Human rights concerns kept MI5 from passing on information about Abdulmutallab

MI5 failed to alert US intelligence about the extremist links of the Detroit plane bomber because of concerns about breaching his human rights and privacy. The spy agency withheld its files on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from Washington until after the near-catastrophic Christmas Day attack because of guidance from its legal department.

Asked why the information had not been passed to the US, a Home Office official said the security service did not pass information to its allies about the thousands of Britons who were merely suspected of having radical Islamic views. It did so only after it classified individuals as progressing into the much smaller category of “violent extremists”, a term used by MI5 to define potential or actual terrorists.

Terrorists aren’t always the economically downtrodden

Both Major Hasan and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came from middle or upper class families, suggesting extremists tend more often to be intellectuals with a grievance, concept, and desire for power. This challenges the theory that the radicalized lack better options.

More full body scanners will be installed at airports this year, privacy debate ensues

After Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a jetliner en route to the US on Christmas Day, American airports plan to triple the number of full body scanners from 40 to 150. The machines have led a debate on where the line should be drawn on security measures to preserve the privacy of citizens.

Analysts call the scans virtual strip searches, as they can see through passenger clothing, creating naked images of passengers. ACLU Washington Legislative Office policy counsel Michael German says they will not detect explosives hidden in body cavities, making them both ineffective, inconvenient, and personally invasive.

Naked images could be shared through the internet, but measures are being taken to prevent this.

They are also expensive. At a cost of $150,000 each, aviation and business experts say there will be a rise in air travel costs in order to pay for the machines. Increasing costs concern not only passengers but also airlines, who have struggled to stay in business.

Who is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?

23-year old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to bomb a Northwest Airlines Flight en route from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

Abdulmutallab was educated at an international British school in Lagos as a youth, and received a degree in engineering and business finance from University College London from 2005-08. His father was a banker and government official in Nigeria.

Abdulmutallab’s father reported him to authorities after he showed interest in radical Islam, cut ties with his family and disappeared. His recent past includes two trips to Yemen and moves to both Egypt and Dubai.

His 2005 posts to the Islamic Forum (http://www.gawaher.com) reveal a lonely young man desperate for a better social life, love life, success on standardized tests, someone to “consult” with, and respite from depression. “I have no one to speak to. No one to support me, no one to consult, and I feel depressed and lonely. I do not know what to do. And then I think this loneliness leads me to other problems.” He was also conflicted about eating meat not slaughtered by Muslims with his parents, and experienced difficulty in finding a balance between working to understand the Koran, and relaxing without becoming too listless.

He also wrote about a 2005 trip to Yemen to study Arabic, where he seemed to be having a happy experience. He described how many American and British people were in Sanaa, and excitement over the availability of Pizza Hut and KFC.

Abdulmutallab had 287 Facebook friends; pictures posted to his profile show him smiling with friends.

A fellow student of his at University College London said he showed no signs of radicalization, but described him as quiet and reserved, and frequently prayed.

Attack on flight from Dutch airport raises security questions

Dutch coverage of the December 25 attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to set off an explosion on the Northwest Air flight from Amsterdam to Detroit has centered largely on security issues. As Dutch News reports, national papers devote much attention to reconstructing what happened on board flight 253, the actions of the passenger who overpowered the alleged terrorist, and the implications regarding security screening at Schipol airport.

Articles in Elsevier and Telegraaf question the level of experience among security employees at Schipol, also questioning whether some security personnel may have had “sympathy for Muslim terrorists”, citing a source who claims there was “rejoicing among Muslim security workers” during the attacks of September 11 2001. The security issue continues to frame Dutch discussion of the attack, and the Netherlands has announced plans to use full body scans for flights bound for the United States.

An overview of religion and economics in Nigeria

Whether attempted Northwest Airlines bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was radicalized in Nigeria where he was raised, or the UK where he attended university, is so far unclear. This NPR interview with West Africa corespondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton discusses Christianity, Islam, US-Nigeria relations, and radicalism in Nigeria, exploring the environment Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was brought up amidst.