One of the key lessons emerging from the Yemen bomb plot is that, in the shadowy world of tracking militants and winnowing out rumors from the real thing, some of the most vital intelligence comes from countries and individuals in the Muslim world.
To be sure, the failure of what US, British, and Yemeni officials say was a plot by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to deliver its bombs is the latest in a long string of militant efforts that have come up short thanks to dramatically improved coordination of international intelligence and security efforts since 9/11.
But many of the key pieces of intelligence that set those networks into action came from Muslims – some former militants themselves – who have stepped forward to stop Islamist militants.
How an ex-Gitmo detainee helped foil the plot
Front and center in foiling the Yemen bomb plot was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the native land of most of the 9/11 attackers. In particular, former Guantánamo prison inmate and AQAP turncoat Jabr al-Faifi played a key role, according to the BBC and others.
Mr. Faifi, a Saudi national, was released from the US-run Guantánamo facility in 2006 to Saudi Arabia, where he went through the Saudi government's rehabilitation program for former militants. Soon after his release from the program, he fled to Yemen and joined up with AQAP, the Al Qaeda offshoot that is determined to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and has largely been pushed out of the country into Yemen's hinterlands.
According to the BBC, citing senior British officials, Faifi returned home to Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago and turned himself in, soon telling Saudi interrogators that AQAP was planning to use international air freight to ship bombs to the US. The Saudis quickly informed the US and the United Kingdom, managing to provide the exact tracking numbers of the packages in question, and the packages were stopped in Dubai and the East Midlands airport in the United Kingdom.
Investigators are still piecing together precisely what happened in the thwarted plot, which involved bombs being sent from Yemen to Chicago, possibly to detonate them in mid-air over the city. Security officials around the world are considering new layers of security at airports, particularly for air-freight companies whose security appeared to be the weak link.
Report: In US, 1 in 3 Al Qaeda plots exposed by Muslims
Al Qaeda has organized no successful attacks on the US since 9/11. In the US, as abroad, cooperation from the broader Muslim community has been crucial.
Often, the whistleblowers are simply friends or associates of a plotter. Failed underwear bomber Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab was originally fingered by his own father, who approached US authorities and warned them that he feared his son was planning to attack the US. The younger Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, obtained his explosives and some rudimentary training in Yemen.
The FBI then set up an elaborate sting in which at least two individuals working undercover for the government posed as Al Qaeda operatives and engaged his help in organizing an "attack" on the metro system, until enough evidence was collected to carry out an arrest.
Mr. Ahmed's fellow Muslim wasn't the only one to thwart a bomb plot in the US recently.
A report released last month by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a US-based lobbying group, found that 1 in 3 Al Qaeda plots targeting America since 9/11 have been exposed by Muslim Americans. The report argues "this highlights the importance of law enforcement partnering with citizens through community-oriented policing."