Thursday, February 09, 2006

West Coast al Qaeda Plot Thwarted

In a speech earlier today, President Bush revealed that the U.S. had successfully stopped a terrorist plot to crash airplanes into a Los Angeles skyscraper in 2002.

Since Septemeber 11th, the United States and our coalition partners have disrupted a number of serious al Qaeda terrorist plots, including plots to attack targets inside the United States.
Let me give you an example:

In the weeks after September 11th, while Americans were still recovering from an unprecedented strike on our homeland, al Qaeda was already busy planning its next attack. We now know that in October 2001, Khalid Sheik Muhammed, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks, had already set in motion a plan to have terrorist operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door, and fly the plan into the tallest building on the West Coast.

We believe the intended target was Liberty Tower [Library Tower], in Los Angeles, California.

Rather than use Arab hijackers as he had on September 11th, Khalid Sheik Muhammed sought out young men from Southeast Asia, whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion. To help carry out his plan, he tapped a terrorist named Hambali, one of the leaders of an al Qaeda affiliated group in Southeast Asia called J-I [Jemaah Islamiya]. J-I terrorists were responsible for a series of deadly attacks in Southeast Asia, and members of the group had trained with al Qaeda. Hambali recruited several key operatives, who had been training in Afghanistan. Once the operatives were recruited, they met with Usama bin Laden, and then began preparations for the West Coast attack.

Their plot was derailed in early 2002, when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al Qaeda operative. Subsequent debriefings and other intelligence operations made clear the intended target, and how al Qaeda hoped to execute it. This critical intelligence helped other allies capture the ringleaders, and other known operatives who had been recruited for this plot.

The West Coast plot had been thwarted.

This is the kind of information that you knew was out there, but just couldn't confirm. By providing this information to the public, the Bush administration is attempting to show Americans not only how serious the threat from al Qaeda is, but also how crucial a continued support for the GWOT must be.

Later in the speech, the president praised the effectiveness of the GWOT in stopping attacks on American soil, but warned that the threat from al Qaeda is still very much a threat:

Bush said the U.S.-led global war on terror has "weakened and fractured" al-Qaida and allied groups, outlining as proof new details about the multinational cooperation that foiled the purported terrorist plans.

"The terrorists are living under constant pressure and this adds to our security," Bush said. "When terrorists spend their days working to avoid death or capture, it's harder for them to plan and execute new attacks on our country. By striking the terrorists where they live, we're protecting the American homeland."

But the president said the anti-terror battle is far from over.

"The terrorists are weakened and fractured, yet they're still lethal," the president said in a speech at the National Guard Memorial Building. "We cannot let the fact that America hasn't been attacked in 41/2 years since September the 11th lull us into the illusion that the threats to our nation have disappeared. They have not."

The White House has also released a "Top Ten" list of foiled terrorist attacks since 2001. Here's a sampling:

2. East Coast airliner plot:

In mid-2003 the United States and a partner disrupted a plot to use hijacked commercial airplanes to attack targets on the East Coast of the United States.

3. The Jose Padilla plot:

In May 2002 the United States disrupted a plot that involved blowing up apartment buildings in the United States. One of the alleged plotters, Jose Padilla, allegedly discussed the possibility of using a "dirty bomb" inside the United States. Bush has designated him an "enemy combatant."

6. Heathrow Airport plot:

In 2003 the United States and several partners disrupted a plot to attack London's Heathrow Airport using hijacked commercial airliners. The planning for this alleged attack was undertaken by a major operational figure in the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Maintaining solid domestic support for the GWOT is half the battle, and with the careless national security stances of Democrats who attempt daily to undermine the administrations efforts, it becomes very difficult. Alerting the public to importance of the ongoing GWOT, and providing examples of its successes, should be a serious talking point for the administration for many months to come.

The Dems are weak on national security, and the public needs to know about it. The public must also be made aware that its support for the GWOT is non-negotiable, as is its support for the NSA's terrorist surveillance program and the Patriot Act. Without these things, some or all of these terrorist attacks could have succeeded.

And that is something that no American should be prepared to allow.