Underwear Bomber 2.0 was CIA double agent

Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt in The New York Times dig deeper into yesterday's news of a new would-be Al Qaeda underwear bomber, "dispatched by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda last month to blow up a United States-bound airliner." He was a double agent for the CIA who infiltrated Al Qaeda, and "volunteered for the suicide mission." He also provided intelligence that led to Sunday's drone strike killing a USS Cole bombing suspect. Snip:

In an extraordinary intelligence coup, the agent left Yemen, traveling by way of the United Arab Emirates, and delivered both the innovative bomb designed for his air attack and critical information on the group’s leaders to the C.I.A., Saudi and other foreign intelligence agencies.

After spending weeks at the center of the terrorist network’s most dangerous affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the agent provided critical information that permitted the C.I.A. to direct the drone strike on Sunday that killed Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, the group’s external operations director and a suspect in the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000.

He also handed over the bomb, designed by the group’s top explosives expert to be invisible to airport security, to the F.B.I., which is analyzing its properties.

The agent's name has not been revealed, but the CIA says he's currently in Saudi Arabia, being debriefed (heh, get it, debriefed). Full NYT story here.

UPDATE: Looks like the meat of the story was first reported today by the Los Angeles Times. There is a related AP item here. ABC News, here. (Pic: AYBABTU, via Matt Cornell)


  1. The obvious way to thwart underwear bombers is to just go ahead and have everyone board and let the passengers and airline workers sniff them out. Who could sit with a bomb in their underwear and not shit their own pants at least a little?

  2. So, once again, we’ve stopped our own undercover agents that are trying to be terrorists, from being terrorists, because we know they are trying to be terrorists.


    1. I thought that at first too, but this seems to be much different than the recent FBI stings. The double agent went undercover, gathered intelligence, then got out (and as a bonus had the people he was spying on pay for his extraction ticket). 

      1. Exactly.  Here they infiltrated an actual, existing group that is actively trying to kill Americans to extract real, useful information about their organizational structure and technological capabilities.

        In FBI stings like the Bronx synagogue bombing conspiracy, the FBI’s informant egged some stupid ex-cons into becoming wannabe terrorist peons–kind of like the firefighter who sets a building on fire so he can be a hero when he puts it out.

      2. Hmm. Reuters claims: “The BBC’s Steve Kingstone in Washington says the double-agent was reportedly given an ambitious task by Saudi intelligence – to convince AQAP that he wanted to blow up himself and a US-bound aircraft.”

        So – were they already going to do this, or did the double-agent suggest the idea of the suicide bombing and urge them to do it? Curious… I guess the facts will emerge now.

        1. Well, he got out with a new model of their latest weapon and enough intel to get a head honcho killed, I reckon as missions go that’s a win, especially since he got out himself.

        2.  “Know what Boss, we got this guy that wants to blow himself up… can you believe it?”

          “Know what Boss, if we get some guy to convince them to put a bomb on him and pretend to board a plane we can keep our jobs.”

          Not in that order.

        3. They should have set him an even more ambitious task: make sure that you are caught by the TSA. Seriously, if you have to go through those pornoscanners more than once, go ahead. It’s vital to national security that those things are seen to work.

      3.  yeah, but if one were able to watch every detailed congressional committee meeting there’ll be at least three mentions of how this triumph justifies the continuance of the TSA and its moronic practices.  (that is, the contractors and lobbyists will not miss this fallacious opportunity)

    2. Yes, Yay, because as will all undercover stings it creates a level of fear and distrust among the players involved, which impedes operations…even though the specific operation in question may have been completely fabricated. ie. They can never be sure of anyone they are dealing with, so they will deal with others less often…makes it a lot harder.
      Quite a set of cojones on that guy.

    1. I can’t imagine why Saudi Arabia or anyone of our middle-eastern allies of convenience would be trying to undermine our power in the region, while increasing their own!  Why on earth would they ever want to do that?

    1.  I guess he’s a double agent because he was pretending to be a terrorist agent who would infiltrate a US airliner. 

      Also, he was Saudi intelligence, not CIA.

  3. Gosh the CIA has gone a long way from protecting the US treasury.

    1. Yeah, that’s why we’re putting all of our resources into Afghanistan, having already destroyed Iraq. Because somebody decided that a hyperactive immune system with weaponized drones was a good idea. Naturally, that leaves us with subhumanoids working in law enforcement at the airports. It was the politically worst decision since Hitler decided that Austria looked fuckable.

      1. Face it, Austria was asking for it.  Those cute little leaderhosen and boots…

        Poland now, she was considerably less happy about the whole series of events.

  4. Given the credibility of that organization, one has to wonder how much, if any, of the story is even true.  

    1. Doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not. The west now fear a new, undetectable type of bomb, just when they were finally getting pissed off with pointless TSA shenanigans, and Al Qaeda are now looking at each other suspiciously, because who knows who could be a double agent now. Sounds like a win-win for oppressive governments of all stripes.

      1.  Well, since we’ve got one of those bombs, I imagine it will be easier to come up with a way to detect it. It’s now a Known Known in other words.

        1. Which is the point. Fear that you have to buy the new expensive scanners to find it that drives up contracting bids.

        2. That’s not Diogenes point. The bomb might not have had anything at all to do with Al Qaeda. Sure there is a new bomb that the CIA is showing us which may as well have been a CIA invention all together. Now they just have to convince us that it came from the enemy to get us shaking in our boots and begging the TSA and DHS for protection again.

          1.  Bingo.  Next they’ll “find” a bomb that looks like an insulin pump.  And it will probably be created by an 18-month old girl name Riyanna. 
            We have nothing to fear but fear and greed.

    2.  Well, skepticism is always healthy, but this story is widely reported and is reasonably plausible. (Plausible that such a plot would exist, efficacy nonwithstanding; plausible that US and Saudi intelligence agencies work together, because they have done so in the past; plausible that a Saudi agent could have infiltrated a group.)

      1. Well, skepticism is always healthy, but this story is widely reported and is reasonably plausible.

        Um….Iraq WMDs?

        1. When the entire US intelligence apparatus gets a ton of pressure from the President to find evidence of WMDs, they can come up with something that is a bit more than “reasonably plausible”.

          This is not an excuse to settle back down in the laZboy, but neither should it be dismissed without contrary evidence.

          1.  But when the CIA gets contrary evidence they’ve been known to burn the tapes.  Ya know?

  5. According to the New York Times, he was a Saudi agent, and that the Saudi intelligence service had been collaborating closely with the US to use the data gathered by this source.

    In any case, I find this story hard to criticize. It’s what intelligence agencies are supposed to do, to spy on foreign groups intending to do harm, and circumvent that harm in a way that minimizes disruption to persons uninvolved.

  6. I think it is very important not to lose sight of the facts and history regarding the CIA.
    It was not not ago that they launched Operation.Project Mockingbird. Within this scheme was a plan to infiltrate the press.media to the point total control with bribes.misinformation.Disinformation. It has worked.
    It would seem that all mainstream media is being controlled to the point they actually hire the actors and extras to shoot the story. But most people that can still think for themselves can see or feel something wrong and have learned to disregard “the news” as it is being presented.
    Every news event that breaks on all mainstream channels is mind manipulation at its worst and most damaging, It is there to try and divide us and get us to take sides,
    try to see through it and things will start to make a bit more sense.
    CIA=Operation Mockingbird=Mass media mind manipulation

  7. “drone strike killing a USS Cole bombing suspect”

    No one seems upset that the US uses extra-judicial killings to get rid of SUSPECTS. Disturbing when theres no need of a prove to get someone killed. Death penalty is problematic enough but when you start killing suspects it’s a whole different league. Just sub-human non-USians eh?

    1. Well realistically spies kill spies all the time.  Spies kill terrorists too.  Hell, half the point of having spies is to kill or compromise high value targets.  This isn’t particularly new in that it’s been done for as long as spies have existed.

      The only new point here is the effectiveness and efficiency of the drones in taking out targets in other countries.  The US, it’s enemies and it’s allies have long conducted surgical strikes on enemies, but air attacks have usually been limited because A) it risks the pilot’s life which as the U2 incident showed can be quite politically dangerous and B) it’s very, shall we say, the *opposite* of covert.  Plus it takes a considerable amount of time to scramble a jet which decreases the chances of hitting the target while increasing the chance of collateral damage.  Drones are unmanned, silent, precision killers that can hover for significant lengths of time with live video feed.  

      So the whole James Bond taking out Russians using improvised weapons?  It seems even Bond isn’t immune to outsourcing.

      Please note I’m using this antiseptic language because it’s neutral, not because I necessarily agree with the practices.

      1. Perhaps the problem is somewhere else. The US gov. and public likes to wage wars. There is war on everything – War on Poverty, War on Drugs, War on Terror … Before 9/11 mostly the rhetorics for a war were used – now they start to apply the methods. 

        War seem to make things easier: Everything is black or white. With us or against us. Kill or be killed. It’s just temporary so you can shove those pesky time consuming things away like civil/human rights and due process. 

        The European method for dealing with terrorism in the decades before 9/11 (after which the US infected the european countries with their warmongering) was using their criminal justice system.Terrorist were a deranged bunch of murdering criminals that needed to be dealt with within the legal constraints of a judicial system (examples are ETA, Spain and France; RAF, Germany; Red Brigades, Italy).  It was successful in most of the cases. 

        The US needs to stop seeing everything as a war and apply sane methods to the problem. Yes 9/11 was horrible but such things happened before in other countries. Using the irrational methods of a war compounds the problem, breeds new enemies and puts your allies off.

        1. To be fair to the bloated parasitic growth that is the US security sector – I’m not sure the comparison with Europe is apt. All the movements you mentioned were mostly located inside the country affected, so police could deal with them. 
          In the long run, Islamist violence against the USA could probably be reduced to nothing with some sensible foreign policy changes (including a ban on US funds being used to complete the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank), but in the meantime, what are the better options for tackling terrorists hidden in the mountains of Yemen? 

        2. I completely agree.  I do think humanresource’s comment below is accurate as well, but on a more fundamental level the United States has sublimated not only it’s role as the World Police (protecting shipping lanes, commerce, limiting local conflicts and mostly IMO beneficial gropolitical security) but the idea of its inherent nature as the ‘good guy’ when this is quite often not the case, or at very least much more complicated and nuanced that most understand.  When we are attacked, the general public outcry is (understandably) to defend the country and seek retribution.  The problem lies not just because of the public’s fear-based response, but because we have armies in all of the world, and the will do use them.  It’s a perfect recipe for the uneccesary conflicts and wars that we keep getting into.

          I know this is a debatable point, and is still subject to an uncertain outcome, but I think the US/NATO intervention in Libya is a difficult thing to do; by commiting forces Obama is political bound to the result, and doesn’y have the excuse that “we are protecting freedom” which somehow involves stations troops in occupied countries.

          It might take the dollar losing it’s power combined with a financial crises for the military to be cut, and people to stop focusing so much on exaggerated external risks.  I hope not though.

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