Al Qaeda (AQAP) in Yemen & Aviation Security by Simon "Mouse" Clark

Al Qaeda (AQAP) in Yemen & Aviation Security by Simon "Mouse" Clark

 By Simon "Mouse" Clark
The United States experienced one of the largest scaled Domestic Terror Attacks on 11th September 2001. These attacks against our great nation were carried out with the hijacking of multiple airline carriers. The aftermath of these heinous acts left the total destruction of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and other pertinent locations. After these events the USA Patriot Act of 2001 was passed, and the Department of Homeland Security began to devise and implement the first of many missions and protocols to mitigate any further threats to the United States. Since the ratification of the Patriot Act, there have been multiple manifestations of terrorist plots and foiled attacks against the United States since 2001. The masterminds behind at least one of these events has been identified as the terror organization called the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and are based out of Yemen. By identifying some of the key events which lead up to these events being attempted, we will identify and in essence be able to perhaps recommend any changes to the current levels of mitigation, as to avoid any further occurrences of these kinds of terrorist acts.
Two examples of such incidents can be addressed first in 2009, with attempted suicide bombing where the assailant was caught in underwear rigged with an explosive device, which was to be detonated once aboard commercial aviation over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. The second example occurred in 2010, and surrounds the attempt to place explosives onto a cargo plane disguised inside office printers. Although both of these attempts were eventually thwarted before they could be carried out, they do show that there are still critical areas of the levels of mitigation which need to be addressed. Investigating and understanding the factors which led up to these events being identified, and eventually stopped, play a crucial role in the planning and implementation in the future methods of mitigation.
The first example of the underwear bomber involves the passenger onboard Northwest flight 253, which departed Amsterdam and was scheduled to land at Detroit. The name of the suicide bomber who would make the attempt was named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. ‘Key eyewitness reports from the flight stated that upon notification of the flights arrival over Michigan, than the individual started to get fidgety, and the process to trigger the device. For reasons unknown, the device failed to explode which resulted in the suicide bombers groin and thigh areas catching on fire, and he was then rushed by the passengers on board and subdued until the plane arrived safely at the airport in Detroit. Had the device exploded, Federal investigators remarked there was very little doubt at what the aftermath would have been for all of the passengers on board flight 253’ (Paul Harris, 2011).
Further investigations after the incident found that the accused underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had recently met with a known terrorist and bomb-maker identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as Fahad al-Quso. This wanted terrorist was responsible for the planning and making of the underwear bomb that was built for Umar’s flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The Federal agents were also able to ascertain that the target city was chosen for the simple fact that it was the cheapest flight. The failed suicide bomber told investigators that he had priced flights to Houston and Chicago before purchasing his tickets to Detroit’ (Philip Caulfield, 2011). This was the first of many red flags which were raised as a result of this attempted attack which had been claimed by the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Other questions surrounded the screening process for passengers who were boarding flights from other countries around the world, which had a destination within the United States. Other concerns involved the dissemination of information on known terrorist associates, and how they were able to book flight and head towards the United States airspace, as Umar had done.
Some of the weaknesses that the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) we able exploit, stemmed from research which they had conducted about the lack of consistency for passengers who ended up traveling on international flights with a United States destination. They were relying on the fact that if they were able to get a suicide bomber onto a plane, that they would have very little issue being identified and mitigated before the flight was over the United States airspace. What this means is that the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was counting on the fact the protocols, funding, and other important security screening measures were not up to the same stringent standards set forth by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). These agencies pay the major and crucial roles with the first lines of defense, when addressing threats to our nation.
In doing so the AQAP were able to devise a plan and construct a device that would be composed of materials that the standard metal detector would not be able to detect, and be low profile enough not to raise suspicion for a comprehensive body search of the individual who was to wear the device like a pair of underwear. The departure country of Amsterdam did not yet have the assistance of full body scanner technology, which may have identified the threat sooner. This was almost as if the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was aware of the protocols set forth by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and ben able to deploy a device which circumvented the protocols of passenger screening of passengers overseas.
In the second example which occurred in 2010, was also claimed to have been approved and planned out by the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) of Yemen, surrounded the attempts to place several Hewlett-Packard (HP) office printers packed full of explosives onto several United Parcel Service (UPS) air cargo planes bound from Yemen to Chicago, Illinois. ‘In short, there were multiple devices sent from separate locations in Sanaa, Yemen. The flight path of the cargo planes went from Yemen to Dubai, then onto Germany where it was transferred on an American UPS flight number 232, where it was destined for Pittsburg, finally ending the journey in Chicago. The flight paths of the packages, which should have raised flags as the origin country of Yemen, a known and highly active location were not properly screened at each location. This left a huge gaping hole of variables which led to the hidden explosive devices making it as far as they did. The packages had past the “security checks and screening” of four countries before the true nature and contents of the package were realized by authorities’ Mark Mazzetti, (Oct 31, 2010).
Once the discovery of the explosive filled printers had been identified there were multiple countries and agencies which had to admit fault, and make critical adjustments to the screening and accountability of the packages which were bound for the United States. Not only were these events able to identify the holes in the systems in place, they showed the agencies that any country in the world was vulnerable to attacks. Furthermore, it allowed the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terror group to see these holes, and take total advantage of them.
In review, both of these attacks started from origins outside the Unites States. ‘The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), made note that the intentions of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were unclear as far the intended targets. Furthermore, the DHS agency has acknowledged that there difficulties in the consistency of the protocols and levels of mitigation which were faced by the screening capabilities of other agencies around the world. The consensus about the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is their continued interest in the targeting of various forms of aviation bound for the United States’ (DHS, 2010).

References
Department of Homeland Security, (31 Oct, 2010). Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Explosives Discovered in Packages on Cargo Aircraft Bound for the Homeland. Intelligence Watch and Warning. Retrieved on 1, December 2014 from: www.airsafe.com/issues/security/dhs-yemen-cargo-bomb.pdf.
Mark Mazzetti, (Oct 31, 2010). The New York Times. World: Bomb Plot Shows Key Role Played by Intelligence. Retrieved on 1, Dec 2014 from: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/world/01terror.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Paul Harris, (Oct 11, 2011). The Guardian: Michigan. 'Underwear bomber', accused over Christmas Day terror plot, goes on trial. Retrieved on 29, Nov 2014 from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/oct/11/underwear-bomber-plot-trial-detriot
Philip Caulfield, (Mar 24, 2011). New York Daily News. Christmas 2009 'underwear bomber' targeted Detroit because it was the cheapest flight: Report. Retrieved on 30, Nov 2014 from: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/christmas-2009-underwear-bomber-targeted-detroit-cheapest-flight-report-article-1.118654
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