Saturday, January 09, 2010

What al-Qaeda Can't Do - TIME

Here's a fact about the underwear attack that you might have missed in the media shoutfest: it failed. It failed, first of all, because Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was just one terrorist. Once upon a time, al-Qaeda's modus operandi was to launch multiple, simultaneous attacks. That way, even if one attack failed, the entire operation wouldn't. On 9/11, the network deployed 19 hijackers on four planes; on 12/25, by contrast, it managed only one. Second, the underwear attack failed because Abdulmutallab wasn't particularly well trained. The 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were personally selected by Osama bin Laden from the tens of thousands of potential killers who went through al-Qaeda's Afghan training camps in the 1990s. The ringleaders got extensive training on the design of airplanes and the behavior of aircraft crews, even before they enrolled in U.S. flight schools. The grunts were made to slit the throats of camels and sheep to overcome their inhibitions about murder. Abdulmutallab, by contrast, reportedly used a syringe to try to detonate a notoriously hard-to-detonate explosive called PETN. "To make this stuff work," says Van Romero, an explosives expert at New Mexico Tech, "you have to know what you're doing." Abdulmutallab, it appears, did not.
What al-Qaeda Can't Do - TIME
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