This Threat Warning, Brought to You by the U.S. Law Enforcement Community

February 03, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Two data points that are almost certainly connected. First:

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a jetliner bound for Detroit on Dec. 25, started talking to investigators after two of his family members arrived in the United States and helped earn his cooperation, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.

And second:

America’s top intelligence official told lawmakers on Tuesday that Al Qaeda and its affiliates had made it a high priority to attempt a large-scale attack on American soil within the next six months.

The assessment by Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, was much starker than his view last year, when he emphasized the considerable progress in the campaign to debilitate Al Qaeda and said that the global economic meltdown, rather than the prospect of a major terrorist attack, was the “primary near-term security concern of the United States.”

No threat determination like that is ever the result of one line of intelligence. But it’s impossible to believe Abdulmutallab’s resumed cooperation — the subject of heavy administration pushback to its critics, [as Josh Marshall observes](\)), after two weeks of attack following Blair’s disastrous congressional testimony — did not inform the assessment. The Times:

Another federal official said Mr. Abdulmutallab had provided information about people he met in Yemen, where he is believed to have receiving training and explosives from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a branch of the terrorist network.

“He’s retracing his activities over there,” said the official, who would discuss the case only on the condition of anonymity. “You run to ground what he tells you, validate it and follow up. You build a relationship. It’s a pretty standard process.”

And that cooperation would not have come without Abdulmutallab’s family trying to get him the best deal they can from federal prosecutors. Welcome to a law-enforcement-informed approach to terrorism.