Cruise Ship Terror Plots & Patsies

Since 9/11, there have been 5 cases located that indicate potential terror plots, most coming the way of bomb threats on cruise ships. In all cases, authorities boarded the ship but found nothing. These plots and patsies are likely orchestrated to give the public the notion that cruise ships are targets and that there has been a history of cruise ships being targeted for terror.

Cruise Terror Plots & Patsies 
Date: February 11, 2009
Name: Kelley Marie Ferguson
Age: 20
Ethnicity: White 
Ship: Legend of the Seas
Location: Ensenada, Mexico
Charges: 2 counts of violating terrorism laws
Notes: Admitted penning two notes threatening to kill all U.S. citizens aboard the cruise ship. 

Title: Arrest Made In Cruise Ship Threats
Date: February 11, 2009
Source: CBS News 

 A woman faces terrorism-related charges accusing her of planting threatening notes aboard a cruise ship in hopes of halting a family trip so she could return home to her boyfriend.

Because of the notes, the cruise of the Legend of the Seas was interrupted last week so the FBI could question passengers.

Kelley Marie Ferguson of Laguna Hills, Calif., appeared in federal court Monday on two counts of violating terrorism laws. She was arrested Saturday. A hearing is set for Thursday.

Ferguson, 20, of Laguna Hills, Calif., admitted penning two notes threatening to kill all U.S. citizens aboard the Legend of the Seas if the ship, which had sailed from Ensenada, Mexico, stopped at an American port, U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo said.

The discovery of the threats last Tuesday and Wednesday in the same sixth-deck public restroom led authorities to reroute the ship to an anchorage off Honolulu so FBI could search the vessel and question its 2,400 passengers and crew members. The diversion canceled the ship's scheduled stop at Hilo.

More than 120 members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force scoured the Royal Caribbean ship for biological, chemical, radiological and explosive weapons, officials said.

During the investigation, Ferguson admitted writing the notes, Kubo said.

"The defendant said she never wanted to go on this cruise ship with her family to begin with and that she wrote these notes hoping that it would shorten her time on the cruise," Kubo said.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Kubo said his office also would seek restitution for the cost of the investigation (CBS News, 2009)

Cruise Terror Plots & Patsies 
Date: March 28, 2010
Name: Khalil Ibrahim Zarou
Age: 31
Ethnicity: Arab 
Ship: Carnival Sensation
Location: Port Canaveral, Florida
Charges: Cruise ship bomb threat
Notes: Law enforcement boarded the ship and after conducting a search, determined the threat was a hoax, as no bomb was found.

Title: Bomb Threat Hoax Delays Cruise Ship Return 
Date: March 28, 2010
Source: WFTV

AbstractA Carnival cruise ship was forced to stay off-shore due to a Sunday morning bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax.

The Carnival Sensation received the bomb threat early Sunday morning as the ship was returning to Port Canaveral after a three-day cruise in the Bahamas.

The ship stopped about four miles off shore and Carnival officials notified the US Coast Guard, FBI, Brevard County Sheriff’s and Brevard County Fire Rescue.

Law enforcement boarded the ship and after conducting a search, determined the threat was a hoax, as no bomb was found.

The Carnival Sensation was cleared to proceed to Port Canaveral at about 10:45 a.m.

According to a statement released by Carnival Cruise Lines, a bomb threat was reported to the ship by a guest who claims another guest made the threat. Both guests were interviewed by law enforcement and the suspect accused of making the threat was arrested. The suspect has been identified as 31-year-old Ibrahim Zarou from Leesburg, Virginia.

Approximately 3,470 passengers and crew members were aboard the Sensation at the time of the threat.

Stay tuned to and Eyewitness News for further updates on this story (WFTV, 2010).  

Cruise Terror Plots & Patsies 
Date: May 15, 2010
Name: Unknown 
Age: ?
Ethnicity: N/A
Ship: Liberty of the Seas
Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Charges: Cruise ship bomb threat
Notes: Officials investigated the threat but did not locate any explosives after they conducted a inspection of the watercraft.

Title: Cruise Ship Receives Bomb Threat
Date: May 17, 2010
Source: WSVN News 

Abstract: A bomb threat at sea caused a major scare for passengers aboard a cruise ship.

A Royal Caribbean call center received a bomb threat to its Liberty of the Seas ship, Saturday afternoon.

Officials investigated the threat, and crews did not locate any explosives after they conducted a thorough inspection of the watercraft.

Liberty of the Seas arrived back in Miami, Sunday morning.

The incident is currently under investigation (WSVN TV, 2010)

Cruise Terror Plots & Patsies 
Date: February 5, 2011 
Name: Unknown 
Age: ?
Ethnicity: N/A
Ship: Norwegian Sun
Location: Port Canaveral, Florida
Charges: Cruise ship bomb threat
Notes: Following an extensive security sweep, the unified command determined the bomb threat to be non-credible.

 Coast Guard Responds To Bomb Threat Aboard Cruise Ship In Port Canaveral, Florida 
February 5, 2011
Coast Guard News 

Abstract: A unified command consisting of the Coast Guard, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement agencies responded to a report of an alleged bomb threat aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Sun in Port Canaveral Saturday.

Following an extensive security sweep of the cruise ship Norwegian Sun, the unified command has determined the bomb threat to be non-credible. Operations within the Port of Canaveral and the cruise terminal have returned to normal.

Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Canaveral watchstanders were initially notified Saturday by an agent aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Sun of the alleged bomb threat.

The cruise ship has safely disembarked approximately 1,894 passengers at Pier Terminal 5 in Port Canaveral.

The source of the bomb threat is under investigation (Coast Guard News, 2011)

Cruise Terror Plots & Patsies 
Date: August 19, 2011
Name: Unknown 
Age: ?
Ethnicity: N/A
Ship: Discovery Sun
Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Charges: Bomb threat on a cruise ship. 
Notes: US Coast Guard boarded the ship but the initial search turned up nothing.

Title: Cruise Ship Bomb Scare
Date: August 21, 2011
Source: Examiner 

AbstractAs a result of a bomb scare, Discovery Cruise Line's only ship, the Discovery Sun, spent five listless hours Friday night, bobbing in the ocean eighteen miles off of Ft. Lauderdale. To add insult to injury, Discovery Cruise Line is scheduled to "go out of business" on September 6, right after Labor Day.

The Discovery Sun departed from Lucayan Harbor at Grand Bahama Island at 5pm with nearly 900 passengers, en route back to Port Everglades with a 10:30pm arrival time.

When the ship was notified of the bomb scare, passengers were restricted to their cabins or a few designated public areas. As US Coast Guard and bomb squad technicians boarded the ship around midnight, the main lobby was off-limits. After the initial search turned up nothing, the ship was allowed to return to Port Everglades around 4am.

Mike Jachles, a spokesman for the Broward Sheriff’s office said that at about 9pm, the Miami Dade police department received a 911 call warning that there was a man aboard the ship with a gun and a bomb.

“We immediately notified our homeland security office, the federal authorities, Coast Guard and Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” said Jachles. He went on to say that the US Coast Guard boarded the ship at sea around midnight, accompanied by the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s bomb-detecting dogs.

With nothing suspicious found onboard, the all-clear was given and the Discovery Sun was allowed to return to Ft. Lauderdale. By 6am, passengers and crew were cleared for debarkation.

With an empty ship, the Coast Guard, FBI, Customs and Border Protection and the BSO (Broward Sherriff’s Office) performed another search and again turned up nothing.

“We take all bomb threats seriously and so we have to determine their credibility and err of the side of safety for the public and do a complete response as needed,” Jachles added.

There is an ongoing investigation between the FBI, Coast Guard, BSO and Customs and Border Protection, according to Jachles (Examiner, 2011)

Title: Documents Reveal Al Qaeda's Plans For Seizing Cruise Ships, Carnage In Europe
Date: May 1, 2012

Abstract: On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.

Buried inside them was a pornographic video called "Kick Ass" -- and a file marked "Sexy Tanja."

Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence -- more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group's most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.

Future plots include the idea of seizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. Ten gunmen killed 164 people in that three-day rampage.

Terrorist training manuals in PDF format in German, English and Arabic were among the documents, too, according to intelligence sources.

U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN that the documents uncovered are "pure gold;" one source says that they are the most important haul of al Qaeda materials in the last year, besides those found when U.S. Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago and killed the al Qaeda leader.

One document was called "Future Works." Its authorship is unclear, but intelligence officials believe it came from al Qaeda's inner core. It may have been the work of Younis al Mauretani, a senior al Qaeda operative until his capture by Pakistani police in 2011.

The document appears to have been the product of discussions to find new targets and methods of attack. German investigators believe it was written in 2009 -- and that it remains the template for al Qaeda's plans.

Investigative journalist Yassin Musharbash, a reporter with the German newspaper Die Zeit, was the first to report on the documents. One plan: to seize passenger ships. According to Musharbash, the writer "says that we could hijack a passenger ship and use it to pressurize the public."

Musharbash takes that to mean that the terrorists "would then start executing passengers on those ships and demand the release of particular prisoners."

The plan would include dressing passengers in orange jump suits, as if they were al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and then videotaping their execution.

Lodin and a man called Yusuf Ocak, who allegedly traveled back to Europe with him, are now on trial in Berlin where they are pleading not guilty. Ocak was detained in Vienna two weeks after Lodin's arrest.

According to a senior Western counterterrorism official, their names were on a watch list, and when they handed over documents at a European border crossing, their names registered with counterterrorism agencies.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges. Ocak is also charged with helping to form a group called the German Taliban Mujahedeen, and is alleged to have made a video for the group threatening attacks in Germany.

Prosecutors believe the pair met at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan's tribal territories and were sent back to Europe to recruit a network of suicide bombers.

"We do not know what those men were up to but there are certain files of information that would make it plausible that they were probably thinking of a Mumbai-style attack," says Musharbash.

In the fall of 2010, a year after the document was written, European intelligence agencies were scrambling to investigate a Mumbai-style plot involving German and other European militants -- which sparked an unprecedented U.S. State Department travel warning for Americans in Europe.

"I think it is plausible to think that the 'Future Works' document is part of that particular project," says Musharbash.

"Future Works" suggests al Qaeda was an organization under great pressure, without a major attack to its name in several years, harried by Western intelligence. If anything, its predicament is even more dire today.

"The document delivers very clearly the notion that al Qaeda knows it is being followed very closely," Musharbash tells CNN. "It specifically says that Western intelligence agencies have become very good at spoiling attacks, that they have to come up with new ways and better plotting."

Part of the response, according to the document, should be to train European jihadists quickly and send them home -- rather than use them as fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- with instructions on how to keep in secret contact with their handlers.

What emerges from the document is a twin-track strategy -- with the author apparently convinced that al Qaeda needs low-cost, low-tech attacks (perhaps such as the recent gun attacks in France carried out by Mohammed Merah) to keep security services preoccupied while it plans large-scale attacks on a scale similar to 9/11.

Those already under suspicion in Europe and elsewhere would be used as decoys, while others would prepare major attacks.

That is yet to materialize, but Musharbash believes a complex gun attack in Europe is still on al Qaeda's radar.

"I believe that the general idea is still alive and I believe that as soon as al Qaeda has the capacities to go after that scenario, they will immediately do it," he says.

While "Future Works" does not include dates or places, nor specific plans, it appears to be a brainstorming exercise to seize the initiative -- and reinstate al Qaeda on front pages around the world (CNN, 2012)