Tag Archives: CIA

Peter Bergen: Rapping for al Qaeda in Syria

CNN) — In August, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm released a video starring the German rapper Deso Dogg.

Wearing combat fatigues and standing next to a waterfall in Syria, Deso Dogg raps in German calling on others to join the jihad and “to make an effort for Paradise.”

Deso Dogg, whose real name is Denis Cuspert, is one of several dozen German citizens who have fought in Syria.

Their move to Syria marks an important shift in the focus of global jihadists. Videos by German militants training with groups associated with al Qaeda during 2009 and 2010 were invariably taped in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

Peter Bergen
Peter Bergen

That region now is largely shunned by foreign militants partly because of effective CIA drones strikes and partly because Syria is now the destination choice for jihadists from around the world.

Deso Dogg is one of the many thousands of foreign fighters who have been drawn to the jihad in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad over the past three years.

This group includes an estimated 800 to 900 from Europe, mostly from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. A handful of Americans have also fought in Syria.

The concern, of course, is that these militants will swap business cards and will acquire arms training and bomb-making skills and will return to Western countries and carry out acts of terrorism.

This is what happened after the war in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Arab veterans of those wars formed the heart of al Qaeda and affiliated groups. Osama bin Laden fought in the Afghan War against the Soviets and then founded al Qaeda, which subsequently, of course, launched the 9/11 attacks. The failure to pay adequate attention to the so-called “Afghan Arabs” such as bin Laden proved an expensive one for the United Sates and her allies.

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via AFP-

WASHINGTON: The row over the assault on the US mission in Libya has narrowed to focus on how and why the CIA’s determination that it was a terror attack was left out of a public “talking points” memo.

Armed militants stormed the US mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi on September 11 in a coordinated assault at two different locations over several hours that left US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

President Barack Obama alluded to the attack being an “act of terror” almost immediately, but senior administration officials then started suggesting it resulted spontaneously from protests at an anti-Islam video posted on YouTube.

In hearings in Congress on Friday, former CIA chief David Petraeus, in his first public outing since his humbling resignation due to an extramarital affair with his biographer, said he knew from the start it was terrorism.

Rather than putting the matter to rest, his remarks — which sounded very different depending on whether you believed the Republican or Democratic interpretations after the closed-door hearings — just raised more questions.

Dianne Feinstein, Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, vowed on Sunday to investigate why Petraeus’ conclusion was not reflected in CIA “talking points” used by the administration to inform the public days later.

The stakes of the row are high as Obama mulls picking US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice as his next secretary of state despite the fact that Republicans accuse her of misleading the public over Benghazi.

If he does and Republicans dig their heels in during the Senate confirmation process, a bitter partisan fight looms at the start of Obama’s second term just when he is looking to bridge the Washington divide on budget talks and possible immigration reforms.

Rice, seen as the up-and-coming star of US diplomacy prior to Benghazi, fell into the Republican crosshairs when she took to the Sunday morning talk shows five days after the attack at the behest of the White House.

She said initial intelligence indicated that the assault arose “spontaneously” out of “copycat” protests like the ones in Cairo, and that the attack did not appear to be pre-planned or premeditated.

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CIA Infiltrated Al Qaeda Cell to Stop Bomb Threat

One of the chief complaints about the nation’s counter-terrorism program after 9/11 was the lack of HUMINT.  This is an important coup for the CIA. –AA


Seal of the C.I.A. - Central Intelligence Agen...

Seal of the C.I.A. – Central Intelligence Agency of the United States Government (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a stunning intelligence coup, a dangerous al Qaeda bomb cell in Yemen was successfully infiltrated by an inside source who secretly worked for the CIA and several other intelligence agencies, authorities revealed to ABC News.

The inside source is now “safely out of Yemen,” according to one international intelligence official, and was able to bring with him to Saudi Arabia the bomb al Qaeda thought was going to be detonated on a U.S.-bound aircraft.

The bomb, a refined version of the so-called underwear bomb used in a failed attempt on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009, is now at the FBI crime laboratories in Quantico, Virginia.

U.S. officials said they felt confident throughout the operation that the bomb was not an actual threat because the inside source had “control.”

White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan reiterated on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” today that the bomb was not an “active threat,” which is why the public was told repeatedly by top administration officials, including Brennan, that there were no known active plots surrounding the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.

Brennan would not discuss the status of the would-be bomber, citing operational security, and declined to say whether the insider had himself been tapped to carry out the plot.

“The means that we were able to get this device, we’re trying to make sure we protect, again, the equities that are involved with it,” he said.

READ: Top Counter-Terrorism Official: No Further Threat From Bomb or Attempted Bomber

Brennan also said he could not say whether there were other bombers still at large.

“You never know what you don’t know,” Brennan said. “I think people getting on a plane today should feel confident their intelligence services are working day in and day out to stop these IEDs [improvised explosive devices] from getting anywhere near a plane, but also I think when they go through the security measures at airports, they understand why they’re in place.”

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Intelligence Chief Sees al Qaeda Fragmenting

New York Times, Eric  Schmitt

Seal of the Office of the Director of National...

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The threat from al-Qaida is likely to evolve over the next several years, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said Tuesday in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. During his remarks, which were delivered as part of the committee’s yearly hearing on threats to the U.S., Clapper noted that drone strikes, efforts to cut of financing to terrorists, and efforts to counter recruiting propaganda circulated by extremists will fragment al-Qaida. As a result, regional actors will become more prominent over the next two or three years, Clapper said. He noted that this includes regional affiliates of al-Qaida such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is based in Yemen and is seen as being the most serious threat to the U.S. AQAP was involved in the plot to bomb an airplane as it prepared to land in Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, and has been trying to acquire the beans that are used to produce the toxin ricin. Small terrorist cells and individuals will also help drive the jihadist agenda in the U.S. and around the world, albeit to a lesser extent than regional al-Qaida affiliates like AQAP, Clapper said. He added that violent extremists that live in the U.S. could carry out limited attacks over the next year. As regional al-Qaida affiliates, small terrorist cells, and individuals become more prominent in the al-Qaida movement, Clapper said, Western nations will have to ensure that their counterterrorism efforts do not radicalize more people.

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C.I.A. Employee Is Killed in Attack on Kabul Compound

Published: September 27, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan – An American employee of the C.I.A. was killed and a second American was wounded by an Afghan employee on the grounds of an annex to the United States Embassy here, officials in Washington said on Monday.

The gunman was killed, and the motive for the attack was being investigated, said Gavin Sundwall, a spokesman for the United Embassy in Kabul. The wounded American was evacuated to a military hospital for treatment.

The killing was followed by a barrage of gunfire from 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. People who were near the compound said they heard an explosion before the gunfire began.

The attack was on a building used by the Central Intelligence Agency in Kabul, according to several Western officials, and is near the presidential palace. American officials in Washington confirmed that the person killed in the attack worked for the C.I.A, but it was not clear what position the person held. The second American’s wounds were “not life-threatening,” the officials said.

The C.I.A. has acknowledged few losses in Afghanistan. The last killings that were made public occurred in 2009, when a suicide bomber got into the C.I.A. base in Khost Province, killing at least seven agency employees, including a senior operative.

The C.I.A. station in Kabul, the agency’s largest outpost overseas, is part of the embassy complex. On Sept. 13, militants carried out a daylong attack on another part of the embassy grounds, and top American officials have attributed that attack to the Haqqani network, which they say is supported by parts of Pakistan’s spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence. A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment about the latest attack.

The killing on Sunday followed the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president and leader of the High Peace Council. Mr. Rabbani’s killing by a suicide bomber last Tuesday at his home was a severe blow to the government’s attempt to negotiate peace with the Taliban.

Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting.

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Inside Al Qaeda’s hard drives

By Renny McPherson in the Boston Globe

When Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden at his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound on May 2, the ensuing coverage focused on how the death of Al Qaeda’s leader might undercut terrorism worldwide. But the raid accomplished more than bin Laden’s removal: It yielded several computers, nearly a dozen hard drives, and about 100 other data-storage devices. Speaking on “Meet the Press” the weekend after the raid, presidential national security adviser Tom Donilon called it “the largest cache of intelligence derived from the scene of any single terrorist.”

After combing over this huge pool of data, a task force of analysts has already produced hundreds of intelligence reports geared to a primary goal: hunting down Al Qaeda operatives. Meanwhile, however, there is a second and longer-term task ahead. If studied diligently enough, the captured data is likely to provide an unparalleled look at how Al Qaeda functions. And that information may be as essential to disrupting Al Qaeda’s activities as it was to kill bin Laden.

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Bin Laden Planned 9/11/11 10th anniversary attack

Wall Street Journal, Siobhan Gorman

An analysis of the communications seized during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in May shows that the al-Qaida leader was attempting to put together a team of terrorists to attack the U.S. on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. According to U.S. officials, bin Laden was working with al-Qaida operations chief Attiyah Abd al-Rahman to organize a group of people that would carry out the attack. The intelligence gathered in the raid shows that bin Laden and Rahman wanted to recruit terrorists who had valid passports and other travel documents to carry out their plans. However, U.S. intelligence agencies do not know whether bin Laden and Rahman ever succeeded in putting together an attack team, or whether they discussed details such as which targets to attack, though an initial analysis of the intelligence collected during the raid showed that al-Qaida may have been planning to attack trains in the U.S. on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The intelligence illustrates Rahman’s importance in al-Qaida. Rahman became a more important figure in the terrorist network after Sheik Sa’id al-Masri, the group’s third in command, was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan last year. However, the intelligence has not helped the U.S. track down any al-Qaida leaders, partly because the al-Qaida leaders were aware that the U.S. had the information following the raid, a top U.S. official said.

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UK Hacks al-Qaeda Website, Swaps Recipes For Bombs with Cupcake Recipes

The Guardian UK, Richard Norton-Taylor, security editor

Whitehall sources have revealed that British intelligence officers successfully sabotaged the launch of the first English language website set up by an al-Qaida affiliate.

The officers, understood to be based at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, attacked an online jihadist magazine in English called Inspire, devised by supporters of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

A pdf file containing fairy cake recipes was inserted into Inspire to garble most of the 67 pages of the online magazine, including instructions on how to “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom”.

Though the authenticity of claims made about Inspire have been questioned, British security and intelligence sources say they believe the magazine, and the bomb-making instructions, were genuine.

The sabotage took place a year ago, following a dispute between agencies in the US about who should take on the role of attacking the Inspire website.

Publicising the achievement amounted to little more than a propaganda exercise – “just to let them know”, as one British official put it on Thursday.

The head of the US Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander, said blocking the magazine was a legitimate counter-terrorism target and would help protect American troops overseas, according to the Washington Post.

The CIA argued that such an attack would expose sources and intelligence methods and that it amounted to covert action rather than a traditional military one and was therefore its responsibility.

The CIA won the argument and declined to go ahead with the attack on Inspire, the newspaper said.

British security and intelligence agencies, including MI5 (which was not responsible for the attack on Inspire), have made it clear they are deeply concerned about the influence of extreme Islamist and jihadist websites.

But such “website wars” are just the surface of a much bigger threat, British officials say. A much more serious worry surrounds cyber-attacks on government agencies and officials in sensitive jobs.

As US government agencies argue about who should take command – and the Pentagon is fighting back against the CIA – British officials say the UK government is grappling with how to cope with the growing threat.

GCHQ, staffed by encoders and eavesdroppers, has the expertise to defend British agencies and attack hostile ones.

The Ministry of Defence, supported by a new Cyber Operations Group, has a clear interest. So does the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills because private industry must be intimately involved in the battle against cyber-attacks despite potential disputes about competition and intellectual property rights, officials say.

British officials said different government agencies and departments would conduct their cyber operations separately and would be co-ordinated by the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the Cabinet Office in the heart of Whitehall.

Lieutenant General Rhett Hernandez, head of the US army’s cyber command, told a land warfare conference in London on Thursday, organised by the Royal United Services Institute, that a “world-class cyber warrior force” was being built up.

US state department co-ordinator for cyber issues, Christopher Painter, said on Wednesday that America faced potential threats in cyberspace from freelance hackers, militants and potentially rival states.

Diplomacy and policy were only just beginning to catch up with technology, he said. “Cyber-security is now a policy imperative,” he told Reuters news agency.

Earlier this week, his employer, the US department of defence, announced it was rewriting its military rule book to make cyber-attacks a possible act of war.

A US official was quoted as saying: “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks.”

British and US defence and security officials made plain on Thursday that the central problem was how to identify cyber-attackers.

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The Code Name for Bin Laden was “Geronimo”

The code name for Bin Laden was “Geronimo.” The president and his advisers watched Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, on a video screen, narrating from his agency’s headquarters across the Potomac River what was happening in faraway Pakistan.

“They’ve reached the target,” he said.

Minutes passed.

“We have a visual on Geronimo,” he said.

A few minutes later: “Geronimo EKIA.”

Enemy Killed In Action. There was silence in the Situation Room.

Finally, the president spoke up.

“We got him.”

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Behind the Hunt for Bin Laden


WASHINGTON — For years, the agonizing search for Osama bin Laden kept coming up empty. Then last July, Pakistanis working for the Central Intelligence Agency drove up behind a white Suzuki navigating the bustling streets near Peshawar, Pakistan, and wrote down the car’s license plate.

The man in the car was Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, and over the next month C.I.A. operatives would track him throughout central Pakistan. Ultimately, administration officials said, he led them to a sprawling compound at the end of a long dirt road and surrounded by tall security fences in a wealthy hamlet 35 miles from the Pakistani capital.

On a moonless night eight months later, 79 American commandos in four helicopters descended on the compound, the officials said. Shots rang out. A helicopter stalled and would not take off. Pakistani authorities, kept in the dark by their allies in Washington, scrambled forces as the American commandos rushed to finish their mission and leave before a confrontation. Of the five dead, one was a tall, bearded man with a bloodied face and a bullet in his head. A member of the Navy Seals snapped his picture with a camera and uploaded it to analysts who fed it into a facial recognition program. MORE

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