On November 12, 2001 American Airlines Flight #587 crashed in Queens, New York shortly after take off, killing 265. Some observers were quick to suggest that terrorists had brought the aircraft down. But the October 26, 2004 official report by the National Transportation Safety Board blamed the crash on the co-pilot, who jerked the rudder back and forth in an effort to correct for turbulence from a preceding jet.

The crash was soon eclipsed by the repercussions of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the anthrax mailings, and the war in Afghanistan. Yet suspicions lingered. Many eyewitness accounts, for instance, seemed consistent with an on-board explosion, yet the report brushed them aside as contradicting each other and generally unreliable.

On August 27, 2004, Canada’s “National Post” reported that, according to a leaked top secret Canadian Government report, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a 22-year old Canadian, told interrogators that he had heard from an assistant of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, that the Flight #587 crash was the result of an al Qaeda shoe bomb. The bomber was “Farouk the Tunisian”. Newspaper photographs showed him to be Abderraouf Jdey, a 36-year old Montreal-based Canadian of Tunisian origin. This story was not included in the NSTB report two months later.

Jdey is one of the seven al Qaeda terrorists listed in the FBI’s plea for information from the public in May, 2004. He had emigrated to Canada in 1991, gained citizenship in 1995, and then travelled to Afghanistan where he trained as one of the ten substitutes for the 9/11 attackers. According to KSM, Jdey was slated for pilot training and was to be in the second wave of attacks. Jdey recorded a martyrdom statement in a video later found by American forces in Afghanistan. He returned to Montreal in summer 2001.

The media did not pick up the “National Post” story, so it sank into near oblivion. Nonetheless, several circumstances lend credence to it. First, Jabarah’s revelation constituted a roundabout al Qaeda claim to have caused the crash. Second, one month later Richard Reid was stopped just before igniting a shoe bomb on another flight, so shoebombing was clearly a tactic al Qaeda was using. Third, Abderraouf Jdey disappeared after leaving Canada in November, 2001. Fourth, the report’s dismissal of the eyewitness reports seems highhanded. Even if they contained many contradictions, some of them might have accurately reflected the consequences of a shoebomb attack–e.g., flames in some part of the aircraft.  Fifth, Abderraouf Jdey is the leading suspect in the 2001 anthrax mailings.

What are we to make of all this?

If Jabarah was right, it would account for Jdey’s disappearance and tie in with Jdey’s other activities in the autumn of 2001. It would mean that the investigation of the crash was either incompetent or fixed to keep the public in the dark. The media, subservient to the Government and paralyzed by fear of making a mistake as well as unduly frightening the public, refused to pursue either the shoebomber story or the possibility of incompetence or fraud in the crash investigation.

In theory, if the airplane had crashed from poor co-pilot training or a hidden mechanical flaw, that should alarm potential flyers every bit as much as a terrorist shoebombing. But in reality airline companies, governments, and the media perceive that sensational terrorism trumps all other threats.

If indeed Abderraouf Jdey brought down Flight #587 with a shoe bomb, the U.S. Government would have been deeply negligent in permitting an al Qaeda operative whose whereabouts were known to carry out this attack.

Congress should insist that the FBI make public its findings on the crash and that it investigate the possibility of a shoe bomb, if it has not done so already. And answer the question: Where was Abderraouf Jdey on November 12, 2001?


Kenneth J. Dillon is an historian and former State Department intelligence analyst who writes on science, medicine, and history.  See the biosketch at About Us.

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