American Airlines 587 crashed soon after taking off from New York's Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 12, 2001, killing 265 people. Coming just two months after 9/11, this disaster raised a specter of renewed terrorism attacks, yet investigators quickly dismissed the possibility of foul-play. "We have seen no evidence of anything other than an accident here," the spokesman for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Ted Lopatkiewicz, avers. "There has been no evidence … that there was any criminality involved here. It appears, at least the evidence we have, is that a vertical fin came off, not that there was any kind of event in the cabin."
Given the U.S. government's record of preferring not to call a terrorist act by its rightful name – and especially its shameful reluctance to do so in the case of EgyptAir 990, brushing aside the truth in deference to Egyptian sensibilities – I have had my suspicions about the accidental nature of AA 587's crash. When Al-Qaeda on a website in May 2004 claimed the plane's fall as an attack, however, I paid it little attention, for just about anyone can claim just about anything on a website.
But now comes a wisp of evidence to suggest that AA 587's demise was in fact not an accident but an operation carried out by Al-Qaeda. This information has a complex pedigree:
- It is recounted in a top secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service report written in May 2002 and made public on Aug. 27, 2004 by Stewart Bell in Canada's National Post.
- Its source is Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a 22-year-old from St. Catharines, Ontario, said to be of "unknown reliability."
- Jabarah in turn is reporting on what he heard from Abu Abdelrahman (a Saudi Al-Qaeda member who worked for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the organization's highest ranking operatives). KSM's information has usually turned out to be reliable.
So, the information that follows is not exactly rock-hard, but it is a real lead.
And this is it: Abu Abdelrahman told Jabarah who told CSIS that
the 12 November 2001 plane crash (btb American Airlines flight 587) in Queens, New York was not an accident as reported in the press but was actually an AL QAIDA operation. Abu Abdelrahman informed Jabarah that Farouk the Tunisian conducted a suicide mission on the aeroplane using a shoe bomb of the type used by Richard Reid.... "Farouk the Tunisian" was identified from newspaper photographs as being identical to Abderraouf Jdey, a Canadian citizen who had resided in Montreal."
Jabarah claimed Jdey used his Canadian passport to board Flight 587 but Jdey was apparently a master of aliases (they include Abd Al-Rauf Bin Al-Habib Bin Yousef Al-Jiddi, Abderraouf Dey, A. Raouf Jdey, Abdal Ra'Of Bin Muhammed Bin Yousef Al-Jadi, Farouq Al-Tunisi, Abderraouf Ben Habib Jeday), so one really has no idea what name he might have flown under that day. Jdey, 39, had emigrated from Tunisia to Canada in 1991, becoming a citizen in 1995. Shortly thereafter, he decamped to Afghanistan where he trained with some 9/11 hijackers and recorded a "martyrdom" video that coalition forces in Afghanistan later found. He did not join the 9/11 mission but was to be part of a second wave of suicide attacks. He remains on the loose, with a worldwide alert for him. The FBI has a "seeking information" notice out for him "in connection with possible terrorist threats in the United States." Of course, if he went down in AA 587's fiery crash, there is little chance of finding him.
The authorities should go carefully through security videotapes from Kennedy airport that day and see if they can establish whether Jdey was or was not on AA 587.
AA 587's crash preceded Richard Reid's attempted bombing by over a month, so the heightened alert for shoe bombs was not yet in place when AA 587 went down. Reid's later success in getting the explosives on board and nearly detonating them suggests that if Jdey was on the plane and did try a shoe bomb, he could well have succeeded.
If AA 587 did go down in an act of suicide bombing, it means that there was at least one major terrorist success on the U.S. homeland after 9/11.
If it was terrorism, one has to wonder about the efficacy or purpose of violence that is so obscure it is interpreted as a transportation accident. Killing 265 people only has effect if it terrorizes; an accident is shrugged off as an impersonal tragedy. As in so many other cases, the purposes of these aggressive acts can only be guessed at.