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Cargo Jets Searched Over “Suspicious Packages”

The big cable news story of the day has involved a few cargo jets being held for inspection in New York and Philadelphia due to concerns about packages from Yemen:

U.S. counterterrorism officials said that two suspicious packages removed from cargo planes en route to the United States on Friday did not contain explosives but may have been part of an attempt by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen to test cargo screening systems for vulnerabilities.

“That’s one of the theories – that they are testing the system and probing for weaknesses,” said a U.S. counterterrorism official. “Rehearsals get you closer to the game.”

The official said that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, as the Yemen-based al-Qaeda offshoot is known, is suspected of being involved in the plot. “They’re on the short list,” the official said.

The White House said that intelligence and law enforcement agencies had “discovered potential suspicious packages on two planes in transit to the United States.”

The discovery led officials to search a United Parcel Service plane at the East Midlands airport near Nottingham in England, which is a UPS hub, and a FedEx plane in Dubai.

The package in Britain contained a printer toner cartridge – an item so commonplace that authorities questioned why someone would pay to ship it such a distance.

Although it tested negative for explosives, the cartridge contained protruding wires and white powder, heightening suspicions that terrorists might be attempting a dry run.

The packages found in Dubai and Britain came from the same address in Yemen and reportedly were addressed to Chicago synagogues.

“We at the Jewish Federation earlier this morning received a notification that Chicago synagogues should be on alert,” said Linda Haase, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, who declined to provide any details about what the warning said or who issued it. “It’s sad, but this is not the first time we’ve had to deal with a security alert.”

Counterterrorism officials said authorities were searching for other suspicious parcels.

A flight from the United Arab Emirates was being escorted into JFK airport in New York by fighter jets on Friday afternoon. The flight was first intercepted by two Canadian F-18s as it entered Canadian airspace under orders from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), according to a U.S. miliary official. The escort was then passed to two U.S. F-15s when the flight entered American airspace.

The plane is carrying cargo from Yemen, according to the Associated Press. Officials told the news agency that there is no known threat associated with the flight.

While the three cable news networks seem to be giving this story wall-to-wall coverage, it’s unclear whether this is a something serious, evidence of terrorists testing security procedures (a “dry run”), or simply another evidence of what might be referred to as overly abundant caution.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Juneau: says:

    Representatives from “The Religion of Peace” make yet another attempt to show how much they care.

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  2. anjin-san says:

    > Representatives from “The Religion of Peace”

    God knows Christians have never committed any act of violence.

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  3. Juneau: says:

    @ anjin

    God knows Christians have never committed any act of violence.

    No. Actually, God knows they have. But give me a holler when Christians start targeting women and children for death, putting bombs on planes, trying to blow up downtown Manhattan, and flying loaded jetliners into buildings, will you? Until then, well … you get the picture.

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  4. anjin-san says:

    How about if I just refer you to the history books? Look up “My Lai Massacre”.

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  5. anjin-san says:

    It’s ok Juneau. A terror plot was foiled, and the constitution was not shredded in the process. Obama is President. You have to talk about something I guess, cause you are surely not going to talk about that.//

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  6. flataffect says:

    What’s new here? We’re still playing catch up with these creeps and relying on our good fortune. But at least we’re paying attention now.

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  7. Juneau: says:

    @ anjin

    How about if I just refer you to the history books? Look up “My Lai Massacre”.

    This event, while disgusting and worse, has absolutely nothing to do with anyone trying to use killing as a way of promoting religious beliefs. You’re really, really stretching to make even the slightest comparison. You don’t even know if the US soldiers involved were Christians. For all you know they were all atheists. Not likely at all, I’ll grant you … but the point is that their religious orientation is an unknown. Whereas there is now no question that the bombs were sent by radical Muslims in an attempt to kill Jews, as yet another extension of their deranged religious goals.

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  8. anjin-san says:

    ok, let’s talk about violence directed at doctors who practice abortion and family planning providers:

    In the U.S., violence directed toward abortion providers has killed at least eight people, including four doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort.[5]

    March 10, 1993: Dr. David Gunn of Pensacola, Florida was fatally shot during a protest. He had been the subject of wanted-style posters distributed by Operation Rescue in the summer of 1992. Michael F. Griffin was found guilty of Dr. Gunn’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

    August 21, 1993 Dr. George Patterson, was shot and killed in Mobile, Alabama, but it is uncertain whether his death was the direct result of his profession or rather a robbery.[6][7]

    July 29, 1994: Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, a clinic escort, were both shot to death outside another facility in Pensacola. Rev. Paul Jennings Hill was charged with the killings. Hill received a death sentence and was executed on September 3, 2003.

    December 30, 1994: Two receptionists, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, were killed in two clinic attacks in Brookline, Massachusetts. John Salvi, who prior to his arrest was distributing pamphlets from Human Life International,[8] was arrested and confessed to the killings. He died in prison and guards found his body under his bed with a plastic garbage bag tied around his head. Salvi had also confessed to a non-lethal attack in Norfolk, Virginia days before the Brookline killings.

    January 29, 1998: Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, was killed when his workplace was bombed. Eric Robert Rudolph, who was also responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, was charged with the crime and received two life sentences as a result.

    October 23, 1998: Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot to death at his home in Amherst, New York. His was the last in a series of similar shootings against providers in Canada and northern New York state which were all likely committed by James Kopp. Kopp was convicted of Dr. Slepian’s murder after finally being apprehended in France in 2001.

    May 31, 2009: Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed by Scott Roeder as he served as an usher at his church in Wichita, Kansas.[9]

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  9. anjin-san says:

    > the bombs were sent by radical Muslims

    Exactly. Yet you continue to attack Muslims as a group.

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  10. Juneau says:

    @ anjin

    Exactly. Yet you continue to attack Muslims as a group.

    Because the precepts of their religion are the ones used to justify killing … everyone who is not Muslim. You and others here on OTB always hold up “examples” of what you look at as moderate and model countries like Indonesia where Islam co-exists with supposed tolerance of non-muslims. Have you been keeping up on the news around the world lately? Heard about the slaughter of non-muslims recently in Indonesia? Hear of the slaughter in Somalia? Have you?

    Islamic precepts are the problem, and devout muslims have to follow all of the precepts, as well as any “fatwas” passed down from official Imams who have authority. That;s the mandate. You want to hold up “luke-warm” muslims as examples but the fact of the matter is that – no matter what you say, – there is absolutely no comparison between the violence practised (and encouraged) by a devout, fully obedient, muslim and any other major religion. Not Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, or paganism. Sorry, but the news is full of empirical proof which you wish to ignore.

    The simple fact is that I can treat any individual person based upon their character and integrity. But that doesn’t mean I am going to blind myself to the facts at hand. If I had a Muslim neighbor, then I would treat them with complete and total respect – unless they showed signs of being devout to fundamental Islam in all aspects of social and religious dealings. Then I would be extremely wary. Otherwise, live and let live.

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  11. anjin-san says:

    > You and others here on OTB always hold up “examples” of what you look at as moderate and model countries like Indonesia where Islam co-exists with supposed tolerance of non-muslims.

    Really? Please show where I have ever said this.

    Now let’s get back to the murder of family planning workers/doctors – killing as a way of promoting religious beliefs, yes or no?

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  12. Juneau: says:

    @ anjin

    Now let’s get back to the murder of family planning workers/doctors – killing as a way of promoting religious beliefs, yes or no?

    Whose religious beliefs? Christianity does not teach that violence and murder is a means to promoting the religion. You cannot say the same about the ancient writings of Islam OR the modern interpretations, OR the teachings of Imams in mosques today.

    You can point to someone who claims to be a Christian who has committed heinous acts. You can point to someone who claims to be a Muslim who has committed heinous acts. The difference is that the first is clearly acting outside the mainstream teachings of Christianity, while with the latter it is actually mainstream Islam which is motivating the second. Look into the horrific punishments and penalties imposed upon people who practice a non-muslim religion in a muslim country. The engine you see behind the oppression IS main stream Islam. Open your eyes – it’s that simple.

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