The Rockaway Beat
The Christmas day attempt by a determined Muslim Jihadist to bring down an Airbus A 300 on its descent to a Detroit airport immediately spurred thoughts of American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A 300 that augured into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001.
Those who saw the plane explode and come apart in the air remain convinced, even eight years later, that the plane was brought down by a terrorist attack.
The finding by the National Trans - portation Safety Board (NTSB) was that the tail structure was ripped off the plane by the action of the first officer, who supposedly “over-aggressively” used the rudder pedals to get out of a wake turbulence situation.
Even the Airline Pilots Association scoffed at that finding.
The organization’s president told me at the time that “building a plane where the tail falls off if the controls are over-activated is like building a car where the wheels fall off every time you use the brakes.”
The NTSB said that there was no evidence of explosive residue on the remains of the plane.
Few believed the NTSB. Remember that the crash came only two months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, where Muslim terrorists hijacked four planes and took down the Twin Towers.
Locals thought that it was strange that the crash was declared an accident right after that event, before the NTSB “Go Team” of investigators even got to the scene.
It is clear, at least to me, that the government had a vested interest in declaring AA 587 an accident rather than another terrorist attack or else the airline industry would have collapsed on the realization that shoe bombers could bring down aircraft whenever they wanted to.
Then, just a month later, Richard Reid, a shoe bomber who tried to light his sneakers on another flight and failed was busted when passengers took him down after his failed attempt.
That seemed to reinforce the belief that AA 587 was brought down by another shoe bomber, but who could deny the government’s findings.
Then, in the September 3, 2004 edition of The Wave we ran a front-page story about a Canadian intelligence report that said a shoe bomber might have brought down American Airlines Flight 587 in Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001.
According to the Canadian report, a captured al Qaeda operative said that man named Abderraouf Jdey carried a shoe bomb into the plane and committed an act of suicide by bringing the plane down.
The source of the information was Mohammed Mansour Jabarah who worked closely with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He said that KSM (as he is widely now known) told him directly that Jdey brought down the plane.
Jabarah, who is in federal prison, serving time on terrorism charges, said that Jdey was a master of disguise and was on AA 587 under an assumed name. Off and on for the past eight years, I have perused the passenger list from AA 587, trying to figure out which passenger might have been Jdey.
It’s not easy, especially for a newspaper such as The Wave with its limited resources.
First, I eliminated all of the women and children on the flight.
Then, I eliminated all of the men flying with wives and children; although it is possible he had a female accomplice.
Reid did not.
That left me with about 74 unaccompanied male passengers.
I then eliminated all of the males over the age of 50, although he could have been disguised as an older man.
That left me 47 men to check, and I have been doing it though the internet slowly for the past three years.
I’ll let you know if I ever find anything of note, but I wish the government would take over the task. With its resources, it could probably check the list in two weeks. At the time, however, both Jabarah and KSM were considered minor players.
That is no longer the case.
Jabarah, who cooperated with the CIA for awhile, turned against the U.S. after the Iraqi invasion.
KSM has turned out to be the biggest player ever captured by America and his trial will be big news throughout the world.
I wrote to federal prosecutors asking for permission to speak with KSM about AA 587, but I am not going to hold my breath. They will not give the New York Times access, so I don’t think they will grant that access to The Wave, although I would really like to hear what he has to say about Jdey.
KSM reportedly admitted to federal prosecutors that he was “responsible for the shoe bomber operation to down two American airplanes [aircraft].”
One, he said, was shoe bomber, Richard Reid. While he refused to name the other, more successful attack, it could well be American Airlines Flight 587.
The government still won’t admit the possibility, and Jdey remains on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list and was last seen in the beginning of November of 2001. When the question came up again in 2004, the federal agency once again denied any terrorist involvement in AA 587. “We have seen no evidence of anything other than an accident,” said a spokesperson for the NTSB at the time. “It appears from the evidence that we have that a vertical fin came off, not that there was any kind of event in the cabin.”
When The Wave held a witness meeting in early 2002, we invited the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the NTSB and all of the major city dailies to come and hear more than a dozen witnesses speak about what they saw. Everybody declined. The NTSB said that eyewitnesses are unreliable,” although they did use all of the statements from that meeting in their final docket report.
Was AA 587 brought down by a shoe bomber? We’ll probably never know.
Perhaps KSM will say something at his trial that will spur the government to action.
I am not holding my breath, awaiting that development.