Doing the Math

One would think that the revelations by Great Britain's MI5 of the plot by Islamic terrorists to destroy themselves and as many as 10 commercial airliners enroute to the United States might stimulate a deeper, more critical look at recent developments in the news.  This could be termed connecting the dots. And yet few government agencies have demonstrated a comprehensive grasp of the problem.  This is distressing in that the average American has by now reached the logical conclusion that, as Sherlock Holmes might say, 'the game is afoot.'

Let's review very briefly the developments of concern over the past few weeks.

— A rash of statements by Al—Qaida spokesmen in recent videotapes and on internet sites that Western powers will soon be reminded of the force and influence of radical Muslim thought.

— Iranian president Mahoud Ahmadinejad's feckless interview with Mike Wallace and his various statements indicating that interesting events are in the works.

— The uncovering of a far advanced plot to turn overseas airlines into flying bombs whose simultaneous destruction will result in casualties to innocent travelers that would dwarf those incurred by 9/11.  The plot was apparently being coordinated and directed from Pakistan.

— The 'disappearance' of Egyptian college students (all young men) enroute to an educational exchange program in Montana.

Let's focus on this last item just for a moment.  Now, it's been a while since I was actively involved in the business of counter—terrorism but there are a few things that I would certainly want to know about the missing Egyptian students — now apprehended.

The salient fact about the truant Egyptian students is where they surfaced.  The seemingly casual statements issued by Customs and Immigration officials might lead one to think that the missing men were simply disoriented.  Having been held up in Immigration and Customs inspections they missed their scheduled flight west. Naturally they then did the best they could individually.  Rather than staying together as a student group (something that any student group with a modicum of intelligence would have done) they split up into smaller groups and headed off to get to their final destination.  If that were the case one would certainly want to know why they have turned up where they have;

— Two students were renting an apartment in Richmond, Virginia.

— One was picked up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

— Two students were found in Manville, New Jersey;

— One was apprehended causing a disturbance at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

— And three more were picked up by police in Des Moines, Iowa.

Was the Egyptian students' command of the English language so bad that they could so easily have gone astray?  Perhaps I'm being naive here but the last time I looked none of these locations sounded even remotely like Bozeman, Montana — their purported final destination.  One would think that the authorities involved in this investigation would want to know everything they possibly could about how these young men got where they were going, why they went where they went, what they did there, and who they knew in the areas in which they were apprehended. While I imagine that it's possible that they were simply using the trip as a convenient way to slip into American society where there are more opportunities than in Egypt for advancement, this is highly unlikely.

Add to this the fact that 5 young men of Palestinian origin have now been arrested in Michigan and Ohio for purchasing large numbers of cell phones. There were over 1000 phones in their van when they were pulled over. 

The initial protestations by the men in Michigan that they were buying large numbers of these disposable phones for resale at home in Texas were questionable, in that the phones were found disassembled and separated into parts within the men's rental van.

Now, the last time I checked, there seemed to be a goodly number of Wal—Marts in Texas selling the same phones. The only difference is that the Wal—Marts in Texas will sell the phones in their original packing material with batteries and charger and at a lower price. Maybe I've got the private enterprise concept all wrong but somehow the purported cell—phone resale plan sounds like something straight out of Dumb and Dumber.

In sum it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that there are still some very dangerous, fanatical young men who would turn the freedoms available to them in a democratic environment against the very people who would offer them in a spirit of generosity and openness. 

And what reaction do the TSA and Homeland Security have?   All airline passengers must now remove their shoes and turn in their bottled water and shampoo.
 
Well, I certainly feel better about that.

Nice to know that our bureaucratic juggernaut has found a way to deal with the problem of disappearing Egyptian students and the massive purchasing of cell phones.  I think maybe I'll rent a copy of the movie Dumb and Dumber to see if I'm missing something.

Frederick J. Chiaventone, award—winning novelist and screenwriter is a retired Army officer who taught counter—terrorism at the U.S. Army's Command & General Staff College.

One would think that the revelations by Great Britain's MI5 of the plot by Islamic terrorists to destroy themselves and as many as 10 commercial airliners enroute to the United States might stimulate a deeper, more critical look at recent developments in the news.  This could be termed connecting the dots. And yet few government agencies have demonstrated a comprehensive grasp of the problem.  This is distressing in that the average American has by now reached the logical conclusion that, as Sherlock Holmes might say, 'the game is afoot.'

Let's review very briefly the developments of concern over the past few weeks.

— A rash of statements by Al—Qaida spokesmen in recent videotapes and on internet sites that Western powers will soon be reminded of the force and influence of radical Muslim thought.

— Iranian president Mahoud Ahmadinejad's feckless interview with Mike Wallace and his various statements indicating that interesting events are in the works.

— The uncovering of a far advanced plot to turn overseas airlines into flying bombs whose simultaneous destruction will result in casualties to innocent travelers that would dwarf those incurred by 9/11.  The plot was apparently being coordinated and directed from Pakistan.

— The 'disappearance' of Egyptian college students (all young men) enroute to an educational exchange program in Montana.

Let's focus on this last item just for a moment.  Now, it's been a while since I was actively involved in the business of counter—terrorism but there are a few things that I would certainly want to know about the missing Egyptian students — now apprehended.

The salient fact about the truant Egyptian students is where they surfaced.  The seemingly casual statements issued by Customs and Immigration officials might lead one to think that the missing men were simply disoriented.  Having been held up in Immigration and Customs inspections they missed their scheduled flight west. Naturally they then did the best they could individually.  Rather than staying together as a student group (something that any student group with a modicum of intelligence would have done) they split up into smaller groups and headed off to get to their final destination.  If that were the case one would certainly want to know why they have turned up where they have;

— Two students were renting an apartment in Richmond, Virginia.

— One was picked up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

— Two students were found in Manville, New Jersey;

— One was apprehended causing a disturbance at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

— And three more were picked up by police in Des Moines, Iowa.

Was the Egyptian students' command of the English language so bad that they could so easily have gone astray?  Perhaps I'm being naive here but the last time I looked none of these locations sounded even remotely like Bozeman, Montana — their purported final destination.  One would think that the authorities involved in this investigation would want to know everything they possibly could about how these young men got where they were going, why they went where they went, what they did there, and who they knew in the areas in which they were apprehended. While I imagine that it's possible that they were simply using the trip as a convenient way to slip into American society where there are more opportunities than in Egypt for advancement, this is highly unlikely.

Add to this the fact that 5 young men of Palestinian origin have now been arrested in Michigan and Ohio for purchasing large numbers of cell phones. There were over 1000 phones in their van when they were pulled over. 

The initial protestations by the men in Michigan that they were buying large numbers of these disposable phones for resale at home in Texas were questionable, in that the phones were found disassembled and separated into parts within the men's rental van.

Now, the last time I checked, there seemed to be a goodly number of Wal—Marts in Texas selling the same phones. The only difference is that the Wal—Marts in Texas will sell the phones in their original packing material with batteries and charger and at a lower price. Maybe I've got the private enterprise concept all wrong but somehow the purported cell—phone resale plan sounds like something straight out of Dumb and Dumber.

In sum it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that there are still some very dangerous, fanatical young men who would turn the freedoms available to them in a democratic environment against the very people who would offer them in a spirit of generosity and openness. 

And what reaction do the TSA and Homeland Security have?   All airline passengers must now remove their shoes and turn in their bottled water and shampoo.
 
Well, I certainly feel better about that.

Nice to know that our bureaucratic juggernaut has found a way to deal with the problem of disappearing Egyptian students and the massive purchasing of cell phones.  I think maybe I'll rent a copy of the movie Dumb and Dumber to see if I'm missing something.

Frederick J. Chiaventone, award—winning novelist and screenwriter is a retired Army officer who taught counter—terrorism at the U.S. Army's Command & General Staff College.