• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Not-So-Friendly Skies

    On Monday evening, Dutch authorities detained Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi (of Detroit) and Hezem al Murisi when their United Airlines flight from Chicago landed in Amsterdam. It’s always a big mistake to jump to “instant analysis” based on preliminary press reports. But it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if these two men turn out to have had bad intent.

    Al Soofi and al Murisi are suspected of making a dry run for a future terrorist attack. Dry runs are common in the terrorism trade. Terrorists are a relatively scarce asset. They like predictability. They like to know the security they’ll be facing and the likelihood they can pull off a successful operation.

    Nor is it surprising to find terrorists departing from the United States rather than heading to it. It has been all the fashion lately. David Coleman Headley, a Chicago-based Pakistani-American, was dispatched from the U.S. to scout out terrorist targets in Mumbai. In June, two New Jersey men — Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almont — were arrested at JFK as they were allegedly heading to join al Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.

    According to news reports, one of al Soofi’s neighbors says he was from Yemen. Apparently, he had booked to a flight to Yemen as well. A Yemeni connection wouldn’t be surprising. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group based in Yemen, dispatched the Detroit-bound Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Not only is this group affiliated with al-Qaeda, they have a network in the U.S. and have openly declared their intent to attack America and American interests.

    It would surprise no one to find a terrorist attack aimed at killing Americans. Since 9/11, authorities have thwarted at least 31 terrorist attacks and plots aimed at U.S. citizens. Some of those involved attacking commercial aviation. In addition to Abdulmutallab’s aborted attempt, a foiled 2006 plot aimed to blow up international flights bound for the U.S. using liquid explosives.

    With today’s arrest, speculation will focus on just what the two suspects were really up to and why they were allowed to board an international flight to begin with. TSA agents had deemed the pair “suspicious.” Al Soofi was even stopped and searched in Birmingham, Alabama, where the flight originated.

    The stop is a good thing. Authorities pulled him aside because he wore suspiciously bulky clothing — a trademark of a mule (i.e., someone secretly bringing aboard something they shouldn’t). Oh, and baggage searches revealed a “mobile phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three mobile phones taped together and several watches taped together.” That’s a tad out of the ordinary, too. More curious still, al Soofi booked his luggage on a flight to Dulles and then on to Dubai and Yemen, while himself on a flight to Amsterdam. That will raise a few eyebrows among thesecurity-conscious.

    Perhaps officials had reason to let them continue to travel. Perhaps, the feds made sure there was an air marshal — or two, or three — aboard the flight with the two “suspicious” travelers.

    At this point, it’s too soon to criticize aviation security or to ship the suspect off to prison. More facts are needed.

    But this incident should remind us of three indisputable facts: 1) There are terrorists out there; 2) they are trying to kill us; and 3) if we don’t work proactively to stop them, one day they will succeed again.

    Cross-posted at The Corner.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Not-So-Friendly Skies

    1. George Colgrove says:

      The real problem with the TSA being a puppet organization of the political class is when the political class is not friendly to the US. So far this administration seems to be against the American people. By having the TSA's be feds they have to obey their hierarchy. If that hierarchy is bent on destroying the country, then I see this kind of thing happening all the time. If we are exporting terrorist on Dry runs it is either ineptitude (which is very likely with feds) or it is on purpose. Either way, it is scary. We would have been far better off had the TSA been private contractors paid for by the airports (also a private concern). Then these companies would have been separate entities with no cohesion. Competition of these services would yield far better security procedures and technologies to get customer through safely.

      The founders knew what they were doing when they said they did not want the federal government dealing with domestic issues. In essence, they were employing a divide and conquer attitude. However, this attitude was against the government and not the people. Having the TSA be a federal agency puts this one body under one leadership. It is only trust in that leadership that we the people must have. If that leadership is corrupt, inept or has intent of wrongdoing, it does not matter how much trust we have in that organization, it will fail us. It appears as though the TSA has failed us.

    2. Laura, Washington DC says:

      Exactly how low are your standards for writing? You flippantly describe intended terrorists now leaving rather than flocking to the US by saying, "It has been all the fashion lately." In a serious piece by an "expert" I expect, perhaps, an explanation of WHY intended terrorists are leaving the States, not cheeky text.

    3. wth petersburg va says:

      Nobody cares about terrorism.Are you one of Boltons cheerleaders? Isnt it bad enough that we murdered all of those poor people in Iraq, Afgnaistan? That we sat by while the Jews murdered and enslaved Gazans? That you let Mexicans invade our country, while you bray about terror, terror. Give Palestine back and watch how quickly it evaporates.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.