid bomb plot, again

Marc Thiessen, from his Waterboarding Works book --

In one of these reports, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [KSM] describes in detail the revisions he made to his failed 1994–1995 plan known as the “Bojinka plot”— formulated with his nephew Ramzi Yousef—to blow up a dozen airplanes carrying some 4,000 passengers over the Pacific Ocean. Years later, an observant CIA officer notices that the activities of a cell being followed by British authorities appears to match KSM’s description of his plans for a Bojinka-style attack. He shares this information with British authorities. At first they are skeptical, but soon they acknowledge that this is in fact what the cell is planning. Intelligence from terrorists at Guantanamo Bay provides further insight into the cell’s plans for the use of liquid explosives.

In an operation that involves unprecedented intelligence cooperation between our countries, British officials proceed to unravel the plot. On the night of August 9, 2006—just over a month before the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks—they launch a series of raids in a northeast London suburb that lead to the arrest of two dozen al Qaeda terrorist suspects.

This is a very different chain of events from the conventional narrative for the plot, in which the suspect group was under surveillance for some time but the actual breakup of the plot occurred in a rush in August 2006, with multiple news accounts indicating that it was Dick Cheney's demand for an early arrest in Pakistan which was the precipitating factor, not the imminence of any plot. And two people are not mentioned in Thiessen's account -- Richard Reid, who was doing on-board bomb making in December 2001 and yet sailed past the Bush-era enemy combatant system, and Rashid Rauf, the supposed mastermind of the Heathrow plot who, to this day, has never been found.

Thiessen's book, Courting Disaster, is going to need intensive triangulation against other sources, because as of now its claim is essentially that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, post-waterboarding, can be linked to every plot. Except Richard Reid.

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