Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Washington (CNN) -- Lone individuals are the most likely to launch attacks in the United States following the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a joint Department of Homeland Security/FBI bulletin sent to state and local law enforcement.
The advisory says lone offenders who share al Qaeda's ideology are the greatest near-term threat because they are "unburdened by organizational constraints that can slow operational decisions by established terrorist groups."
Individuals could try to attack low-security targets using simple improvised explosive devices or small arms, the message said. However, the May 9 advisory obtained by CNN notes that federal law enforcement officials have "no credible information to suggest that a specifically targeted plot is underway."
The document cited the vow in the al Qaeda statement confirming the death of bin Laden which said "the soldiers of Islam" would continue to plan attacks. The advisory also says over the past year, Inspire magazine -- published in English by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- and various jihadi spokesmen have said attacks by individuals "can have a significant impact."
The notice mentions several attacks involving a single perpetrator, including the November 2009 Fort Hood attack that left 13 people dead. Army Major Nidal Hasan is accused in that shooting.
Law enforcement officials have repeatedly warned that plots by lone wolves are the most difficult to detect and disrupt. But the DHS/FBI bulletin urges state and local law enforcement officials to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 8:40 PM
By Associated Press, Published: May 2
WASHINGTON — When one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted aides picked up the phone last year, he unknowingly led U.S. pursuers to the doorstep of his boss, the world’s most wanted terrorist.
That phone call, recounted Sunday by a U.S. official, ended a years-long search for bin Laden’s personal courier, the key break in a worldwide manhunt. The courier, in turn, led U.S. intelligence to a walled compound in northeast Pakistan, where a team of Navy SEALs shot bin Laden to death
The violent final minutes were the culmination of years of intelligence work. Inside the CIA team hunting bin Laden, it always was clear that bin Laden’s vulnerability was his couriers. He was too smart to let al-Qaida foot soldiers, or even his senior commanders, know his hideout. But if he wanted to get his messages out, somebody had to carry them, someone bin Laden trusted with his life.
Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, detainees in the CIA’s secret prison network told interrogators about an important courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti who was close to bin Laden. After the CIA captured al-Qaida’s No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he confirmed knowing al-Kuwaiti but denied he had anything to do with al-Qaida.
Then in 2004, top al-Qaida operative Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Ghul told the CIA that al-Kuwaiti was a courier, someone crucial to the terrorist organization. In particular, Ghul said, the courier was close to Faraj al-Libi, who replaced Mohammed as al-Qaida’s operational commander. It was a key break in the hunt for in bin Laden’s personal courier.
“Hassan Ghul was the linchpin,” a U.S. official said.
Finally, in May 2005, al-Libi was captured. Under CIA interrogation, al-Libi admitted that when he was promoted to succeed Mohammed, he received the word through a courier. But he made up a name for the courier and denied knowing al-Kuwaiti, a denial that was so adamant and unbelievable that the CIA took it as confirmation that he and Mohammed were protecting the courier. It only reinforced the idea that al-Kuwaiti was very important to al-Qaida.
If they could find the man known as al-Kuwaiti, they’d find bin Laden.
The revelation that intelligence gleaned from the CIA’s so-called black sites helped kill bin Laden was seen as vindication for many intelligence officials who have been repeatedly investigated and criticized for their involvement in a program that involved the harshest interrogation methods in U.S. history.
“We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day,” said Marty Martin, a retired CIA officer who for years led the hunt for bin Laden.
Mohammed did not discuss al-Kuwaiti while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He acknowledged knowing him many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.
It took years of work before the CIA identified the courier’s real name: Sheikh Abu Ahmed, a Pakistani man born in Kuwait. When they did identify him, he was nowhere to be found. The CIA’s sources didn’t know where he was hiding. Bin Laden was famously insistent that no phones or computers be used near him, so the eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency kept coming up cold.
READ THE REST OF THE STORY AT THE WASHINGTON POST
Posted by Steve Douglass at 1:34 PM
The Obama administration had "very detailed contingency plans" for military action against Pakistani forces if they had tried to stop the U.S. attack on Osama bin Laden's compound, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the plan.
Their names are not disclosed because of the sensitive intelligence information involved.
"No firepower option was off the table" during the Navy SEALs' 38-minute mission on the ground, or during the time U.S. helicopters were in the air, one official told CNN. "We would have done whatever we had to in order to get our men out."
The two U.S. officials also told CNN about the plan if bin Laden had been captured alive, which included taking him to Afghanistan and then out to the USS Carl Vinson in the Arabian Sea.
All of the senior U.S. officials in the White House Situation Room during the assault were prepared to call their Pakistani counterparts if fighting between U.S. and Pakistani forces appeared imminent, one of the officials told CNN. The SEALs at all times retained the right of self-defense, and they could have fired at the Pakistanis to defend themselves.
The risk of retaliation Fmr. CIA director on bin Laden's death
During the time the SEALs were on the ground, while some were inside the compound, others were covertly placed just outside the compound walls to provide perimeter security and keep people away. Some of those SEALs would have been able to speak enough of the local language to communicate with townspeople if they had come across them, one source told CNN.
As the assault on bin Laden's compound commenced, the United States had a number of aircraft flying protective missions. None of the aircraft entered Pakistani airspace, but they were prepared to do so if needed. These included fixed wing fighter jets that would have provided firepower if the team came under opposition fire it could not handle.
Additionally, the Air Force had a full team of combat search and rescue helicopters including MH-53 Pave Low and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters flying.
The helicopter that came in to replace the crashed stealth helicopter was carrying a battlefield medical team that was flying overhead and ready to land if SEALs were wounded, one of the CNN sources said. That helicopter landed at the compound within about thirty minutes of being called.
U.S. military and intelligence assets were conducting continuous reconnaissance of Pakistani military installations to watch for any indication of movements, but the Pakistani military never responded while the U.S. forces were there, one U.S. official indicated.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 11:04 AM
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- New NATO airstrikes shook Tripoli on Tuesday after the alliance's secretary-general dismissed complaints that the allied campaign against longtime Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi had fallen into a stalemate.
Meanwhile, an international migration organization said a boat packed with hundreds of refugees trying to flee from Tripoli capsized Friday. Somalia's ambassador to Libya said Tuesday at least 54 Somalis are dead or feared dead.
On the outskirts of al-Brega, a key oil town in the east, three rebels have died in clashes with Gadhafi forces since Monday, according to rebel spokesman Mostafa Bozen and a rebel fighter on the front lines who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity for safety reasons. Rebels have made multiple unsuccessful attempts to enter the town, the sources said.
At least three rounds of explosions echoed across Tripoli, Libya's capital, in a three-hour span that began late Monday and stretched into Tuesday, and the roar of jets could be heard overhead.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 11:00 AM
Federal officials and leaders of the nation’s largest wireless telephone companies are set to announce Tuesday that they’re launching a new mobile telephone emergency alert system by the end of the year in Washington and New York.
The Personal Localized Alerting Network, or PLAN, won’t be available across the rest of the country until April, but top executives from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are scheduled to join Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Julius Genachowski, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York on Tuesday to announce its availability in the two cities.
A separate announcement will be held in Washington at a later date, according to an FCC spokesman.
“The goal is to make sure that in times of real crisis, real emergency, life-saving information can get to people where they are quickly,” Genachowski said in an interview Monday.
While authorities plan to continue broadcasting messages across the Emergency Alert System on radio and television, Genachowski said PLAN “is a major step in recognizing that more and more people are using their mobile devices to communicate, and that it’s often the fastest way to get information to someone.”
Mobile users who currently own or plan to buy newer smart phones and cell phones sold by the four wireless companies would be able to receive the free, text-like messages that would flash across a telephone’s screen and trigger a special vibration, Genachowski said. Once operational, participating federal, state and local agencies would be able to send information regarding only the most serious alerts — including warnings about natural disasters, terrorist attacks or AMBER Alerts.
Fugate, who has spent most of the last two weeks touring deadly tornado damage in southern states, said the technology would have allowed a Washington resident visiting Alabama who owns a mobile phone with a D.C.-based area code to receive warnings about the impending tornadoes.
“What this allows us to do is have the phone know where it is at that moment, and if a broadcast goes off in that area, it’ll go to all the phones in that area,” Fugate said.
Congress in 2006 ordered the FCC to develop requirements for wireless companies to comply with the new alert system, but provided no funding to state and local agencies to use the system.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 9:04 AM
Editor's Note: Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, is the director of the national security studies program at the New America Foundation. His latest book is "The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and al-Qaeda." This article first appeared at Time.com.
Osama bin Laden long fancied himself something of a poet. His compositions tended to the morbid, and a poem written two years after 9/11 in which he contemplated the circumstances of his death was no exception. Bin Laden wrote, "Let my grave be an eagle's belly, its resting place in the sky's atmosphere amongst perched eagles."
As it turns out, bin Laden's grave is somewhere at the bottom of the Arabian Sea, to which his body was consigned after his death in Pakistan at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs.
If there is poetry in bin Laden's end, it is the poetry of justice, and it calls to mind what President George W. Bush had predicted would happen in a speech he gave to Congress just nine days after 9/11. In an uncharacteristic burst of eloquence, Bush asserted that bin Laden and al-Qaeda would eventually be consigned to "history's unmarked grave of discarded lies," just as communism and Nazism had been before them.
Though bin Laden's body may have been buried at sea on May 2, the burial of bin Ladenism has been a decade in the making. Indeed, it began on the very day of bin Laden's greatest triumph. At first glance, the 9/11 assault looked like a stunning win for al-Qaeda, a ragtag band of jihadists who had bloodied the nose of the world's only superpower. But on closer look it became something far less significant, because the attacks on Washington and New York City did not achieve bin Laden's key strategic goal: the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Middle East, which he imagined would lead to the collapse of all the American-backed authoritarian regimes in the region.
Instead, the opposite happened: The U.S. invaded and occupied first Afghanistan and then Iraq. By attacking the American mainland and inviting reprisal, al-Qaeda, which means "the base" in Arabic, lost the best base it had ever had: Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. In this sense, 9/11 was similar to another surprise attack, that on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, a stunning tactical victory that set in motion events that would end in the defeat of imperial Japan.
Shrewder members of bin Laden's inner circle had warned him before 9/11 that antagonizing the United States would be counterproductive, and internal al-Qaeda memos written after the fall of the Taliban and later recovered by the U.S. military show that some of bin Laden's followers fully understood the folly of the attacks. In 2002 an al-Qaeda insider wrote to another, saying, "Regrettably, my brother ... during just six months, we lost what we built in years."
The responsibility for that act of hubris lies squarely with bin Laden. Despite his reputation for shyness and diffidence, he ran al-Qaeda as a dictatorship. His son Omar recalls that the men who worked for his father had a habit of requesting permission before they spoke with their leader, saying, "Dear prince, may I speak?"
Joining al-Qaeda meant taking a personal religious oath of allegiance to bin Laden, just as joining the Nazi Party had required swearing personal fealty to the Führer. So bin Laden's group became just as much a hostage to its leader's flawed strategic vision as the Nazis were to Hitler's.
The key to understanding this vision and all of bin Laden's actions was his utter conviction that he was an instrument of God's will. In short, he was a religious zealot. That zealotry first revealed itself when he was a teenager. Khaled Batarfi, a soccer-playing buddy of bin Laden's on the streets of Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where they both grew up, remembers his solemn friend praying seven times a day (two more than mandated by Islamic convention) and fasting twice a week in imitation of the Prophet Muhammad. For entertainment, bin Laden would assemble a group of friends at his house to chant songs about the liberation of Palestine.
Bin Laden's religious zeal was colored by the fact that his family had made its vast fortune as the principal contractor renovating the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, which gave him a direct connection to Islam's holiest places. In his early 20s, bin Laden worked in the family business; he was a priggish young man who was also studying economics at a university.
His destiny would change with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979. The Afghan war prompted the billionaire's son to launch an ambitious plan to confront the Soviets with a small group of Arabs under his command. That group eventually provided the nucleus of al-Qaeda, which bin Laden founded in 1988 as the war against the Soviets began to wind down. The purpose of al-Qaeda was to take jihad to other parts of the globe and eventually to the U.S., the nation he believed was leading a Western conspiracy to destroy true Islam. In the 1990s bin Laden would often describe America as "the head of the snake."
Jamal Khalifa, his best friend at the university in Jidda and later also his brother-in-law, told me bin Laden was driven not only by a desire to implement what he saw as God's will but also by a fear of divine punishment if he failed to do so. So not defending Islam from what he came to believe was its most important enemy would be disobeying God, something he would never do.
In 1997, when I was a producer for CNN, I met with bin Laden in eastern Afghanistan to film his first television interview. He struck me as intelligent and well-informed, someone who comported himself more like a cleric than like the revolutionary he was quickly becoming. His followers treated bin Laden with great deference, referring to him as "the sheik," and hung on his every pronouncement.
During the course of that interview, bin Laden laid out his rationale for his plan to attack the U.S., whose support for Israel and the regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt made it, in his mind, the enemy of Islam. Bin Laden also explained that the U.S. was as weak as the Soviet Union had been, and he cited the American withdrawal from Vietnam in the 1970s as evidence for this view. He poured scorn on the notion that the U.S. thought of itself as a superpower "even after all these successive defeats."
That would turn out to be a dangerous delusion, which would culminate in bin Laden's death at the hands of the same U.S. soldiers he had long disparaged as weaklings. Now that he is gone, there will inevitably be some jockeying to succeed him. A U.S. counterterrorism official told me that there was "no succession plan in place" to replace bin Laden. While the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri had long been his deputy, he is not the natural, charismatic leader that bin Laden was. U.S. officials believe that al-Zawahiri is not popular with his colleagues, and they hope there will be disharmony and discord as the militants sort out the succession.
As they do so, the jihadists will be mindful that their world has passed them by. The al-Qaeda leadership, its foot soldiers and its ideology played no role in the series of protests and revolts that have rolled across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunisia to Egypt and then on to Bahrain, Yemen and Libya. Bin Laden must have watched these events unfold with a mixture of excitement and deep worry.
Overthrowing the dictatorships and monarchies of the Middle East was long his central goal, but the Arab revolutions were not the kind he had envisioned. Protesters in the streets of Tunis and Cairo didn't carry placards with pictures of bin Laden's face, and the Facebook revolutionaries who launched the uprisings represent everything al-Qaeda hates: they are secular, liberal and anti-authoritarian, and their ranks include women. The eventual outcome of these revolts will not be to al-Qaeda's satisfaction either, because almost no one in the streets of Egypt, Libya or Yemen is clamoring for the imposition of a Taliban-style theocracy, al-Qaeda's preferred end for the states in the region.
Between the Arab Spring and the death of bin Laden, it is hard to imagine greater blows to al-Qaeda's ideology and organization. President Barack Obama has characterized al-Qaeda and its affiliates as "small men on the wrong side of history." For al-Qaeda, that history just sped up, as bin Laden's body floated down into the ocean deeps and its proper place in the unmarked grave of discarded lies.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 8:29 AM