Friday, February 10, 2006


Bush: Wannabe King Believes He Makes Law

The president is, to put it simply, lying through his teeth. He pulls these fabricated rabbits out of his Mall-Wart hat whenever the heat is turned on. It’s rumors about rumors. Justifications for justifications. Lies on top of lies.

American law is heavily in debt to English law. If you read about England’s “Glorious Revolution” of the 17th Century, you will learn that the King, James II, was deposed because he claimed that he made law, not Parliament; that he was above Parliament and it met at his pleasure and did his bidding. That wasn’t how it worked. The English, tories and whigs alike, ran his butt out of the country and installed William of Orange instead. William understood that Parliament was the source of law. It’s the same with the American Congress: Congress makes the law, not the king—er, president.

Bush is behaving as King James did, setting himself above Congress, making himself the source of law. It didn’t work in 1688, and it won’t work in 2006. It’s time to fire our wannabe king.

Zachary Abuza: 'Fast and easy with the LA terrorist plot'
Date: Friday, February 10 @ 10:09:26 EST
Topic: War & Terrorism

Zachary Abuza, The Counterterrorism Blog

There is something terribly disingenuous about the President's assertions today that a 9/11 styled attack on the West Coast was thwarted. The President, then later his Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend in a conference call with the press, argued that un-named Al Qaeda operatives arrested in un-named countries were actively planning the attack (though they would not say how far along it was) at an un-named time. All details are classified. How convenient. How un-verifiable for the public. The administration is simply trying to justify its blatantly illegal NSA wire-tapping program to the public. The failure of their legal arguments has been reduced to one point: we are defending America, so anything we do goes.

But was the President's example really an active plot? I have been studying JI for over five years now and it does not smell good. The facts and history just do not add up to what the president said:

"We now know that in October 2001 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks, had already set in motion a plan to have terrorist operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door and fly the plane into the tallest building on the West coast. We believe the intended target was Liberty Tower in Los Angeles, California."

Actually this is not new information. The 9/11 Commission Report makes very clear that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had proposed a 9/11 styled attack on the West coast to the Al Qaeda leadership, yet this proposal was rejected on two key grounds: First they wanted KSM to stay focused on the 9/11 attacks. There was concern that this was getting too complex. The Al Qaeda leadership thought that the New York and Washington attacks were sufficient. Second, there was a dearth of trained pilots within JI ranks. The President's assertion that "Rather than use Arab hijackers as he had on September the 11th, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed sought out young men from Southeast Asia whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion," is true. KSM, who had worked with his nephew Ramzi Yousef in Southeast Asia in the mid 1990s, saw the potential of using Southeast Asian jihadis against America.

The president continued:

"To help carryout this plan, he tapped a terrorist named Hambali, one of the leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated group in Southeast Asia called JI... Hambali recruited several key operatives who had been training in Afghanistan. Once the operatives were recruited, they met with Osama bin Laden and then began preparations for the West Coast attack."

Fran Townsend stated that this "Absolutely" was stage two of 9/11:

Again there is absolutely no evidence in the public record that this transpired. Starting in December 2001 through January 2002, there were a series of arrests of members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Singapore and Malaysia. Just under 20 people were detained, giving regional authorities - as well as the US Government, their first real understanding of the terrorist organization. At the time, these cells were planning to blow up the US embassy and other commercial interests in Singapore; there is also evidence that they hoped to execute a USS Cole-styled attack against US naval vessels calling on the city state. As a result of these arrests Hambali held an emergency meeting in Bangkok that included 5 other people. All but one were members of JI, none were pilots. It was at this meeting that Hambali made the decision that JI should focus their energies on soft targets in which westerners would be the primary target. This of course led to the Bali bombings in October 2002. There was an AQ operative at the meeting, a young Kuwaiti-Canadian, KSM had recruited, Mohammad Mansour Jabarrah. He was arrested in Oman in March 2003, and had no pilot training.

Hambali then went on the run. He was in Thailand for a while and then Cambodia. He was plotting other attacks, including trying to recruit personnel for attacks against the APEC summit in Bangkok in mid-2002. Again, he did not have the resources to carry out the attack while on the run.

Who was the "key AQ operative" who was arrested in February 2002? There is no public record of this arrest having taken place. What about the other four cell members? Fran Townsend said two were South Asian, two were Southeast Asian. All have been detained, but she won't reveal their names or what countries they were arrested in. She mentioned that the four met with Bin Laden in Afghanistan where they pledged an oath of allegiance to the Sheikh before returning to Southeast Asia. When asked when this meeting took place Ms. Townsend revealed in October 2001; interesting timing seeing that US forces had just invaded the country.

Who were the trained pilots? And this is an important point. Because the President and Fran Townsend differentiated this from Richard Reid's shoe bombing plot in December 2001. Reid simply wanted to blow a hole in the side of the airplane to depressurize the cabin over the mid-Atlantic. But that was not the case here according to the President: the "operatives [planned to] hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door." JI, to my knowledge has no trained pilots.

It is true that one Singaporean member of JI, Mas Salamat Kastari plotted to hijack an Aeroflot jetliner in Bangkok and to crash it into Singapore, but the plan was on hold, Kastari was not a pilot, and one can assume that there was no one in the organization to assist him. Kastari then fled to Indonesia where he was later arrested.

How far along was this plot when it was "disrupted?" What was their level of operational planning? Were they close? Fran Townsend replied:

"We don't know exactly when the plot was scheduled for. The intelligence tells us that Khalid Shaykh Muhammad began to initiate it in October of 2001. We know that between then and when the lead operative was arrested in February of '02, between those two periods of time, they traveled through Afghanistan, they met with bin Laden, they swore biat, they came back, and the lead guy is arrested, which disrupts it in February of '02. So you see what I'm saying? It's during that short window of time, between October of 2001 and February of 2002, but we don't know when they planned -- we don't know when it was planned to actually be executed."

If this plot was real, then why has it taken 4 years to come to light? How come the names or cooperating countries can't be revealed? Why wasn't it played up at the time, especially in a region whose populations are vastly skeptical of the US-led war on terror?

The point that the President and Fran Townsend make about the transnational networks of affiliated jihadists is accurate. These groups do work together and coordinate; Al Qaeda is a network. To that end, cooperation with foreign intelligence and law enforcement services is essential.

But was the plot that the president described far enough along to pose a real threat? It is possible, but I have grave reservations. It is clear that JI and AQ had thought about replicating the 9/11 attacks. But there is no public evidence that the plot was operational at the time and there is no public evidence that the plot was thwarted because of NSA wiretaps that the administration seeks to justify. Like so much else from this administration, it is bits of cherry picked intelligence and facts that the President expects the public to buy hook line and sinker.

Source: The Counterterrorism Blog

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