May 16, 2013 / by emptywheel


Did AP Learn about Fake UndieBomb 2.0 because Real Marshals Deployed to Prevent It?

In my next post, I’m going to revisit this post, where I showed 372 days ago that at least one or two of the major early sources for the most damning information on UndieBomb 2.0 came from non-US based sources.

But before that, check out this passage from the ABC story that first revealed UndieBomb 2.0 was an inside job.

The plot appeared timed to coincide with the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, but the bomber did not get as far as purchasing plane tickets or choosing a flight. As ABC News first reported last week, the plot led the U.S. to order scores of air marshals to Europe to protect U.S.-bound aircraft. Flights out of Gatwick Airport in England received 100 percent coverage, according to U.S. officials.

While I haven’t been able to find the reporting in question [update: see below], at least according to the article, ABC had been told the previous week — around the same time the AP first learned about the purported UndieBomb 2.0 plot — that there was a massive effort on the part of the US Air Marshals to cover a bunch of US-bound planes …

… that the Intelligence Community knew had no UndieBomb on board.

Indeed, according to this CNN report, the UndieBomb itself had been recovered around April 20, 10 days before the US Marshals started covering 100% of the US-bound flights from Gatwick. [Update: Scott Kinney notes there are only 4 flights from Gatwick a day.]

One source told CNN that the device was recovered around April 20, more than a week before the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, and was then handed over to the United States for forensic analysis.

And I’ve long suspected that Robert Mueller picked up the UndieBomb on April 24 when he made an unannounced visit to Yemen for a 45-minute meeting.

Now, this is potentially damning news for the Administration’s story for two reasons.

First, if this timeline is correct, the Administration mobilized hundreds and hundreds [update: ABC uses “scores”] of Air Marshals to defend against a threat that they knew had been mitigated over a week earlier.

Oh yeah — and those hundreds and hundreds [“scores”] of Air Marshals sent to Europe to defend against an AQAP air attack that the Marshals believed was scheduled to take place around the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death on May 1? You don’t suppose any of them would go to the press to debunk the Administration’s claims that there had been no credible threat on the anniversary? I can just imagine it: “The White House was lying when it claimed there was no threat on May 1. I know because I worked 72-hours straight because we had information there was going to be an AQAP hit on planes,” they might say to an ABC or an AP reporter. Which is, of course, precisely the spin the AP had in their story,

The operation unfolded even as the White House and department of homeland security assured the American public that they knew of no al-Qaida plots against the US around the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.

Which is, in turn, the reason John Brennan freaked out so badly he gave Richard Clarke the hint that ultimately led to the infiltrator being exposed.

I said there was never a threat to the American public as we had said so publicly, because we had inside control of the plot and the device was never a threat to the American public.


I — I — what I’m saying is that we were explaining to the American public why that IED was not in fact a threat at the time that it was in the control of individuals. When — when we say positive control, inside control, that means that we (inaudible) that operation either environmentally or any number of ways. It did not in any way reveal any type of classified information. And I told those individuals and there are, you know, transcripts that are available of that conversation, “I cannot talk to you about the operational details of this whatsoever.”

Moreover, if there really were hundreds [“scores”] of Air Marshals sent to Europe to protect against a threat the IC knew didn’t exist, you don’t suppose any of them would be among the 550 people the FBI has interviewed in this case?

It sure would explain why there were so many people read into a secret that is supposed to be one of the most important secrets ever.

If, in fact, ABC’s reference is correct, if in fact they had reported the previous week that all flights from Gatwick had Air Marshals on board, if in fact those Air Marshals were on board, it would explain a great deal about this story.

Update: On April 30, around 10 days after the US recovered the UndieBomb (which was never described as a cavity bomb), ABC had this report:


(Off-camera) Good evening. As we come on the air, ABC News has learned that US authorities are studying a new terror threat tonight, members of al Qaeda using body bombs, explosives that have been surgically implanted in their bodies to evade security. Tomorrow, it will be the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, making this week a time of heightened concern on the ground and in the sky. And ABC’s chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross is here with these new details. Brian?


(Off-camera) Diane, well, tonight American and European authorities tell ABC News, they fear al Qaeda will use these so-called body bombs to target Americans overseas and US flights coming in from overseas.



(Voiceover) As a result, security at several airports in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe and the middle ease has been substantially stepped up, with a focus on US carriers. And additional federal air marshals have been shifted overseas in advance of this week’s anniversary of the bin Laden raid. The plot is not so far fetched. Medical experts say there is plenty of room in the stomach area for surgically implanted explosives.


The surgeon would open the abdominal cavity and literally implant the explosive device in and amongst the internal organs.


(Off-camera) Right in there?


Right in between the intestines, the liver and the stomach. [my emphasis]

And the following day — on the anniversary of the OBL killing — they replayed the report.

So ABC clearly reported Air Marshals had been deployed in response to this threat that had been mitigated 10 days earlier.

Did our government send hundreds of Air Marshals to Europe to make this fake UndieBomb claim credible?

Update: Here’s what National Security Council sent out after the AP published their story on May 7 of last year.

The President was first informed about the plot in April by his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan, and he has received regular updates and briefings as needed from his national security team. While the President was assured that the device did not pose a threat to the public, he directed the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take whatever steps necessary to guard against this type of attack. The disruption of this IED plot underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad. The President thanks all intelligence and counterterrorism professionals involved for their outstanding work and for serving with the extraordinary skill and commitment that their enormous responsibilities demand. [my emphasis]

Note the statement admits Obama ordered “Homeland Security” (which includes TSA which includes the Air Marshals); it just doesn’t say they got deployed a week after the UndieBomb got picked up.

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