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Mohammed Al-Madadi: incredibly stupid or gathering intelligence

Posted by Richard on April 9, 2010

Qatari diplomat Mohammed Al-Madadi caused a bomb scare on a flight from Washington, D.C., to Denver Wednesday night. Reportedly, Al-Madadi sneaked a smoke in the john. When confronted, he joked (supposedly) that he'd been trying to light his shoe. 

Ha, ha. 

The flight ended up being accompanied to DIA by F-16s, and the passengers spent many hours being debriefed at a location quite distant from the terminal. 

Now, it turns out that Al-Madadi was on his way to see an imprisoned al Qaeda agent, Ali Al-Marri.

So here's the obvious question: was Al-Madadi simply behaving stupidly or was he obtaining intelligence about U.S. air security measures? 

I'm inclined to invoke Hanlon's Law (which may actually owe its genesis to Heinlein): Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

More than likely, Al-Madadi is just the typical arrogant Arab male, for whom saving face is paramount and who has no conception of how much concern and fear he's caused. 

But, but … it could be a scouting mission. Another probing of our defenses. There have been a number of incidents, harking back at least to the Minneapolis "flying imams" incident, that could be interpreted as attempts to test our air defenses and gather intelligence about our reactions to various potential threats. 

Who knows? That's one of the terrible problems with this new form of war in which we're involved (and please remember that it's a war that was declared by our enemies, so we have no choice in the matter). The enemy is waging that war in the most unconventional ways of which it can conceive. It's hard to determine who the enemy is, where the theater of war is, and what exactly is an act of war. And they like it that way.

Is Mohammed Al-Madadi an undercover enemy combatant, a secret al Qaeda agent, or just an obtuse, clueless, arrogant, privileged-class Arab? I don't know. I'm not sure anyone does.

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