An ABC News story today on the Miami shooting by an air marshal carries this tidbit:
Officials say a 50—year old Egyptian man was stopped six days ago at New York's John F. Kennedy airport. Sources say he had a suspicious pair of shoes that tested positive five times for the explosive substance TATP on the interior of his shoes between the heel and sole.
Federal officials say the man's shoes are remarkably similar to those used by shoe bomber Richard Reid, who attempted to blow up an American Airlines jet over the Atlantic four years ago.
The Egyptian man's destination was Des Moines, Iowa, sources say, and he claimed he was a student at Iowa State University, in Ames.
Strangely, after holding him overnight, airport security in New York released him. The FBI was notified after he was released. Now the FBI has put out a nationwide alert.
Let him go?
Now, if this is true, it seems peculiar.
(1)Is this test for TATP explosives so sensitive we get lots of false positives?(I am no expert, but I am told it is not.)
(2)Was TSA too busy to contact Iowa and check out his story?
(3) Wouldn't it be standard procedure for TSA to notify the FBI when they are releasing someone under such circumstances?
(4)Did TSA make a major blunder?
Well, the story is even more interesting, it seems.
The Israelis are reporting three more shoe bomber wannabes were picked up at Nairobi airport:
Cyrus Ombati — Nairobi — Police in Nairobi are holding three terror suspects allegedly found in possession of explosives.
The three Ethiopians were arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last Tuesday on arrival from Addis Ababa.
Detectives said they were headed for South Africa.
The detectives were investigating the three, who also had shoes that had switches and dry cells.
"We suspect they are suicide bombers and we are interrogating them to establish their motive for having such shoes," said a policeman.
The first suspect was seized at the screening point at the airport before his suspected accomplices were also caught.
A team of detectives sent to Ethiopia to investigate the wired shoes, switches and dry cells returned at the weekend
The article is dated Dec 1.which would mean the arrests occurred on Nov 29 which would appear to be two days before the Egyptian reportedly was held by TSA.
Surely an international warning went out as soon as the arrests in Nairobi took place, that is, before the reported TSA detention.
That would mean the TSA action was beyond stupid or the story is disinformation.
Clarice Feldman 12 08 05
From an FBI press release:
On December 2, 2005, an Egyptian male was detained by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials while passing through a security checkpoint at JFK Airport in New York City. Preliminary field testing of the individual's shoes showed a positive hit for explosive materials being contained in the shoes. The shoes were confiscated by TSA officials and turned over to the FBI for further analysis.
Analysis of the shoes was performed at the FBI Laboratory and it was determined that no explosive materials were present in the passenger's shoes. This individual was also interviewed by Special Agents of the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Waterloo, Iowa, and it was determined that he poses no security threat