Pressure on Obama as jet bomb suspect indicted
Published 07/01/2010 | 05:00
AN AMERICAN grand jury last night indicted a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.
The six charges against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab include attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder.
Police say 23-year-old Abdulmutallab was travelling to Detroit from Amsterdam when he tried to ignite an explosive aboard the airliner.
Passengers pounced on him and prevented disaster.
He is being held at a federal prison in Milan, Michigan.
News of the indictment came as pressure was growing on President Barack Obama yesterday to shake up the US intelligence community with dismissals in the wake of not one but two humiliating and highly damaging debacles -- the thwarted Detroit bombing and the slaughter in Afghanistan of seven CIA officers by an informant who was actually a double agent.
Mr Obama's statement on Tuesday expressing his anger at the failure of the intelligence community to "connect the dots" to disrupt the Christmas airliner incident has yet to quell criticism of how it was mishandled. So far he has not sought any resignations, but some in Washington are casting their eyes toward the Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, who claimed immediately afterwards that security arrangements had "worked", before reversing herself.
The damage caused by the suicide bombing at the CIA base in Afghanistan a week ago was still being assessed with reports emerging that the perpetrator, a Jordanian doctor named Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, had been seen by his American handlers as offering them the best chance they had had in years to properly infiltrate the top command in al-Qa'ida. Only his self-detonation as a human bomb told them how wrong they were.
The widow of al-Balawi was yesterday quoted in the Turkish media saying that her dead husband considered the US his adversary but that she was nonetheless shocked when she heard he had blown himself up on December 30. Speaking to CNN-Turk television, Defne Bayrak expressed doubt that he had ever genuinely worked for the CIA or the Jordanian intelligence service, which took the lead in allegedly "turning" him to work against America.
The suicide attack has served to highlight how thin the straws appear to be for the CIA as it grasps for anything that may lead to the al-Qa'ida leadership, and Osama bin Laden himself. "This was one of the agency's most promising efforts", a senior intelligence officer told 'The New York Times'. "He had provided information that checked out, about people in al-Qa'ida whom he had access to."
The White House has promised to publish reviews of security procedures to protect air travellers before the end of this week. But some analysts believe that Mr Obama will have to set some heads rolling.
"The two agencies that have failed security big-time are the Secret Service and TSA (Transportation Security Administration),"
Ed Rollins, the veteran Republican consultant and White House adviser, wrote yesterday. "The person in charge of both agencies is Janet Napolitano.