Connecting the Dots

| Mon Jan. 18, 2010 2:27 AM EST

The New York Times reports that there are even more unconnected dots than we thought in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas bomber. For example:

In September, for example, a United Nations expert on Al Qaeda warned policy makers in Washington that the type of explosive device used by a Yemeni militant in an assassination attempt in Saudi Arabia could be carried aboard an airliner.

Considering that PETN is over a century old and was used eight years ago by Richard Reid to try to blow up an airplane, I'm pretty sure American intelligence was already aware it could be carried aboard an airliner. As new dots go, this is pretty unimpressive. But there's also this:

In early November, American intelligence authorities say they learned from a communications intercept of Qaeda followers in Yemen that a man named “Umar Farouk” — the first two names of the jetliner suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — had volunteered for a coming operation.

Now we're talking. So in November Abdulmutallab's father warned us that his son, Umar Farouk, had been radicalized and might be dangerous, and separately a communications intercept suggested that someone named Umar Farouk had volunteered for a terrorist assignment. I gotta admit: Unless Umar Farouk is a more common name than I think, two separate warnings about the name within a few days of each other sure seems like it should have set off sirens in a database somewhere. If this is confirmed, I think I'm swinging toward the "massive intelligence failure" camp.