Bimbo and Underwear Bombs: Wake-Up Call

by ANNEMARIE MCAVOY May 20, 2012

The events of the last few weeks ought to raise the question of whether America is as safe as it should be from terrorists.  It is very unsettling to learn that Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole, who was a security supervisor at one of the nation's largest airports, was not only here illegally, but was using the name and identity of a man murdered in New York twenty years ago.  Bimbo was from the same area in Nigeria as the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is now serving a life sentence for trying to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.  At the same time, al Qaeda has produced a better underwear bomb in an effort to blow up planes over United States airspace.

Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole, who came to the United States illegally from Nigeria, was arrested Monday for identity theft.  He was known by his co-workers at Newark Liberty International Airport as Jerry Thomas. He had worked there for about twenty years, and had been using the name of Jerry Thomas since three weeks before the real Mr. Thomas was killed in 1992.  The murder has remained unsolved.

It has very recently become evident that terrorists are continuing to target airplanes, hoping to bring them down over American soil.  In the last few weeks the United States government was able to confiscate a new and improved underwear bomb which al Qaeda planned to use.  Al Qaeda can certainly produce more of these bombs, if they have not already done so.  There has been a lot of discussion as to whether this bomb could get through airport security.  With people like Bimbo out there, they certainly could.

Bimbo was in charge of a thirty person security team at Newark Airport in New Jersey.  He had access to every secure area at the airport, including the tarmac.  He had been approved for such clearance by not only independent contractors for whom he worked, but also by federal and state authorities.  The only way he was found out was due to an anonymous tip. 

There is no question, if Bimbo could work for so many years in secured locations, unnoticed, using the identity of a dead man, that the United States is still not as secure as it should be.  The question is could there be more like him out there, perhaps in charge of security at other airports, or government buildings or monuments, or with access to sensitive security information.

The United States needs to learn from this.  A thorough review should be done of all employees of government agencies and independent contractors who have access to secured locations or sensitive government information.  If this is not done, the results could be catastrophic.  Imagine if Bimbo had been working with al Qaeda, or if he had decided at some point to become a lone wolf terrorist.  Not only did he have access to all of the tarmacs at Newark Airport, but he supervised thirty security guards there.  Those guards manned TSA security checkpoints during the overnight hours and inspected delivery vehicles for unauthorized cargo.  It is just unthinkable, the amount of damage that could be done by terrorists with that kind of access at one of the largest American airports.

Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole is a wake-up call to America that we have to be more vigilant in order to protect this wonderful country from terrorists.  The terrorists have shown us, even in the past few weeks, that they continue to keep America in their cross-hairs.  Laziness or sloppiness leaves the door open to terrorists.  America cannot afford to take the chance that terrorists will take advantage of doors left open to them, in order to wage another successful attack against the United States, as they did on 9/11.


Annemarie McAvoy is a former federal prosecutor. She has a consultant business,, and teaches Counter-Terrorism, Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing at Fordham Law School in New York City.


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