Entries in Yemen (6)


FBI Investigates Media Leaks in Yemen Bomb Plot

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- FBI director Robert S. Mueller III Wednesday disclosed that the FBI is investigating leaks to the news media about the recently disrupted plot by al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate to smuggle a bomb designed to be concealed in underwear onto a U.S.-bound jet.

A day after the plot was first reported, it was revealed that the individual at the center of the plot was a double agent working for Britain’s MI-6 secret intelligence service and the CIA along with Saudi Arabian intelligence assets.

“We have initiated an investigation into this leak,” Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.  “Leaks such as this threaten ongoing operations, puts at risk the lives of sources, makes it much more difficult to recruit sources, and damages our relationships with our foreign partners.”

“Leaks such as this have a -- I don’t want to overuse the word ‘devastating’ -- but have a huge impact on our ability to do our business, not just on a particular source and the threat to the particular source, but your ability to recruit sources is severely hampered,” Mueller said, describing the implications of the leak of sensitive national security information.

Mueller continued, “In cases such as this, your -- the relationship with your counterparts overseas are damaged [sic] which means that an inhibition in the willingness of others to share information with us where they don’t think that information will remain secure.  So it also has some long-term effects, which is why it is so important to make certain that the persons who are responsible for the leak are brought to justice.”

The investigation is likely being run by the Justice Department’s counterespionage section and agents from the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Justice Department officials and an FBI spokesman declined to comment on the nature of the investigation. The CIA also declined comment.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is also conducting a review with the DNI’s general counsel to see if the leaks originated in any of the 16 agencies that DNI director James Clapper oversees.

Earlier in the day Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, addressed the issue of media leaks relating to the plot and called it “devastating.”

“Leaks do endanger people’s lives...that is not an exaggeration,” Olsen said, speaking before the American Bar Association’s standing Committee on Law and National Security, in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Officials Thought They Might Kill Anwar Al-Awlaki on 9/11 Anniversary

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- “This is a great day for America,” says a senior administration official, pleased with the news that terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed Friday.

The Yemeni government on Friday announced that an operation launched shortly before 10 a.m. in Yemen targeted and killed the New Mexico-born cleric -- a missile hitting him approximately five miles from the town of Khashef, 87 miles east of the capital Sana’a.

Senior administration officials say that the U.S. has been targeting Awlaki for months, though in recent weeks officials were able to pin down his location.

“They were waiting for the right opportunity to get him away from any civilians,” a senior administration official tells ABC News.

In fact, there was a flurry of activity on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

As President Obama shuttled between Shanksville, Penn., New York, and the Pentagon, officials “thought they had a good opportunity to hit him,” the official says. “We waited, but it never materialized.”

A senior White House official says Awlaki was “very operational, every day he was plotting, he had very unique skills, and it’s good to get him in Yemen where AQAP” -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- “is planting the flag.”

Out of deference to the Yemeni government, U.S. officials have been tight-lipped about the precise role the U.S. played, though the Yemeni military does not possess the kind of predator drone said to have killed Awlaki.

The senior White House official tells ABC News: “We’ve had a very intense focus on him.  And once we decide to put resources on one of these guys, I’d hate to be one of them.  Unless you’re literally in a cave, which is where we think (Ayman al-) Zawahiri is, any visibility -- and to be operational you have to have that, so one phone call, one email, one car ride -- and you’re found.”

In early February 2010 -- fewer than two months after failed Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Faruq Abdulmuttalab, who had links to Awlaki, tried to strike -- the National Security Staff put out an early directive saying Awlaki is a valid target for killing.  Since the cleric was an American citizen, administration lawyers vetted the argument, ultimately concluding that Awlaki was a viable target since he cannot be captured.

Since then, Awlaki has been tied to Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan of November 2009. Failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, who tried to strike in May 2010, said he was inspired by Awlaki.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Establishes New Cargo Security Measures

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced several steps that the department will take in order to improve safety and security of cargo coming into the United States.

“Following the thwarted terrorist plot last week to conceal and ship explosive devices on board aircraft bound for the U.S., the administration took a number of immediate steps to increase security by tightening existing measures related to cargo bound for the United States,” Napolitano said Monday.

In addition to adopting inbound cargo targeting rules and “ordering a ground halt on all cargo coming from Yemen,” the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inspectors visited with government security officials in Yemen to enhance security procedures necessary to eventually lift the ground halt on its cargo.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Suspected Printer Bomber Is Fanatical Jihadist

Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The man who authorities believe prepared the printer bombs and dispatched the so-called "underwear bomber" on Christmas Day in an attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit may be a recent entrant in the headlines, but he has had a trail of chilling attempts.

Ibrihim Asiri is a 28-year-old Saudi native, an expert in explosives and chemicals -- and a fanatical jihadist.

Just months before allegedly building the explosives that Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab wore on a U.S.-bound from Amsterdam, officials say he packed explosives into a body cavity of his own 23-year-old brother Abdullah, sending him on a suicide mission. The target was the head of the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince bin Nayef.

"They believe that such a martyrdom operation will be rewarded in the afterlife," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution told ABC News in an interview Monday.

"A martyr who killed Prince Muhammad bin Nayef would have been up there in the pantheon of al Qaeda martyrs," Riedel said.

The younger Asiri posed as a repentant jihadist who had information for Prince bin Nayef, but when he entered the room, he tripped. The bomb exploded prematurely, blowing Asiri to bits ... but sparing the Prince.

Ibrahim Asiri is the son of a former Saudi soldier. The father told a Saudi newspaper his son was radicalized years ago, and fled the county for Yemen. In Yemen, Asiri trained in secret camps, working to perfect his bomb making, and managing to elude capture.

It was Prince bin Nayef -- still the Saudi intelligence chief -- who called U.S. authorities last week to tell them about the latest plot the Saudis had uncovered, providing the Americans with the packages' tracking numbers.

Yemen has been a safe haven and stronghold of al Qaeda since the late 1990s, Riedel told ABC News in an earlier interview this year.

It is a very attractive arena for al Qaeda, because it is one of the most lawless, ungoverned spaces in the entire world, he said. In addition, Osama Bin Laden's family is originally from the southwestern part of Yemen.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


US Hunts For Saudi Man Believed to Be Behind UPS, FedEx Bombs

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- The full force of the U.S. is now targeted on Ibrahim al-Asiri, the young Saudi bombmaker believed to be behind the two bombs found Friday in UPS and FedEx packages bound from Yemen to Chicago.

Asiri, 28, also said to have been behind last year's attempted Christmas bombing of Northwest flight 253, continues to outmatch billions of dollars in airport security equipment and presents a clear and present danger.  "We need to find him," said John Brennan, President Obama's top antiterrorism advisor.

American officials now concede that Asiri's two latest bombs would have made it onto flights to the U.S. but for the Saudi intelligence service providing the parcel tracking numbers.  Said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, "We were able to identify by where they were emanating from and package number, where they were located."

The bombs were cleverly disguised inside Hewlett-Packard printers being shipped along with clothes, books and a tourist souvenir.  Asiri packed the toner cartridge with explosives and added the circuit board of a cell phone--something that did not stand out in state of the art cargo screening.

While the packages were addressed to two synagogues in Chicago, U.S. officials now agree with an initial British estimate that the UPS and FedEx cargo planes that were to carry the parcels over the Atlantic were the real targets of the plot.

"At this point," said Brennan, "we, I think, would agree with the British that it looks as though they were designed to be detonated in flight."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Postal Service Suspends Acceptance of Intl. Mail from Yemen

Photo Courtesy - Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Postal Service has temporarily suspended acceptance of inbound international mail originating in Yemen effective Saturday, Oct. 30.

The service suspension has been issued in response to the potential threat posed by suspicious packages arriving in the U.S. aboard international flights originating in Yemen.

The Postal Service has also heightened awareness among its employees, and remains vigilant in ensuring its security processes are adhered to in the acceptance of international mail arriving in the U.S. 

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service continues to monitor the situation as part of its mission to protect the Postal Service, its employees and its customers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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