Scanners: Abdulmutallab, Reid, Chertoff, that Nicely Dressed Indian Man and the Great Terror Lobby
Terror Fever has celebrated its 10th birthday. You may well think that all the hysteria that brought us the full-body scanner as a security measure began with 9/11, but you would be wrong. Extreme measures were already being taken a year before at around the same time GW Bush was dubiously winning his first electoral victory. The UK’s Terrorism Act 2000, for example, which included such Draconian measures as Stop and Search procedures based on your appearance or treating organisations that fight against state led torture as terrorist groups, etc. They sought to fight a phantom menace before most of the world had even heard mention of al Qaeda. Today, the CIA coined term for “the database” (al Qaeda) has been entered into every dictionary in every language worldwide.
You may also be mistaken about what you consider to have been the most significant political soundbite ever uttered. I have no doubt it was when Bush Jr. addressed the world’s governments post 9/11 and threatened “you are either with us or with the terrorists”. Paradoxical for most, plain surreal for others. From that moment, who would dare question the demands of the US government in their War on Terror? Those who have dared have suffered the Neo-Con bullies within the US government with their sabre-rattling, and cruise missile showers.
In spite of all the warnings, in spite of all the intelligence, in spite of all the defence measures already in place, 9/11 happened and a fearful new chapter opened in the history books. Questions were raised, theories debated and new national security measures were eagerly sought. In the shock and awe of the TV images lower-end officials and politicians, bewildered by what had happened, fell over themselves in order to appear to be doing something… anything.
As a post 9/11 response to the threat posed by boxcutters, the sensitivity of the metal detector arches at airports was tweaked and we were all told to remove our belts before passing security. Then 3 months later, a fool with no proven connection to any terrorist networks carved out holes in the heels of his shoes in which he carried a small amount of potentially explosive material that he did not know how to handle, onto an American Airlines flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle. Ever since we have been told to remove our shoes at the airport.
The following year the answer to the problem of how to detect weapons hidden in shoes and pockets was answered in the form of the Rapiscan Secure 1000 backscatter scanner. Rapiscan, subsidiary of OSI Systems, manufacturer of security and medical scanning equipment, had come up with a monster. While several of those panicked low-level politicians must have cheered with Rapiscan’s release, most others were sucking through their teeth. Even in the aftermath of the most terrifying TV horror show of all time, the 200-times-a-day slow-motion repeat sequences on CNN and the BBC, even in the midsts of the “T” word being mentioned thousands of times per hour on every network and radio station, many in government felt that a machine that stripped innocent people naked was a step too far.
Interestingly enough, even today some 8 years later, the scanner programme is often said to still be in ‘trials’. These trials were tentatively initiated with as little press coverage as possible and with no chance for public debate whatsoever. As early as 2006, body scanners were being tested at Liverpool Street train station in London and later on at Paddington station and even Heathrow airport back as early as 2004.
However, the UK trials proved to be resounding failure causing extensive delays and false alarms. The scanner system was not going to work. To add insult to injury L3 had come up with the Millimetre Wave scanner and Rapiscan had its first serious competitor. L3, the bastard love child of the Lehman Brothers and Lockheed (Wow! What pedigree!) and with the full force of the military lobby behind it, had opted for the lesser of two evils in its technology. Whereas everyone knew that the ionising radiation of the Rapiscan scanner could provoke cancer, the L3 technology was untested and therefore showed no negative side-effects. On top of that, the quality of image was far below that of the Rapiscan machine. But who cared? What was important was to be seen doing something to join in the Bush administration’s War on Terror.
In 2008, the European Commission prepared a report on scanner use at EU airports which favoured full-body scanners. However, the EU parliament was not buying it and through fears of violating essential EU citizens’ rights, voted down a common policy on scanner use. All the same, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport had already decided to adopt L3’s scanners. L3’s machine was a mere side-line to their overinflated defence contracts and so they could weather any storm, EU common policy or not.
The future for Rapiscan and its parent company OSI, however, was bleak. They had bet most of their chips on their backscatter technology and the inferior and more costly machines were winning the day. The OSI share price began to plummet and only a miracle could revive their fortunes. What they needed was a double-barrelled miracle that would reopen interest in their product and simultaneously spit in the eye of their competitor.
Enter the Underwear Bomber.
I find it hard to believe that it was simply a coincidence that this miracle decided to pass through Schiphol, the only EU airport to wholeheartedly embrace L3 Millimetre wave scanners.
The miracle came in the form of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who like Richard Reid before him, was another inept misfit with no idea of how to make or detonate a bomb. Son of a successful Nigerian banker, this troubled youth was planning to kill himself. He strived attention, the kind that CNN gives you 200 times a day and travelled to London and Yemen for ideas, and like so many ignored kids, he got in with the wrong crowd.
On Christmas day 2009 he boarded a flight from Lagos, Nigeria to Schiphol, Holland where he would catch his connecting flight to Detroit. Hidden in his underwear were two plastic bags with PETN and TAPN, the ingredients to make a plastic explosive, exactly the same explosive carried by Richard Reid in 2001. The shoe bomber’s ineptitude had known no bounds, if the official story is to be believed. Reid had tried detonate his explosive with a cigarette lighter and a fuse. But the explosive he had detonates when its two principal ingredients are mixed. The ‘official’ story of his actions did not make any sense, and will never as Reid is currently serving 3 life sentences in the US and has been forbidden access to the press. Abdulmutallab’s plan was to mix the two liquids aboard the plane while flying over Detroit. But again, his plan was entirely flawed. Laboratory conditions and expert hands would be required to create a reaction violent enough to explode the material he was carrying. Instead, his unsteady hands just provoked fire and noxious smoke from his underpants. It also provoked enough of a political kneejerk reaction to revive the dying beast of Rapiscan design.
Had the mysterious al Qaeda not learned how to make a bomb in the 8 years between Reid and Abdulmutallab?
There were enormous anomolies in what was to be the official story from early on. Firstly, Abdulmutallab was already on CIA and British intelligence watch lists, yet managed to board the flight. His own father had reported his son’s intentions to the CIA office in Lagos two weeks before the event, yet he was still able to board the flight. An updated no-fly list was sent to Schiphol with his name on it, but, we are told, arrived too late. For some reason the body scanners which had already been in use for the two years previous were not switched on that day. Is this yet another string of faux pas and fuck ups just like we heard of on the 11th of September 2001, or on the 11th of March 2004 in Madrid or even on the 7th of July 2005 in London? Or was there much more to the story?
According to eye-witness testimony on the ground, Abdulmutallab, dishevelled and without so much as a jacket or luggage on a flight to Detroit in winter, was accompanied by a “nicely dressed Indian-looking man” at the airport. Michigan attorneys Kurt and Lori Haskell waiting for check in to begin noticed the Indian man accompanying what they would later recognise as Abdulmutallab.
“My wife and I were playing cards directly in front of the check in counter. This is what I saw:
An Indian man in a nicely dressed suit around age 50 approached the check in counter with the terrorist and said “This man needs to get on this flight and he has no passport.” The two of them were an odd pair as the terrorist is a short, black man that looked like he was very poor and looks around age 17. It did not cross my mind that they were terrorists, only that the two looked weird together. The ticket taker said “you can’t board without a passport”. The Indian man then replied, “He is from Sudan, we do this all the time”. I can only take from this to mean that it is difficult to get passports from Sudan and this was some sort of sympathy ploy. The ticket taker then said “You will have to talk to my manager”, and sent the two down a hallway. I never saw the Indian man again as he wasn’t on the flight. It was also weird that the terrorist never said a word in this exchange. Anyway, somehow, the terrorist still made it onto the plane. I am not sure if it was a bribe or just sympathy from the security manager.”
The scene mirrored perfectly the prediction of the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff in his report presented in 2008 which foresaw that “terrorists” would board planes claiming to be refugees or asylum seekers in order to exploit foreign travel channels. I am always amazed at the foresight of politicians and policy makers and my jaw then hits the ground when these so-called terrorists waltz nonchelantly onto an international flight unimpeded.
Who the “nicely dressed Indian man” was is key to the whole story as well as to the excuse for the mass roll-out of body scanners worldwide. Why was he helping the Nigerian kid? How did he know him? The FBI have said that they there was no Indian man and just to prove it, they and the Dutch security forces have decided to withhold all CCTV footage from Schiphol that day.
At Detroit another Indian looking man from the flight, younger this time (the man in orange) was taken aside for questioning after police sniffer dogs reacted to something in his hand luggage, and was soon released without charges. He was also released and left the airport facilities before the rest of the passengers. Who was he? The FBI say they have eliminated him from their enquiries. Initially they had denied all knowledge of the man, changing their official story 5 times. They later admitted to his existance when other witnesses spoke of him
During the incident when almost everyone was buckling up their seatbelts and expecting the worst, another man was standing calmly and filming the whole event. He has never come forward and presented his film publicly. Who was he and why was he so calm? Did he know something the other passengers did not? Why was he filming? The FBI make no mention of him whatsoever.
The Haskells, of course, were not the only witnesses to the crimes and weirdness that day. They were the just the only ones brave enough to come forward and speak out against the lies. Some have corroborated Kurt and Lori’s story in private, but few have spoken out publicly about it. Likewise, no one has corroborated the “official” story either. On the 25th of December 2009 something was seen. It was considered to be far more frightening than a man with his underpants on fire. Something frightening enough to keep the silence of scores of passengers.
The Chertoff Connection and ICTS
Everyone must understand that ICTS is the worst airport security company ever to have existed…. FACT. They were running the show at Schiphol that day, just as they were at Boston’s Logan on 11th of September 2001, and as well when Richard Reid boarded his flight at Charles de Gaulle. This is the security company made up of crack Israeli ex Shin Bet agents, expert in counter-terrorism, that has the worst airport security track record in history. Prior to the 3 biggest air-terrorist acts in recent history this company actually managed to TURN OFF all procedures just at the moment when the terrorists were passing security. Mohamed Atta managed to breeze through the magnetic detectors with his boxcutters without so much as a beep. Richard Reid had already been identified as a potential threat, yet was allowed to board his flight. Abdulmutallab had all the markings of a suicide bomber and even his own father had reported him two weeks before, and the scanners just happened to be switched off that day. Either this company is really, really unlucky or its Israeli owners had a side-line more profitable than its airport security racket.
Michael Chertoff did not consider this relevant. He only thought it appropriate to throw more money at airport security.
Ex US Secretary of Homeland Security under JW Bush and co-author of the controversial Patriot Act, Michael Chertoff was one of the first to shout from the rooftops his idea of the cure to the problem. He was under no doubt that what the world needed was full-body scanners at all international airports. He also claimed that if they [the US] had been in charge of security that day, the flight 253 incident would never have happened. Ha ha ha! US Customs officers WERE there, so why were they not interviewing passengers?
Then there are Chertoff’s business interests to consider. The Chertoff Group had actually been contracted by Rapiscan to sell their products. And here was an advisor to the Secretary of Homeland security peddling his client’s wares shamelessly on CNN. Advisor to Janet Napolitano, he was telling her that the US needed body scanners and at the same time was receiving money directly from one of the principal manufacturers of scanners – Rapiscan.
I don’t know about you, but that seems to me to be the ingredients for the biggest scandal since Watergate.
Follow the Money Trail
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” US Constitution, 4th Amendment
Everyone knows that the government, no matter how “Democratic” you think it is, is a closed shop. It will never be revealed exactly how much of a financial interest Chertoff ever had in the scanners. That is why, some 10 months later, even Kurt and Lori Haskell have not been allowed access to the CCTV footage of that day at Schiphol to confirm their eye-witness testimony. If anyone out there is the eternal optimist, today on the news I heard that the US government has just released the ‘remastered’ version of the moon landings- Photoshopped to hell to cover up those conflicting shadows. So, don’t hold your breath waiting for the Schiphol tapes.
In investigating any crime, all avenues of possible responsibility have to be explored. A rushed nonsensical excuse of a story, which the official story was, can never reveal even a fraction of the truth. Motive and probable cause should be meticulously examined. Was the initial charge laid against Abdumutallab the full story? Until the identities of all the players have been revealed, we will never know. The excuse given for not releasing certain information, such as the CCTV footage from both Schiphol and Detroit, has always been “National Security”. But what kind of significant threat to National Security is a terrorist network that cannot train its own operatives in bomb manufacturing and that is incapable of learning the mistakes of a failed operation 8 years before? Are our nations really at threat from the likes of Abdulmutallab and Reid currently serving jailtime in US prisons? I doubt it.
The smartly dressed Indian man as well as the Indian man in orange remain key to this case. They are, in themselves, reason for a fully public and independent enquiry (Chertoff is another). Without them there are far too many gaps in this puzzle.
Scrap the Scanners
Check out these sites for more info on the scanners and the growing movement against electronic strip searches.