Unanswered Questions

Despite all the leaks that have come out over the latest underwear bomb plot there is still a great deal we don't know.

For instance, did information from the undercover asset lead to the strike on Qusa?  Sometimes even the same journalist doesn't know whether it did or did not lead to Qusa's death.  In this piece Paul Cruickshank of CNN claims it is unlikely since the asset never met with Qusa - and yet in this piece Cruickshank suggests that in fact information from the asset did lead to Qusa's death.

I, for one, am confused. 

I am not pointing all this out to pick on Cruickshank but rather to illustrate the pitfalls of trying to put together a comprehensive story when we only knew a few facts, many of which are changing on an hourly basis.

With that in mind I thought it would be helpful if I put together a list of questions that I am still puzzling over as we try to make sense of this latest plot.

1. What will the fallout from the leak be for the Saudi diplomat that AQAP currently holds?  - For weeks AQAP has held the Saudi deputy consul from Aden.  Despite reports that his release imminent he is still being held in Abyan or Shabwa. 

2. Was Fahd al-Qusa's "martyr" bio written before or after the news of the intelligence operation was made public?  Last night Qusa's obit was posted to Islamist forums.  The piece is a fascinating tease but short of real details.  However, the last line threatens more attacks are at hand.  If the piece was written before AQAP knew its latest plot had failed that is one thing, if it was written after that is something else.

3.  Will AQAP unveil the identity of the undercover agent?  Undoubtedly, AQAP recorded a marytrdom video of the undercover agent before giving him the bomb.  The US and Saudis won't divulge his identity for obvious reasons, but will AQAP?  And if the group does what will this tell us about its thought process?

4.  Who is the undercover agent?  What we know about AQAP suggests that he was likely someone who either had a US visa or would have been able to get one easily as I suggest in this story from NPR yesterday (although NPR insists on misspelling my name.)  This would rule out a Yemeni.  Much of the reporting has suggested that the asset was a Saudi, but I have my doubts about this as well.

5.  Are there more bombs out there?  This is an unknown that many have already speculated on as is the follow-up question: How many other bombers has Ibrahim Asiri trained and how unique is Asiri?

6,  Were Saudi intel and the CIA the only two agencies involved in this operation?  Most of the reporting has assumed this to be the case, but it is just that: an assumption.

Those are a few of the questions I am wrestling with - I'm sure there are many others, but these are the one for the moment.  I'll leave you with an interview I did yesterday about the plot with PRI's The World.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Should teachers be fired for nude pics from their past?

Lauren Miranda sent a nude selfie to a boyfriend years ago. Somehow one of her students discovered it.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Math teacher Lauren Miranda was fired from her Long Island school when a topless selfie surfaced.
  • Miranda had only shared the photo with her ex-boyfriend, who is also a teacher in the school district.
  • She's suing the school for $3 million as well as getting her job back, citing gender discrimination.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less