Dangerous new wrinkle in underwear bombs
By Dale McFeatters
There are undoubtedly details yet to come, but from the facts so far Saudi intelligence and the CIA have pulled off a brilliant intelligence coup.
A double agent, presumably a Saudi, pretending to be a willing suicide bomber penetrated the inner circles of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. He was provided with a 2.0 version of the underwear bomb that failed to explode aboard a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 because of a defective detonator.
The new device is believed to be the work of al-Qaida's top bomb-maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, an evil genius so ruthless at his trade that he used his own brother as a suicide bomber.
The updated bomb is sleeker and, according to the Associated Press, designed to be slipped inside form-fitting, brief-style underwear. It has no metal parts and, as a fail-safe measure, two detonators.
AQAP equipped the agent with the device and sent him off to blow up a U.S. airliner of his choosing. Instead, he turned the bomb over to his handlers, who then turned it over to the FBI for study.
The agent also returned with details about AQAP's leadership that enabled U.S. special operations to kill Fahd al-Quso, described as the terrorist organization's chief of external operations and a planner of the bomb plot.
In 2010, Saudi intelligence thwarted another al-Asiri plot when it intercepted printer-cartridge bombs placed aboard UPS and FedEx cargo planes bound for Chicago. Al-Asiri, who is both persistent and dangerous, is still at large, although, it is to be hoped, not for much longer.
The successful operation points up how much the destruction of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and disruption of its operations in Pakistan have caused the terrorists to decamp to Yemen. While it's much smaller than Afghanistan, Yemen, too, has a weak and ineffective central government, rugged geography and clannish tribes.
The intelligence coup that foiled al-Qaida's latest plot for a mass killing of Americans underscores the dangers of complacency and the need for relentless vigilance.
CIA officials complain that the public only hears of its failures, not its successes. Well, this operation was a triumph. Well done, spooks.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com).