It was first reported by ABC News on Monday night. I read it (in Tel Aviv) in a Washington dispatch by Scott Shane and Robert F. Worth on The New York Times web site Tuesday morning. (Then I went off to my high school English class. But that's another story.)
The headline told the stunning revelation: "Earlier Flight May Have Been Dry Run."
Here are the salient details:
American intelligence officials in September intercepted several packages containing books, papers, CDs and other household items shipped to Chicago from Yemen and considered the possibility that the parcels might be a test run for a terrorist attack, two officials said Monday night.
Now the intelligence officials believe that the shipments, whose hour-by-hour locations could be tracked by the sender on the shippers’ Web sites, may have been used to plan the route and timing for two printer cartridges packed with explosives that were sent from Yemen and intercepted in Britain and Dubai on Friday.
In September, after American counterterrorism agencies received information linking the packages to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror network’s branch in Yemen, intelligence officers stopped the shipments in transit and searched them, said the officials, who would discuss the operation only on the condition of anonymity. They found no explosives, and the packages were permitted to continue to what appeared to be “random addresses” with no connection to the terrorist group in Chicago.
“At the time, people obviously took notice and — knowing of the terrorist group’s interest in aviation — considered the possibility that AQAP might be exploring the logistics of the cargo system,” one of the officials said, referring to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The apparent test run might have permitted the plotters to estimate when cargo planes carrying the doctored toner cartridges would be over Chicago or another city. That would conceivably enable them to set timers on the two devices to set off explosions where they would cause the greatest damage.
The first question that comes to me mind is: "How high in the security chain did this information go?" Did it reach the president? Or John Brennan who always seems to have an axe he does not want ground? Janet Napolitano? The airlines? FedEx? United Parcel Service? Now it comes to light that a U.P.S. cargo plane went down on September 3 in Dubai? Was that just a coincidence? Or was the crash of that carrier also a test to which, alas, no one in the United States paid any attention. Two pilots died in the crash which, the Times reports, "involved an onboard fire." By the way, who conducted this investigation?
It remains unclear whether the destinations for the dexterously made explosive devices were actually the two Chicago synagogues to which they were addressed, or whether they were supposed to explode in air. In which case, they could have brought down one or both of the Qatar Air passenger planes on which they left Yemen. These demoniacal killers, then, are as ready to kill random Muslims as well as shul going Jews.
Apparently, also according to the Times, the packages bore the names of historical figures from the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. Religious vengeance lives forever.