Al Qaeda’s L.A. Plot? Yawn. . .


WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Bush’s revelation that the U.S. and its allies broke up a 2002 al Qaeda plot to seize an airliner and fly it into the tallest building in Los Angeles is an old story. And President Bush is hauling it out of the closet now to show what a great job he’s doing, just as a growing bipartisan group of Senators are seriously considering putting restrictions on his unlimited domestic surveillance program.

Bush said the terrorists planned to use shoe bombs to break into the airplane’s cockpit.

“It does sound dubious,” said The Terror Timeline author Paul Thompson in an e-mail today. “Richard Reid the shoe bomber was foiled in late 2001, and the use of lighters was banned and an intense period of checking everyone’s shoes followed. So how on Earth could they expect to light a shoe bomb right by the cockpit door? Further, in the wake of 9/11, what kind of passengers would not immediately try to overtake the hijackers?”

Bush’s announcement happens to coincide with an annoying mistake by the Capitol police in the war on terror. They forced the evacuation of the Russell Senate Office Building in a nerve-gas scare. Senators, House members, and their staffs were herded into a safe room and kept there for several hours while the cops awaited laboratory results. The all-clear came amid considerable annoyance with the Capitol cops, who are considered the best financed and worst performing of the mind-boggling array of public and private sector cops in the city.

As for the foiled attack on Los Angeles, if the Bush administration thought this plot and other planned jobs were for real, it makes the nation’s air security system look like more of a farce than ever.

In a 2004 staff study, the 9-11 Commission sharply attacked the Federal Aviation Administration for its ineffective air security system. That study was withheld until after the presidential election, and only then released—in part with some sections remaining classified.

Furthermore, since 9-11, in one test after another, news organizations using undercover teams have easily broken through the FAA security apparatus, rendering the entire business unworkable. The latest such test was conducted in
, where a former special ops person accompanied the Canadian Broadcasting Company in a test of that airport’s security scheme. It took the man 20 minutes to pick all the locks in the airport, opening the doors to cockpits, baggage areas, food trucks, etc. A bomb could easily have been placed on a plane flying out of Toronto headed for Los Angeles or Washington or New York and blown up at will by a terrorist.

That air travel could remain so vulnerable puts the lie to Bush’s assertion that the war on
is working.