Entries in John Brennan (5)


Top Counter-Terrorism Official: No Further Threat from Bomb

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The inside source who helped foil a U.S. bomb threat meant to coincide with the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death has been taken out of Yemen and is safely in Saudi Arabia, ABC News reported Tuesday morning.

When asked on ABC's Good Morning America if the source was the would-be bomber, President Obama’s top counter-terrorism advisor, John Brennan, wouldn't give a direct answer, but said, “We’ve been working very closely with our international partners to make sure that this device did not pose a threat to the American public.  We continue to work with them, there are some very sensitive operational aspects of this that we’re continuing to pursue.  So the means we were able to get this device we are trying to make sure that we protect, again, the equities that are involved with it.”

The FBI are examining the device, Brennan said, and although he can’t confirm that there aren’t other bombers at large he said that “neither the device nor the intended user of this device pose a threat” to the United States.

“Again we are working with our partners overseas to ensure that all measures are taken related to the device as well as to any individuals that might have been designed to use it,” he said.

The device is reported to be more sophisticated than that of the 2009 so called “Underwear Bomber,” with a better detonator and no metal.  But Brennan would not definitively say if the device could have gotten past airport security, had it gotten to that point.

“There are a number of measures in place at airports overseas.  We work with our partners.  They continually change those measures to stay abreast of the latest developments that we have been able to uncover in terms of the types of techniques and tactics used by terrorists groups,” Brennan said.

People flying should not be concerned, he said.  Instead, in light of the foiled attack, Americans should be confident that our intelligence is working.

“We don’t want to be complacent, feeling as though our security measures are as strong as they could be.  We continue to adapt and evolve them.  Again this IED was a threat from the stand point of the design…so now we are trying to make sure we are taking the measures that we need to prevent any other type of IED similarly constructed from getting thru security procedures,” Brennan said.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Warns of Possible Holiday Terror Attack

Photo Courtesy - NCTC(WASHINGTON) -- Just days before Christmas, the White House asked Americans to be vigilant this holiday season, warning of a possible -- though unspecified -- terror threat from al Qaeda. The caution echoed a week's worth of warnings from law enforcement authorities.

A spate of bombs found Thursday in foreign embassies in Rome, Italy has again ratcheted up concern, with authorities calling on people to be on the lookout.

"We remain vigilant to attempts by al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to carry out cowardly attacks against innocent men, women, and children, and we are working very closely with other governments to share all threat information immediately and to coordinate closely our counterterrorism and security activities," said John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief, said Wednesday in a statement.

This week, Brennan convened a meeting of senior law enforcement and intelligence officials to discuss "the latest threat reporting and to coordinate security and counterterrorism plans that will be in place during the holiday season."

Brennan's warning comes days after Attorney General Eric Holder, the FBI, and Department of Homeland Security also alerted the public to a possible attack, citing a year's worth of thwarted attempts starting with last year's Christmas Day "underwear" plot. It was a year ago that a suspected Al Qaeda operative tried to detonate explosives packed in his underwear, onboard a flight bound from Amsterdam to Detroit.

This week Attorney General Eric Holder told ABC News in an exclusive interview that Americans "have to be prepared for potentially bad news."

"What I am trying to do in this interview is to make people aware of the fact that the threat is real, the threat is different, the threat is constant," he said.

Holder said the threat to the U.S. had changed since 9/11, and the country was more likely to suffer an attack at the hands of a homegrown terrorist, like Anwar Al Awlawki, the American-born radical cleric believed to be living in Yemen and directing attacks against the U.S.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Director of National Intelligence Not Briefed on London Arrests Before Interview

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was caught off-guard Monday by a question on the widely-covered arrest of 12 men in an alleged terror plot in London. Wednesday, Clapper's spokeswoman admits it was because he had not been briefed on the arrests.

In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, taped Monday afternoon, Clapper was asked about the arrests, which had happened hours before and were featured on all of the network morning news broadcasts. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan, who were also participating in the joint interview, were aware of the arrests.

"First of all, London," Sawyer began. "How serious is it? Any implication that it was coming here? Director Clapper?"

"London?" Clapper said after a pause, before Brennan entered the conversation explaining the arrests.

Later in the interview, Sawyer returned to the subject.

"I was a little surprised you didn't know about London," Sawyer told Clapper.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't," he replied.

On Tuesday, Clapper's office had declined to say whether he knew about the specific disrupted plot, but issued a statement calling Sawyer's question "ambiguous." Wednesday, his office appears to have changed their position.

"Director Clapper had not yet been briefed on the arrests in the United Kingdom at the time of this interview taping," said ODNI spokeswoman Jamie Smith in a statement to ABC's Jake Tapper.

Smith explained that Clapper had been working on other matters during the day, following developments on the Korean Peninsula and issues surrounding the ratification of the START nuclear pact. He was not briefed on the London arrests, she said, because it was not centered in the homeland and required no action on his part.

Still, Smith acknowledged, that Clapper "should have been briefed on the arrests, and steps have been taken to ensure that he is in the future."

In an on-camera briefing at the White House Wednesday, Brennan strongly defended Clapper, calling him a "consummate" DNI.

"Should he have been briefed by his staff on these arrests? Yes," Brennan said before criticizing the media for what he called "breathless" coverage of the British arrests.

"I'm glad that Jim Clapper is not sitting in front of the TV 24 hours a day and monitoring what's coming out in the media," Brennan said. "As of that time, there was nothing that the DNI needed to do or to be engaged in that would have required him to set aside other pressing intelligence matters to be briefed on things that were being put out in the press."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Counterterror Chiefs: London Terror Suspects Were No Threat to US

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On a day of frayed nerves and false alarms in the U.S. counterterrorism community, ABC's Diane Sawyer sat down with President Obama's national security team in Washington D.C.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan spoke with Sawyer about the threat of terror around the globe, particularly in the wake of Monday's arrest of 12 men in England said to be in the final stages of a major bomb plot.

"As far as I know, we have not yet found any connection between those arrests and any threats to the United States," said Napolitano.

The trio declined to speak about the particulars of the British threat but sought to assure the American public ahead of a busy week of holiday travel. Just Monday, travelers at Newark Airport in New Jersey were held up after authorities closed a terminal to investigate a suspicious package that turned out to be a computer monitor.

"What I say to the American people is that... thousands of people are working 24/7, 364 [sic] days a year to keep the American people safe."

Sawyer asked about recent comments from Michael Leiter at the National Counterterrorism Agency, asserting that not all attacks can be stopped and some innocent lives will be lost.

"I think Mike Leiter was correct," Napolitano said. "You cannot hermetically seal the United States."

"We're not going to bat 1,000 necessarily. We can't guarantee that," said Clapper. "But we're certainly doing everything we can to ensure that we do thwart any kind of an attack."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Lawyer Says Female Bomb Suspect in Yemen Released, No Charges

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(SANA’A, Yemen) -- Authorities in Yemen have released on bail a 22-year-old female engineering student whose name and phone number were on the shipping documents for the two bombs sent to the United States. A lawyer for Hanan Samawi told ABC News that the young woman had returned home after being held and questioned over the last 24 hours. The lawyer said Samawi's father had been instructed to have his daughter avoid news reporters.

A Yemeni official briefed on the investigation said the suspect "is not allowed to leave the country pending further questioning." The official said the shipping agent who received the packages was called in to identify her and said Samawi "was not the person who signed the shipping manifesto." The official said authorities now believe it is a case of "stolen identity by an individual who knew the detained suspect's full name, address and telephone number."

Her arrest had been trumpeted by the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, as evidence of its cooperation with the U.S. and others to combat terrorism. But as her fellow students mounted a protest Sunday at a university, her lawyers questioned why anyone involved in the plot would use their real name and phone number to ship a bomb.

President Obama's top anti-terrorism advisor went on ABC News Sunday to warn that authorities are hunting for other packages like the ones containing powerful explosives that were found Friday on UPS and FedEx cargo jets bound for the United States.

"We can't presume that there are none others that are out there," John O. Brennan told ABC News. "What we're trying to do right now is to work very closely with our partners overseas to identify all packages that left Yemen recently and to see whether or not there are any other suspicious packages out there."

Brennan said the U.S. was "very fortunate" to have received help from Saudi Arabia, and that the assistance "saved lives here."

"Once they received the information, they contacted us immediately, and it was a race against the clock to find those packages, to neutralize them," he said. "And so we owe a debt of gratitude to the Saudis. I think their actions really saved lives here."

The administration's decision to publicly identify the Saudis as the source of that critical tip has brought some criticism, though, from Republicans on Capitol Hill. The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee told ABC News Sunday that the White House was "stupid" to identify Saudi Arabia as the source of the tip that helped foil the Yemen-based terror plot to sent bombs to the United States by UPS and FedEx.

"Why do you finger the Saudis?" Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri said Sunday. "When you identify your sources, you may make it easier for al Qaeda to retaliate. And you may embarrass the Saudis."

Bond said he and others in Congress have more questions about the way American intelligence responded to the potentially deadly terror plot that was foiled Friday. Chief among them is to determine when, exactly, the intelligence community received the detailed tip that enabled them to identify and remove the packages from two cargo jets.

It is a concern, Bond said, that the bombs appear to have traveled aboard at least one passenger flight, and that both packages were able to be loaded on cargo planes without detection.

"There are a whole lot of things that the intelligence community needs to be tying up," Bond said. "When did we know these packages were out there? Why did it take so long for them to intercept it? Were they really directed at a synagogue in Chicago? Or were they going to be detonated in the air?"

Bond singled out Brennan for identifying the Saudis as the source of the information that unraveled the plot. He said it reminded him of Brennan's earlier announcement, after the failed Christmas bomb plot, that American intelligence officials were speaking with members of the suspected bomber's family from Nigeria. "How about drawing a great big bull’s-eye on their back. This is the same thing. Stupid."

Bond said the only possible reason he could imagine for the Saudis wanting to be fingered as the source of the intelligence would be if they wanted to build good will on Capitol Hill. Congress is just now digesting the news announced last month that the administration plans to sell Saudi Arabia up to $60 billion in aircraft, helicopters and other arms.

"If any of my colleagues have doubt that they can be friendly, I suppose this would send a strong signal that they can be friendly," Bond said.

White House officials told ABC News that the decision to identified the Saudis was "coordinated every step of the way with the Saudis, and that they were aware that they'd be named before we did it."

Brennan made the rounds Sunday morning, providing new information about how the plot was unfolding. He told CNN the bombs "could have brought those planes down."

"They were self-contained. They were able to be detonated at a time of the terrorists' choosing," Brennan said. "They were destined for a particular location in the United States and Chicago, but it appears as though they had the capability to be detonated on board that aircraft, and they could have brought those planes down."

Brennan said U.S. officials are working closely with British and Emirati authorities on the construction of the explosives. He told ABC News there are strong suspicions that the bomb maker who constructed the latest devices also made the underpants bomb that failed to explode last year.

He told CNN the devices "seem to be very sophisticated both in terms of the type of construction as well as the concealment techniques that were used. So we're still learning a lot about this plot and we're trying to make sure that we do everything possible to protect air travel as well as the American public and others."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio