Tuesday, January 5

(With apologies to Buckaroo Banzai) It's the Indian, stupid: More on the Kurt Haskell - Umar Abdulmutallab story

More on Kurt Haskell's account, and Pundita's theory about what really happened at Schiphol airport prior to takeoff of NWA Flight 253 on December 25.

I'm sorry to report that the anti-Semitic branch of conspiracy theorists, which is determined to pin every terrorist attack going back to the Sack of Rome on Jews, has seized on Kurt Haskell's account of what he witnessed at Schiphol airport before boarding the fateful out of Amsterdam on Christmas. They've stuffed his account into a theory that with the unerring logic of bigotry finds an Israeli airport security firm hitting on the novel method of drumming up business by knowingly allowing a terrorist to board Flight 253.

What I would like to know is when these theorists will admit they're Earth-slumming, dimension-hopping shape-shifting lizards, who've been after the Jews since they discovered the Old Testament contains a warning about their existence among humans and explains how to see through their disguise.

Never mind; it's a rhetorical question, which admittedly I hope becomes the basis for a new branch of conspiracy theory. Although come to think of it, the theory might throw light on the odd secret greeting among certain Iranian Republican Guard officers, which roughly translated from the Farsi means, "When are we going home?" *

With that off my chest I turn to Kurt Haskell's odyssey to have his account of what he witnessed at Schiphol airport taken seriously by authorities. Of course even the most credible witness can be mistaken in his recollection of faces and events. But although it's not a guarantee that Kurt correctly identified Abdulmutallab as the younger man at the Schiphol ticket counter, another part of his account, which was initially rejected by the FBI, was vindicated by U.S. Customs and Border Control on January 1.

That part relates to Kurt's assertion that after disembarking from Flight 253 he saw a second passenger from the same flight handcuffed and led away. At least as it stands now, according to Customs the passenger turned out to be false alarm and he was later released.

The latest is that on January 2 Bo Taylor, who was also a passenger on the December 25 NWA Flight 253, phoned Kurt and told him:
"After we landed in Detroit I saw an older looking teenager who was African and looked NEARLY IDENTICAL to the terrorist bomber. Since he was a minor, and travelling alone, he was accompanied by an airport employee at all times. Kurt, this could have been the guy you saw in Amsterdam before we boarded."
Kurt immediately posted Bo's account to his wife's blog with his response and alerted Michigan news website, MLive, which has stuck with (Michigan resident) Kurt's story, and where Kurt first posted his eyewitness account.

Kurt's response to Bo Taylor's statement was appropriately tactful. He wrote in part:
"I have no reason whatsoever to dispute the veracity of Bo's statement. I also have no reason to not believe what I saw. Two different people can see two different things. [...]"
I do have reason to dispute Bo Taylor's account fut first to review exactly what Kurt Haskell wrote in his original post at MLive, in the early hours of December 26, about what he witnessed at Schiphol airport prior to boarding Flight 253:
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 (Although I think he is 23 he doesn't look it). 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".

[...] 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.[...]
As I've mentioned before, it's clear Kurt was making an assumption that the older man was an Indian based on his type of accented English and how his looks struck Kurt. But in all other respects he gave a straightforward eyewitness account.

When I first learned of Kurt's account I noted that the older man wasn't necessarily an accomplice if the younger man was indeed Abdulmutallab. I speculated that he could have been a legitimate representative of an NGO that helps refugees, or even an embassy employee who'd been duped by AM (Abdulmutallab) or his AQ handlers. The speculation collapsed when I learned the details of the hoops that anyone has to jump through to enter the United States without a passport. From a December 30 Detroit Free Press report:
Only U.S. citizens can board international flights to the United States without passports -- but only after the air carrier otherwise confirms their identity and citizenship, said Chief Ron Smith, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Detroit.

Smith added that a refugee trying to fly to the United States from another country would also have to have proof of an application for asylum or refugee status, proof of citizenship and identifying documents before the plane could take off.[...]
The hoops pretty much rule out that the older Indian man was a dupe. Any employee of a refugee assistance organization or embassy would have known it was useless to walk up to a NWA counter at virtually the last minute and ask to get a refugee on board a US-bound flight without showing proper documentation, which the Indian didn't do.

So I'm weighted to assume the older Indian man who approached the ticket counter was not on the level. And there was no way he could get the younger man on board the flight without proper documentation unless he thought he could bribe the younger man onto the flight -- a possibility that Kurt Haskell raised in his December 26 statement.

From all that, I can't see how Bo Taylor's account squares with Kurt Haskell's.

There might have been an underage "African" on the flight who looked "nearly identical" to Abdulmutallab, and who was duly escorted by an airline employee, as Taylor claims. But I can't see how that boy was the black male Kurt Haskell says he saw at the ticket counter with an older Indian man.

And the underage "African" boy, if there was one, was not necessarily a refugee; he was being escorted by the airline on the basis of age, according to Taylor. In any event we can assume the boy's papers were all in order if he was being escorted. We can also assume that al Qaeda wouldn't have wanted to risk an airline employee sitting next to Abdulmutallab on the flight by passing him off as underage.

I don't like to cross-examine Bo Taylor. Parts of his account, the ones that list his complaints about how passengers were treated after they disembarked from the flight (see Kurt's January 2 post at his wife's blog), jibe with complaints from Kurt and other passengers who've spoken out about the same issue.

However, at least three passengers other than Kurt have gone on record to state that a passenger was handcuffed and led away after the plane landed. Yet to date none of those other witnesses, nor Kurt, have reported seeing a black African youth who looked "nearly identical" to Abdulmutallab in the holding area after they disembarked and in the company of an airline employee.

That doesn't mean Bo Taylor is lying. It does open the door to the question of whether the African youth Bo described actually looked enough like Abdulmutallab to have drawn attention. To be fair to Bo, it also raises the question of whether many passengers got a good look at Abdulmutallab, before he was tackled and dragged to the front of the plane, to note a striking similarity between his appearance and that of another passenger.

Another problem for me with Bo's account, as Kurt described it, is that it doesn't explain how he knew the youth was an African and underage and that a person accompanying him was an airline employee. Note that Kurt did not peg the man he saw at the airline counter with the older man as an "African." There was no way to tell his nationality; he simply looked like a black youth -- granted, of African descent -- who could have been from any country where such descendents reside, including the USA.

So it would be helpful to know how Bo was able to identify the youth as African and as underage. Did he question the youth or the person he identified as an airline employee or overhear them speaking?

It's still early days since the attack, and I understand the FBI and Customs have a great deal on their plate at this time. Yet I'd think they should pay attention to Bo Taylor's account, in order to assess his claim against Kurt Haskell's account of what he saw at Schiphol. There's always a chance I'm wrong -- that Bo's account does indeed provide an explanation for what Kurt saw at Schiphol. If not -- if his account can be eliminated -- that leaves what could be a very important piece of intelligence inadequately examined.

Is it possible that authorities in Amsterdam and/or the USA are actually giving Kurt's account of the older Indian man the attention it deserves, and just not announcing this? If that were the case I've yet to read that a police sketch artist worked with Kurt to develop a likeness of the older Indian man at Schiphol.

Yet during their interview with him, which took up more than an hour at his law office, the FBI knew that he was a good witness: Kurt recounts that FBI agents showed him a photograph and asked whether this was the man he claimed was the passenger who was handcuffed and led away. Kurt replied that this was indeed the man they said didn't exist. (At that time the FBI was denying his claim that the event had occurred.)

The photograph was of the very same passenger Kurt had seen in handcuffs. So that should have been the agents' cue to ask him to immediately accompany them to their office and work with a police sketch artist/computer sketch specialist to develop a likeness of the older Indian man he claimed to have seen at Schiphol.

Kurt has repeatedly asked that authorities release the two or three minutes of CCTV footage at Schiphol that he refers to. And because Kurt and his wife were prominently placed -- sitting on the floor in front of the check-in counter while playing cards -- they would be an easy reference for the relevant part of the tape.

According to a December 28 Reuters report, the Dutch military police and the Dutch counterterrorism agency were reviewing the CCTV footage in response to Kurt's claim of seeing an Indian man with Abdulmutallab. So far they have not made a follow-up announcement regarding the tape, and it has not been released.

There might be a good explanation for the foot-dragging: maybe the monitor nearest that particular check-in counter wasn't working or wasn't placed in such fashion as to clearly pick up activity to and from that point.

In any event, to the best of my knowledge Kurt has not been asked to work with a police sketch artist and nail down his recollection of the Indian man. Yet that would be important to do, even if the CCTV tape does show the Indian man; the camera can distort and so it's a help to have another reference for the image.

And I wonder if it's occurred to the authorities that they assume too much, if they assume Abdulmutallab donned his bomb prior to arriving at Schiphol. The Indian man could have been an accomplice who handed AM the underwear bomb contraption once he landed at Schiphol.

In summary: if there was an older, wealthy-looking, sharply dressed man who tried to talk Abdulmutallab onto NWA Flight 253 without a passport, it might be crucial that his likeness gets plastered all over the news all over the world. Immediately. But which should have been done a week ago.

Yet instead of taking a routine police action and turning a sketch artist loose, the Amsterdam authorities focused on a red herring, to Kurt's exasperation: the question of whether Abdulmutallab had a valid passport and visa. Yes of course he had both and he showed both in Lagos, Nigeria, before he boarded the flight to Amsterdam. Nigerian authorities have already verified this. And he also had the same valid passport and visa when he was on the NWA Flight 253. The US authorities have verified this.

All that plus 50 cents says nothing about an older man who was accompanying him while he was at Schiphol, according to Kurt Haskell's account.

Thanks to ABC News (and Dan Riehl's sharp eyes), I am no longer thrashing around in the dark about why al Qaeda might have tried to get Abdulmutallab on Flight 253 without having him show his passport. The ABC News investigative team reported on December 31 that contrary to earlier reports, AM's father did not contact the U.S. embassy or the CIA; instead, he contacted officials at Nigeria's intelligence agency. This was after his son phoned him to say that he was calling him for the last time because his SIM card was being destroyed by the people he was with the Yemen.

That was almost certainly a 'tell' that AM was part of a shahid operation that was moving to the launch pad. So the intelligence officials didn't clown around with phone calls or emails. They put the father in a car and drove him to the nearest CIA station, then made sure the station chief heard the father's story.

I think we can assume AM's handlers either heard him make the call to his father, or checked his phone records. Either way, they would have assumed from the call that the authorities were onto him. But the ball was already in play, and they were determined to try for a spectacular terrorist attack on an airplane on Christmas Day.

So it was worth a shot to go ahead with the plan and attempt to get AM on Flight 253. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain by attempting to get him onto the plane without a passport. If that failed they would still go ahead with the plan and trust to luck and the holiday crush at Schiphol that AM wouldn't be flagged.

As to how AM would explain his valid passport and visa at the NWA check-in counter after just posing there as a Sudanese refugee -- why did he need to return to the counter? He had proper documentation and an airline ticket that showed him as a connecting passenger.

All he had to do was rush to the boarding gate at the last minute, haul out his British boarding school accent, and say he lost his boarding pass. After showing his passport and visa he would be on the plane.

As to that other red herring -- that airport security didn't zero in on him -- why would they do that, unless he was on a no-fly list?

There was a funny moment on the Glenn Beck show several week ago when John Bolton and Lord Christopher Monckton were on to discuss the climate change issue. After Chris delivered a little speech debunking the climate change science, Glenn turned to John and asked in amusement, "Why does it always sound so much more convincing when it's said with a British accent?" John burst into laughter and said that was true.

It is indeed true. It's amazing how far an upper-class British accent can carry one in this world. If Haskell's account is correct, Abdulmutallab hammed it up as a dumb Sudanese refugee while his companion tried to talk him onto the plane without a passport. But AM is a very sophisticated, well-traveled, wealthy young man who is more upper-class British than anything else.

As to his clothing, my first thought was that I didn't understand why he didn't dress better. On second thought he was wearing not only clothing that would pass him off as a refugee, but also the uniform of thousands of other young long-distance air travelers: jeans and T-shirt. And all he had to do was speak a few words to make it clear he wasn't from a village in the Terrorist Belt.

That he only had a backpack -- that too is part of the standard uniform for countless travelers. That the ticket was paid for in cash -- a red flag -- was offset by the fact that it was a round trip.

In short there was nothing about Umar Abdulmutallab to make him stand out in the holiday crowd at Amsterdam's international airport. He fit in, and would have passed a routine security check with flying colors.

There's another reason the older Indian man could have been an accomplice. AM had a long way to travel before he reached the final leg of his journey and he'd only had a few months of training with al Qaeda operatives, who are skilled at managing shahid operations. They know that the martyr candidates can have second thoughts as the time draws near. So it's likely that al Qaeda didn't allow AM to make the journey without supplying a handler at the crucial stage, to talk him onto the plane. If Kurt Haskell's account is correct it's a good guess that the older Indian man was the handler.

All this reminds me of a famous motto used by Bill Clinton's presidential election campaign: "It's the economy, stupid." Attention has been fixed on Abdulmutallab ever since he failed to down Flight 253 and on the security issues surrounding his attempt. But I fear that Kurt Haskell's account of the Indian man is getting lost in the shuffle while investigators look high, low, here, there, and everywhere for more clues.

So if I were Kurt I wouldn't wait any longer for the CCTV tape to be released. I'd say, "In for a penny, in for a pound," then I'd hire a sketch artist, or turn to a friend on the police force for help in getting access to a sketch program or artist. Then I'd post on the internet the likeness of the Indian man I remembered. Money says that within 24 hours of the posting the picture would be picked up by blogs all over the internet, and from there it would have a chance to make it onto the nightly news.

At the least, the likeness of the Indian man might jog some memories at intelligence agencies in various parts of the world -- or at an airline facility at Schiphol. For all anyone knows the "wealthy-looking" Indian man could have worked as a baggage handler at the airport, and he might not hold Indian citizenship.

* The classic line from the 1984 cult film, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension." If not for a Writer's Guild strike and futzing around by the producers and the screenwriter, the film's Red Lectroids -- the shape-shifting, dimension-hopping alien reptiles -- would have beaten out the "V" versions by at least three years, and at least as early as 1980 the plot was all around Hollywood.

So yes, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai ..." was the granddaddy of all the shape-shifting lizard movies and TV series, although that doesn't come close to describing it. After they made "Buckaroo" they broke the mold.

Devotees of David Icke shouldn't be crestfallen; after all, one never knows if Buckaroo's creator wasn't himself a shape-shifting alien reptile. But as to whether Mr Icke has ever mentioned "Buckaroo" to his devotees, many of whom are too young to remember the film, somehow I don't think so.

What is certain is that John Lithgow didn't receive the Academy Award for his performance -- perhaps the funniest on film -- as Italian physicist Dr. Emilio Lizardo, who is actually the demented leader of the Red Lectroids.

At one point, in an effort to rally the rest of the space lizards, Dr Lizardo yells in the manner of a cheerleader, "When are we going home?"

They yell back, "Real soon!"

If they haven't left yet I hope they take Wayne Madsen with them, and real soon; this so I don't have to suffer through more of his latest conspiracy theory, which weaves Kurt Haskell's account into a tale that Abdulmutallab's attack on Flight 253 was actually a false flag operation launched by intelligence agencies in the U.S., India, and Israel in a plot to destabilize Pakistan, and which recasts hero Jasper Schuringa in the role of patsy for the Emir of Dubai.

Wayne has taken on airs since he became a high-ranking member of the Illuminati; I liked him better when he was just a simple, blood-drinking giant lizard from outer space.


Anonymous said...

It is very interestingly written, to the author thanks.

nizhal yoddha said...

given that almost all terrorism ops around the world have the pakistani spy agency ISI's fingerprints all over them, it is likely that the so-described 'indian' was in fact a pakistani. besides, pakistani army types (yes, from those 22 feudal families you talk about often pundita) are known to be a little vain and prone to dressing rather sharply -- they want to be seen as 'people like us' by westerners.

indians, on the other hand, tend to wear ill-cut suits. :-) since haskell describes a nattily-dressed middle-aged guy, that is most likely an ISI fellow in an armani.

it could of course have been an indian mohammedan. there is, for instance crime boss dawood ibrahim, a 50-ish indian, who lives in dubai and regularly sponsors mayhem in india. and wears expensive suits.