The “Underwear Bomber”: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (also referred to as Umar Abdul Mutallab and Omar Farooq al-Nigeri; born December 22, 1986), popularly referred to as the “Underwear Bomber”, is a Nigerian citizen who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, on December 25, 2009.
He was subsequently charged on six criminal counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of 289 people. He is in U.S. custody, awaiting further legal proceedings.
The Awareness of US Intelligence
On November 11, 2009, British intelligence officials sent the U.S. a cable indicating that a man named “Umar Farouk” had spoken to al-Awlaki, pledging to support jihad, but the cable did not reflect Abdulmutallab’s last name. Abdulmutallab’s father made a report to two CIA officers at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on November 19 regarding his son’s “extreme religious views”, and told the embassy that Abdulmutallab might be in Yemen. Acting on the report, the suspect’s name was added in November 2009 to the U.S.’s 550,000-name Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, a database of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center. It was not added, however, to the FBI’s 400,000-name Terrorist Screening Database, the terror watch list that feeds both the 14,000-name Secondary Screening Selectee list and the U.S.’s 4,000-name No Fly List, nor was his U.S. visa revoked.
U.S. State Department officials said in Congressional testimony that the State Department had wanted to revoke Abdulmutallab’s visa, but U.S. intelligence officials requested that his visa not be revoked. The intelligence officials’ stated reason was that revoking Abdulmutallab’s visa could have foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida.
Abdulmutallab’s name had come to the attention of intelligence officials many months before that, but no “derogatory information” was recorded about him. A Congressional official said that Abdulmutallab’s name appeared in U.S. reports reflecting that he had connections to both al-Qaeda and Yemen.The NCTC did not check to see whether Abdulmutallab’s American visa was valid, or whether he had a British visa that was valid; therefore, they did not learn that the British had rejected Abdulmutallab’s visa application earlier in 2009. The British did not inform the Americans because the visa application was denied to prevent immigration fraud and not for a national security purpose.