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Did the "System" Fail, Again?

We can’t keep relying on Lady Luck.

12:48 PM, May 4, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was in regular email contact with a top al Qaeda cleric named Anwar al Awlaki. Despite the fact that Hasan was a self-proclaimed jihadist, and his pen pal had called on Muslim soldiers to turn against their “infidel” armies, the Department of Defense and the FBI failed to connect the dots on him. On November 5, 2009, Hasan made his jihadist nightmare a reality, killing 13 Americans and wounding dozens more in a shooting spree.

Then, on December 25, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a Detroit-bound plane with an underwear bomb. His father had let a U.S. embassy know that his son may be a terrorist and had disappeared in Yemen, an al Qaeda hotspot. Other intelligence demonstrated that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen, was preparing to use a Nigerian recruit in an attack. And Abdulmutallab was a known friend of Islamic extremists living in the UK, where Abdulmutallab had studied for years. The dots were not connected. Only the aforementioned Lady Luck and Abdulmutallab’s fellow passengers saved the day. 

On Saturday, May 1, we got lucky again in Times Square.

There have been some recent successes. For example, federal authorities stopped an Afghan immigrant, Najibullah Zazi, before he could attack commuter trains in New York City. But still, the recent trend is not good.

We need to know all of the dots that were missed in Shahzad’s case. We need to know if there were other individuals, with their own missed dots, who were involved as well.  And we need to explore why the U.S. government keeps failing to stop terrorists like Hasan, Abdulmutallab, and the would-be Times Square bomber. 

Needless to say, if Shahzad or others received assistance from the terror network in Pakistan, then this was not a “one-off” event. And, no, the system did not work on Saturday either.

Three failures in six months is a disturbing trend. We can’t keep relying on Lady Luck.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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