Entries in Homeland Security (7)


Homeland Chair: Osama bin Laden's Son-in-Law 'Cooperating'

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has been "cooperating" and has already revealed "key intelligence" about the current status, personnel and finances of al Qaeda even before he was secretly spirited to New York City, U.S. officials told ABC News Thursday.

"It is huge," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "This is a man who is in the inner circle of bin Laden's al Qaeda operations and now we have him alive and he's talking."

Abu Ghaith is scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in New York City on Friday and faces the charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.

[See the Indictment HERE.]

"No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America's enemies to justice," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "…[T]his arrest sends an unmistakable message: There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Lawmakers and other U.S. officials revealed Thursday that Ghaith had been moved to New York sometime last week after being captured in Turkey in January and then transferred to Jordanian custody. Although he had spent years in Iran, officials said he was part of an al Qaeda senior management council that continued to be in contact with al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and played a role in the transfer of personnel and money through Iran.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Ghaith appeared in a pair of videos online -- one alongside Osama bin Laden -- and said, "We carried out what God ordered us to do," and called others to join a holy war against America.

The Department of Justice referred to Ghaith as holding a "key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime."

Chairman of the House Homeland Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence Rep. Peter King, who confirmed Abu Ghaith's capture earlier Thursday, released a statement commending President Obama, the CIA, FBI and Jordanian officials.

"I trust [Abu Ghaith] received a vigorous interrogation, and will face swift and certain justice," said King, R- N.Y. "The propaganda statements in which Abu Ghaith and his late father-in-law, Osama bin Laden, praised the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are alone enough to merit the most serious punishment."

Dr. Thomas Lynch at the National Defense University said of Ghaith, "This is not a small fish."

"The catchy title is that he was bin Laden's son-in-law... What he was though was an important spokesman for core al Qaeda," Lynch said. Lynch said Abu Gaith founded and ran a very significant Wahabi mosque in Kuwait for a decade until the Kuwaitis, under U.S. pressure, revoked his citizenship.

"His apprehension sends a message in two directions," Lynch said. "First even these guys who have hid out successfully for a while are not safe from identification and capture. The notion of impunity is further tarnished. Second, Abu Gaith is one of ten guys left from al Qaeda core that have the financial ties and reputation who might have been able to get the old band back together to execute spectacular international terror attacks."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


DHS: 62 Tons of Bomb-Making Chemicals Seized Since October 2010

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- More than 62 metric tons of materials used to make improvised explosive devices have been seized and 31 people have been arrested by the United States and other nations under a Department of Homeland Security program to track unusual shipments of the so-called “precursor chemicals,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Monday.

“We are working with more than 80 countries to prevent the illegal theft or diversion of precursor chemicals that can be used to make improvised explosive devices or IEDs. Through these efforts we have already seized more than 62 metric tons of these deadly materials,” Napolitano said in a speech on the State of America’s Homeland Security at the National Press Club.

Officials say there have been 31 arrests in conjunction with the program, mostly overseas, and according to the World Customs Organization, seizures have taken place in Afghanistan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uganda. Immigration Customs Enforcement proposed the idea to the World Customs Organization; INTERPOL is also a key partner in the initiative.

The program is an initiative to prevent the theft or illegal diversion of precursor chemicals that can be used to make IEDS by tracking unusual shipments of items such as acetone, ammonium nitrate, nitric acid and urea.

Officials say some of the triggers that flag these shipments and led to the precursor materials being interdicted include large cash payments, inappropriately packaged items, abnormal shipping routes and flags that the customer has no business need for the item being shipped.

“It’s basically a very robust and specific information sharing agreement that allows us to monitor and track the shipments of the kind of chemicals used in manufacture of IEDs and to make sure that as that commerce moves -- and some of these are chemicals that are used in agriculture, for example; they have legitimate uses as well as illegitimate uses,” Napolitano said. “Being able to separate those out and making sure that recipient is the right recipient, getting the right amount, as properly described, is what this information sharing agreement [is about]."

Napolitano said that under the Program Global Shield DHS and over 80 partner nations have recovered over 62 metric tons of precursor chemicals that could be used in IEDS since the program was set up in October 2010.

“Our ability to connect data is so much more robust than it was 10 years ago or indeed even three years ago,” she said. “Our ability to unite different types of databases so we can make the kinds of queries necessary to say, hey, look, we want to know whether this particular chemical is moving and where.” Napolitano said about how officials look for the chemicals.

Napolitano also discussed the wide swath of topics that DHS has to cover -- from natural disasters, immigration policy, airline security and protecting cyberspace.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Officials: AQAP Still a Major Threat to Homeland

Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Although Anwar Al-Awlaki's death is a significant blow to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group remains a threat to the United States, National Counterterrorism Center director Matthew Olsen said Thursday in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

"Without question, his death has dealt a major blow to the external operations of al Qaeda's most operational affiliate, yet we assess that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a significant threat to the homeland," Olsen said.

"Awlaki was the leader of external operations," FBI director Robert Mueller said. "He had taken a lead role planning and directing attacks on the homeland."

"Along with Samir Khan, Awlaki was committed to inspiring acts of terrorism from overseas...using the Internet to promote lone actor operations against the West. Despite this blow to their leadership, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a significant threat to the homeland and we must maintain our vigilance in responding to this threat," Mueller said.

"A strike against its leadership, even a significant one, does not eliminate the potential for retaliation and other acts," Mueller said.

Making reference to the ongoing instability in Yemen, Olsen said, AQAP's "gains and the regime's governing challenges are increasing our concerns about the groups capability to conduct additional attacks targeting the homeland and U.S. interests overseas, as well as our concerns about the group's continuing propaganda efforts designed to inspire like-minded Western extremists."

Olsen testified before the House Intelligence Committee that even with Awlaki's death, he was concerned about information showing the continued links between AQAP and al-Shabaab in East Africa.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: 40 Americans Training in Somalia Are 'Direct Threat' to US

George Doyle/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new congressional report Wednesday expressed increasing alarm on the danger posed by Americans of Somali background who have joined Islamic militants, calling them a "direct threat to the U.S. homeland."

The report said there are 40 Americans believed to be training and fighting with al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group trying to take control of Somalia.

ABC News has learned that before he died Osama bin Laden was secretly urging al-Shabaab to target the United States because he was aware of the Americans of Somali descent who had joined al-Shabaab.

The report by the House Homeland Security Committee has found that at least 40 Somali Americans have trained and fought in Somalia over the last four years, including three U.S. suicide bombers who have carried out attacks against African security forces.

The report notes that 15 Americans and three Canadians have been killed fighting with al-Shabaab in Somalia. The report also reveals, "At least 21 or more American Shabaab members overseas remain unaccounted for and pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland."

Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in an interview with ABC News, "These are Americans. These are people who have passports, they know the United States, they understand the United States, they know our weak points, they know where they can probe and thrust."

King held a hearing Wednesday focused on the terror group, warning that "with al-Shabaab's large cadre of American jihadis and unquestionable ties to al Qaeda, particularly its alliance with AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], we must face the reality that al-Shabaab is a growing threat to our homeland."

The Somali terror recruits have come from across the country including, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Alabama and Texas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Defense Secretary: Yemen Government Collapse 'A Real Problem'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed worry regarding Yemen in an interview on This Week, after the middle eastern country’s long-time President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said he was willing to step down. Widespread protests in Yemen have sapped Saleh’s political support in recent days.

“I think it is a real concern because the most active and, at this point, perhaps the most aggressive branch of al Qaeda -- al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula -- operates out of Yemen," Gates told ABC News when asked how dangerous a threat post-Saleh Yemen would be to the United States. "We have had a lot of counterterrorism cooperation from President Saleh and Yemeni Security Services,” he said.

“So if that government collapses or is replaced by one that is dramatically more weak, then I think we'll face some additional challenges out of Yemen. There's no question about it.  It's a real problem,” Gates said.

In response to violence in Yemen last week, President Obama released a statement saying, in part, “I strongly condemn the violence that has taken place in Yemen today and call on President Saleh to adhere to his public pledge to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for today’s violence must be held accountable.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Official Urges Europe to Use, Share Passenger Flight Reservation Data for Aviation Security

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman on Thursday called for a significant push from European partners to implement more stringent information gathering tools relating to aviation security.  Heyman said that information received from passenger flight reservation data had greatly assisted in U.S. counterterrorism operations, especially in helping identify the alleged co-conspirators of attempted New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi.
Heyman said that the U.S. would be engaging in negotiations with the EU Commission shortly on continued sharing of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, which is obtained when flights are reserved and booked. The U.S. currently has arrangements to have European countries gather this information for flights inbound to the United States until 2014 but due to privacy concerns the current information sharing agreement is going to be getting a fresh review from the European Parliament.
Appearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Thursday along with representatives from TSA, Heyman said, “The PNR record is extremely important, it has helped us on a number of identify do find co-travelers for example who may be of concern, we did that in the case of Zazi, to identify individuals who may be trying to flee the country as was the case with Shahzad.”
According to U.S. officials, PNR data was also used to find David Headley, who has pleaded guilty to conducting the pre-attack surveillance for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Heyman said this information sharing is a critical tool and that the U.S. would like to see Europe have a similar system. “Parliament has not rejected that agreement,  they have said they have questions about it and they want to strengthen the privacy protections in it and a number of other elements,” he said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


'Credible But Not Specific' Threat of New Terrorist Attack

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. and European officials said Tuesday they have detected a plot to carry out a major, coordinated series of commando-style terror attacks in Britain, France, Germany and possibly the United States.

A senior US official said that while there is a "credible" threat, no specific time or place is known. President Obama has been briefed about the threat, say senior US officials.

Intelligence and law enforcement authorities in the US and Europe said the threat information is based on the interrogation of a suspected German terrorist allegedly captured on his way to Europe in late summer and now being held at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

U.S. law enforcement officials say they have been told the terrorists were planning a series of "Mumbai-style" commando raids on what were termed "economic or soft" targets in the countries. Pakistani militants killed 173 people with guns and grenades during the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India.

In testimony before Congress last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats."

Officials in France have put the country on high alert for a terror attack and authorities in Paris shut down the Eiffel Tower for the second time in two weeks today after what was termed a "false alarm."

No bomb was found but officials in France are taking no chances, given what they believe is a very real threat.

"We currently have reached a spike in the threat of an attack, which is unquestionable," said the head of the French National Police last week. He also said France was at particular risk from al-Qaeda's North African affiliate.

The new threat to France, and to Germany, Britain and the U.S., is coming from Pakistan, according to intelligence officials. The captured German reportedly said several teams of attackers, all with European passports, had been trained and dispatched from training camps in Waziristan and Pakistan. Officials say the German claimed the attack plan had been approved by Osama Bin Laden.

U.S. intelligence officials said they believed an attack on American soil was more likely to come from terrorists connected to the al-Qaeda group in Yemen, known as AQAP, al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula.

But an official of the New York Police Department said while the most specific information was about Europe, NYPD intelligence officers were following the new information closely. "Nobody here is letting their guard down, the NYPD is watching," the official said. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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