Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded guilty Wednesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] to all counts of a criminal indictment charging him for his role in the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. Abdulmutallab, 24, admitted to eight felonies [Reuters report], including conspiracy to commit terrorism, attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. In January 2010 not-guilty pleas [JURIST report] were entered on behalf of Abdulmutallab, who was representing himself in the trial with help from an attorney. As the prosecution this week was preparing to present a mountain of physical evidence against him, Abdulmutallab, who is linked to al Qaeda, suddenly and against the advice of the assisting attorney changed his pleas [Guardian report] in a five-minute statement before the court in which he claimed he was participating in an act of jihad against the US by trying to bring down the civilian airliner, which held almost 300 people. Abdulmutallab intended to blow the plane out of the sky over US soil, but the bomb concealed in his underwear failed to go off. Instead, he suffered severe burns and was subdued by fellow passengers and airline crew. Before accepting his guilty pleas, US District Judge Nancy Edmunds required Abdulmutallab to make a statement acknowledging the factual basis of the charges against him. He will be sentenced on January 12 and faces life in prison.
The trial began only Monday, with jury selection having taken place [JURIST report] last week. In September, the court ruled [JURIST report] that statements made by Abdulmutallab while in the hospital following his bombing attempt were admissible. In December 2010, a federal grand jury charged Abdulmutallab with two new counts of conspiracy and firearm possession, in addition to the six previous charges [JURIST reports] of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US, willful attempt to destroy or wreck an aircraft, willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, use of a firearm/destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm/destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence. Three months earlier, in September, Abdulmutallab fired his lawyers and chose to represent himself [JURIST report]. The use of full body scanners [TSA backgrounder] at airports is largely a response to Abdulmutallab's failed bombing attempt. In July the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] rejected a constitutional challenge [JURIST report] to the use of the controversial full body scanners by holding that the use of the scanners does not constitute an unreasonable search.