Anyone who reads Tom Joscelyn's work here on the blog or in the magazine knows that he has a freakish, Beautiful Mind-like ability to connect the terrorist dots and recall the most bizarre details of any one terrorist's dossier. So when ABC posted a major scoop that that the Christmas Day bomber was trained by two former Gitmo detainees, it was no surprise that within minutes Joscelyn had spotted some big problems with the story, chief among them:
one of the two former Gitmo detainees implicated by ABC, Muhamad Attik al Harbi (aka Muhamad al Awfi) is reportedly not even still active within the AQAP organization, according to published accounts. Al Harbi rejoined al Qaeda after graduating from the Saudi regime's rehabilitation program. He then promptly left Saudi Arabia for Yemen, where he appeared in an al Qaeda video earlier this year, but has since returned to Saudi soil after pressure from his family convinced him to do so.
It is not clear what, exactly, convinced al Harbi to return to Saudi custody - it could have been threats against his family or bribes, or something else entirely. Regardless, al Harbi is apparently not a part of al Qaeda's current operational capacity. If he was involved in the Christmas Day plot, then he would have had to become a recidivist yet again - which is possible, but there is no evidence so far that this is the case.
Last night, the network acknowledged the error with a correction on World News:
We do have a correction to make tonight. Last night here, we said two former prisoners from Guantanamo Bay were helping run Al Qaeda's operation in Yemen. It turns out, only one of them is. The other is believed to be in custody in Saudi Arabia.
If Obama would just replace Dennis Blair with Tom Joscelyn, I'm pretty sure we'd never again have a "systemic failure" of the kind that let a known Nigerian terrorist onto a U.S. flight with a bomb in his underwear.