The Latest Terrorist Test Run

The arrest in Amsterdam of two Yemeni Americans raises many uncomforatble questions about airport security here.

It is worth mentioning that after my first article published December 11th, 2009 for American Thinker reporting a terrorist test run on AirTran Flight #297 originating from Atlanta, a reader named Rene wrote me an email.  She asked if I had any pictures of the men taken off the plane for questioning by TSA officials.  She mentioned she personally witnessed the incident from inside the terminal and wanted to see if the photos included one particular man who watched the activity at the plane with such keen interest it drew her attention. 

Unfortunately, I had no pictures to share.  More recently, I received a second email from Rene to inform me she thought she saw the man's photo at the website  He's the Wanted: Former Al Qaeda dishwasher named Shukrijumah that can be found in a blog posted on August 8th, 2010.

It was intriguing information, but since Christmas Day airport security has gotten tighter, right?  If you believe that, reading this article found at ABC news may change your mind.  The headline reads, "Two Men on United Flight from Chicago Arrested on ‘Preparation of a Terrorist Attack' in Amsterdam."

Okay, so what's the problem?  They caught the guys, right?  Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi of Detroit, MI (by way of Yemen) and Hezem al Murisi were both arrested.

But the two men were arrested in Amsterdam.

And why is that significant?

Well, because the article reported, "U.S. officials said the two appeared to be travelling with what were termed "mock bombs" in their luggage.  "This was almost certainly a dry run, a test," said one senior law enforcement official."

And they got all the way to Amsterdam?  Like, completely out of the U.S. where the Dutch authorities had to arrest them?

Dutch prosecutor Ernst Koelman said the arrests were "at the request of American authorities." 

Oh!  Well, that should make everyone feel better.

So, we just figured that out in the nick of time to let our Dutch partners in fighting terrorism share in the glory achieved by thwarting a terrorist attack.  Surely it wasn't just incompetence or political correctness on the part of the TSA.  It couldn't be.  Except....

The ABC News Exclusive on August 30th reported,

Airport security screeners in Birmingham, Alabama first stopped al-Soofi and referred him to additional screening because of what officials said was his "bulky clothing".

The article also reported,

The two were allowed to board the flight at O'Hare airport last night despite security concerns surrounding one of them, the officials said.

Now wait a minute!  There were security concerns in Birmingham, but the men boarded a flight in Chicago and weren't arrested until reaching Amsterdam?  What did the additional screening in Birmingham find?

al Soofi was found to be carrying $7,000 in cash and a check of his luggage found a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives. Officials said there was no indication of explosives and he and his luggage were cleared for the flight from Birmingham to Chicago O'Hare.

 Let's get this straight - my 99 year old grandmother in a wheelchair has to remove her shoes to go through screening, but they find two men of Middle Eastern descent boarding a plane with a box cutter and three large knives and they are allowed to board the plane?  What is the purpose of screening passengers for security concerns if people acting this suspiciously are allowed to fly anyway?

So what exactly does it take to get arrested?

The ABC article reported that Ahmed al-Soofi checked his luggage on a flight to Dulles with a connection to Dubai and then got on a plane to Amsterdam.  Apparently flying without his luggage finally constituted enough probable cause for American authorities to ask someone else to arrest al-Soofi.  If it took that much just for his arrest, why doesn't the article say what did al-Murisi did wrong? 

Had al Soofi accompanied his suitcase to Dubai, would either man even been arrested?

That's yesterday's news - just not all of it.  Al-Soofi and al-Murisi have been charged with "preparation of a terrorist attack", but an AP report by Mike Corder at My Way News said,

It is not illegal, however, to carry knives or taped cell phones and watches in checked baggage.

The incident involving al-Soofi and al-Murisi apparently wasn't the only terror test run yesterday. Channel 10 News in Tampa is reporting that nine men of Pakistani descent were removed from a United Airlines flight.  A similar scenario to what happened with AirTran Flight #297 is reported in the article.  The accounts from a passenger on the flight differ significantly in the perceived nature of the threat. 

John Luke, who was on the flight, says the nine men were seated throughout the airplane. Luke says he was told the men were of Pakistani descent and one man made a comment that apparently was "inappropriate" and made a flight attendant feel uncomfortable.  United Airlines spokesperson Megan McCarthy says at that point, the gate agent had a conversation with the men and they were asked to depart. But that's not how Luke and other passengers saw it.   Luke says the fact that the men knew each other caused concern and police came on with their hands on their guns. Then, according to Luke, the police started escorting the men off the plane.

American law enforcement is not incompetent.  The risk was properly identified by the airport screeners in Birmingham.  The problem must lie in a politically correct management policy from a weak federal bureaucracy that allows terrorists to test our security for breaches or potential weaknesses.

Update: According to the UK Telegraph, the nine men were Pakistani military officers traveling in civilian clothes, on their way to CENTCOM in Tampa.

Private Investigator Bill Warner plastered Adnan Shukrijumah's wanted poster on his website, dedicated to investigating "Sex, Crime, Cheaters and Terrorism."  Warner also reports that Shukrijumah's last known address was in Miami and his last believed sighting was in Tampa, Florida in 2003.  Tampa is 450 miles from Atlanta, only about an eight hour drive.

Rene's possible sighting of this fugitive terrorist in Atlanta makes a certain amount of sense.  Atlanta is a major hub and an international city similar to Miami in terms of cultural diversity, with a popular of roughly four million people scattered over two hundred square miles of what is considered the metropolitan area.  Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest airport in the world, handling over 90 million passengers since 1998.

It makes a lot of sense for a terrorist cell to base operations in Atlanta.  And it's only 140 miles, about a two hour drive to Birmingham, where al-Sooki and al-Murisi started their test run.

John Leonard can be reached by email by addressing  His first book, Divine Evolution: a Hybrid Theory Reconciling Creationism and Evolution is available through his website at
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