UndieBomb 2.0’s Handler

In honor of the Queen’s Jubliee, the Times of London’s paywall is down today (with free registration). So now’s a good time to read the paper’s good coverage on Yemen from Iona Craig and others (see her description of one of the civilians injured in Jaar; her description of Brennan’s visit in Yemen just as our Special Forces (and Marines) ramped up the fight in Yemen; or her description of how the local tribe in Lawder is taking on AQAP).

But I wanted to take a look at this story on UndieBomb 2.0 by two other reporters, with some of the more extensive comments about the UndieBomber’s handler. Note, much of the article generally–including some details on how UndieBomber 2.0 infiltrated AQAP–relies on Mustafa Alani, last seen at this blog both pushing the AQAP threat as well as boasting of the important Saudi role in collecting HUMINT on it.

About a year ago [UndieBomber 2.0] moved to Yemen and, like Abdulmutallab before him, enrolled at an Islamic or Arabic language school in Sana’a, the capital, in the hope of being “talent-spotted” by AQAP. He was accompanied by a handler at the school, who briefed Saudi intelligence on a daily basis.

Within three months, Alani said, the organisation had taken the bait — and he was soon being trained at a network of safe houses.

“He received instruction on how to avoid detection at the airport, how to behave,” Alani said. “He was able to convince Al-Qaeda he was genuinely ready to carry out the mission.”

The agent never met Asiri, but the device he described to his handler pointed to a more advanced version of the “underpants” bomb.

[snip]

The agent was entrusted with the bomb and told by AQAP to reserve a seat on a transatlantic flight. The booking was never made. Instead, he and his handler were whisked out of Yemen and the device was handed over to the CIA on about April 20.

Now, Alani is supposed to be tied closely to Saudi intelligence services. If this story is correct, it’s a remarkably, willful, on-the-record exposure of how the Saudis managed the operation out of a language school in Sanaa. If it is true, it would indicate one of the reasons this leak (which of course was substantially confirmed, at least, by foreign sources) was so damaging: because it exposed the UndieBomber, but also exposed the handler in Yemen.

If it is true, then consider the timeline: UndieBomber and his handler were “whisked out of Yemen” on about April 20. Robert Mueller went for a 45 minute meeting in Yemen having little to do with his core authorities on April 24, suggesting he obtained the UndieBomb and ferried it back to the States. Fahd al-Quso was killed (reportedly netting UndieBomber a $5 million reward) on May 6. The White House informed the AP that some security concerns had been resolved on May 7, which led to their story preempting the White House announcement on May 8.

That is, if the timeline laid out in this story (presumably largely by Alani) is true, then the handler was removed well before the story came out, and we succeeded in targeting Quso over two weeks after UndieBomber and his handler were removed. None of that tells us whether we might have gotten bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri had the role of the Saudi infiltrator not been exposed, in part by foreign sources, on May 8.

But it provides one narrative of what happened.

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19 Responses to UndieBomb 2.0’s Handler

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @armandodkos Exactly. And I think a lot of the strum and drang surrounding King has diluted the absolute strength of that argument.
3mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @armandodkos Yes, we have been there and done this discussion before.
4mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @armandodkos Though I think you and I disagree whether it is reasonable to even get to step 2
4mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @armandodkos And that is why I have always thought this is a simple Chevron case, whether decided at Step 1 or Step 2.
5mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @armandodkos Right, that is what am saying. It's there b/c was the intent; it facially has conflict with "four words" because of sloppiness
6mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @armandodkos Because the final bill was cobbled together sloppily and hastily, and they did not make clear their real intent?
8mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @armandodkos I guess it is semantics to some extent, but it drives me bonkers. Making people stupid doesn't help.
11mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @armandodkos Right, but then it should say that instead of portraying it as an actual factor in the SCOTUS case itself.
13mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Um, no, a post hoc statement outside of the legislative, trial+appellate record does nothing of the sort #Misleading https://t.co/ffrQnZ6TwR
16mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel I mean, if DiFi is gonna dig Richard Burr out of the hole he created for himself, he should let her be Chair of SSCI.
24mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @radleybalko: Georgia cops who nearly flashbanged a baby to death defend themselves in court by blaming the baby. http://t.co/v1sxi3RNvK
24mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @rickhasen shouldn't that really read "from Obama's Administration"? The IBT article is almost scurrilous in its framing.
25mreplyretweetfavorite
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