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Entries in Counterterrorism (4)

Wednesday
May162012

Counterterrorism Director Addresses Terror Threats, Media Leaks, Wiretapping

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, broadly addressed counterterrorism issues speaking before the American Bar Association’s standing Committee on Law and National Security Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
 
Olsen used his speech to push for renewal of sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which will expire at the end of the year. Recently Olsen and FBI Director Robert Mueller have been saying the impact of not renewing the FISA amendments would leave the U.S. defenseless in the counterterrorism realm by not being able to intercept certain overseas communications.
 
Olsen said that core al Qaeda leaders are having difficulty communicating with operatives. Repeating the analysis of Mueller and other top intelligence community officials Olsen cited AQAP as the most active and dangerous of the al Qaeda affiliates.
 
Olsen said that the intelligence community is taking action to locate AQAP’s bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, noting the bomb maker is “a very important person for us to find out where he is and to take appropriate action.”
 
On the issue of homegrown terrorism Olsen said the intelligence and law enforcement community face “real obstacles on the homegrown side,” citing the difficulty in detecting lone extremists who may not provide typical warning indicators of terrorist activity.
 
In a question-and-answer session, Olsen also addressed the issue of media leaks relating to the recent bomb plot and called it “devastating.” “Leaks do endanger people’s lives...that is not an exaggeration,” Olsen said.
 
One reporter questioned Olsen about his preference for using drones to neutralize terrorist threats, or if he favored capture and interrogation. Olsen responded saying, “I have a strong preference for gaining intelligence. That is our goal...we need to always take advantage of whatever opportunities we have to interrogate."
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan042012

State Department Boosting Its Counterterrorism Office

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department plans to elevate its counterterrorism office to a full-fledged bureau on Wednesday, a move that officials say will send a strong signal to allies about the U.S. commitment to strengthening their ability to combat extremism.

The promotion fulfills a pledge by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a speech last year to do so as part of an effort to integrate all the tools of American power to combat terror threats. The new bureau is not expected to receive a larger budget, but officials say it will help raise the State Department’s counterterrorism profile both within the U.S. government and abroad.

“It gives the State Department a higher platform in the counterterrorism arena,” said Ambassador Dan Benjamin, who heads the office, in an exclusive interview with ABC News on Tuesday.

In her remarks at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York City last September, Secretary Clinton said she has fought for a diplomatic seat at the table when counterterrorism issues are discussed.

“Just as counterterrorism cannot be the sole focus of our foreign policy, it does not make sense to view counterterrorism in a vacuum.  It must be integrated into our broader diplomatic and development agendas,” she said.

In her speech, Secretary Clinton spoke of the need to build “an international counterterrorism network” to combat terror adversaries and said that upgrading the department’s counterterrorism office will be key to developing that critical capacity in partner countries.

The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, as it is currently known, plays an often unsung role in the U.S. government’s counterterrorism apparatus, losing the limelight to higher profile cousins in the intelligence community, Department of Homeland Security, and military. Yet, Ambassador Benjamin said its role was critical in improving the capacity of other countries who share U.S. interests.

“You cannot shoot your way out of the world’s terrorism problem,” he said. Instead he referred to what he called “counterterrorism diplomacy,” which focuses on boosting the capacity of foreign countries to deal with extremism within their borders and convincing them to do more about it on their own.

Ambassador Benjamin said his office’s promotion will send a message to those countries that they need to do more.

“It is a signal to the world that they need to deal with this,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec012010

Top Counterterrorism Official Warns of Potential Attack, 'Innocent Lives Will Be Lost'

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was arrested for allegedly attempting to detonate a car bomb Nov. 26 at a Portland, Ore., Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Photo Courtesy - Multnomah County Jail(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is due for a deadly terrorist attack that will likely be carried out by a new breed of extremists radicalized in America's cities and towns, the country's top counterterrorism official said Wednesday in an unusually candid press conference.

Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, warned that despite a spate of thwarted recent bomb attempts, the country is facing an evolving threat from homegrown terrorists who will one day successfully kill Americans.

"We aim for perfection," Leiter said, but "perfection will not be achieved....Innocent lives will be lost."

"Just like any other endeavor we will not stop all the attacks....To say that we will not successfully defend against all attacks is certainly not to say that we are not trying to stop all attacks, we are. It is certainly not to say that any attack is OK. If there is an attack it may well be tragic," he said.

Last week, the FBI arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a Somali-born U.S. national accused of planning to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore. Law enforcement officials said Mohamud was one of a growing number of Americans to self-radicalize and choose to carry out terror attacks on their own.

"We have to be honest that some things will get through," Leiter said. "And in this era of a more complicated threat, a more diverse threat and lower-scale attacks to include individuals who have been radicalized here in the homeland, stopping all the attacks has become that much harder."

Many of those Americans find inspiration online from Anwar Al Awalaki, an American radical cleric, who Leiter described as a dangerous threat directly involved in planning attacks on the U.S.

Leiter said Al Awlaki, believed to be hiding in Yemen among a dangerous Al Qaeda cell, had gone from being a propagandist to planning attacks outright. According to The New York Times, the cleric is currently the only American the government admits to having on its hit list.

The strength of Al Qaeda's central leadership, which organized the 9/11 attacks, has diminished, he said, but the group is still capable of carrying out lethal attacks, and pointed to the recent threats in Europe as originating from the group's hideout along Afghanistan's porous border with Pakistan.

Leiter said other attacks could come from splinter cells, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group affiliated with Al Awlaki, and believed responsible for last year's Christmas Day plane plot, and last month's thwarted printer-cartridge plot.

Leiter also warned against a knee-jerk reaction in the wake of an attack that would slow the country's ability to operate regularly. The country must be prepared to move forward following a deadly incident, including immediately pursuing the responsible terrorists, and reviewing the steps taken by law enforcement agencies.

He said it was essential for the country to show resilience in the wake of an attack, and not assume that terrorists posed an existential threat to the nation.

He said concerns about an impending attack and the ability to move the country forward following an attack were "very much a bipartisan sentiment."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov032010

Pilot Union Calls for New Approach to Cargo Security

Photo Courtesy - ABC News | WFAA-TV Dallas-Ft. Worth(WASHINGTON) -- The largest pilots union has called for a new air cargo screening method based on risk rather than a "one-size-fits-all" approach.

The Air Line Pilots Association in a news release Wednesday asked for a tailored approach to screening amid concerns over cargo security.  

"We know that risk-based screening and other security enhancements are urgently needed to close existing gaps that put at risk passengers, cargo, and pilots, as well as persons on the ground, if a terrorist were to be successful in bringing down an aircraft over a major metropolitan area,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president.

ALPA argued that all-cargo operations should use a threat-based approach that treats trustworthy and reliable shippers differently from those who are less reliable or less known.
 
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