Posts Tagged ‘Al-Qaida’


U.S.: CIA Secretly Pays Afghan Officials
August 27, 2010

    The CIA is making secret payments to multiple members of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration to help the agency maintain a deep roster of allies within the presidential palace, according to current and former U.S. officials, The Washington Post reported on Aug. 27. A CIA spokesman denied a statement that a significant number of Afghan officials are on the payroll. A U.S. official said Turkey and Saudi Arabia are among the other countries funneling money into Afghanistan to influence events in the country.


Under New American Management Al-Qaida Now Poses Inner Threat

By PAUL SPERRY
Posted 08/13/2010 08:17 PM ET

Among Americans installed in al-Qaida leadership positions are propagandist Adam Gadahn, left, and Adnan Shukrijumah, believed to be directing U.S....

Among Americans installed in al-Qaida leadership positions are propagandist Adam Gadahn, left, and Adnan Shukrijumah, believed to be directing U.S…. View Enlarged Image

If al-Qaida looks and sounds different as we approach 9/11’s ninth anniversary, it’s because it’s under new American management. No fewer than four U.S. citizens and a permanent U.S. resident have risen to senior leadership posts.
These five English-speaking leaders are actively planning or facilitating attacks against their countrymen, while recruiting and radicalizing other American turncoats to carry them out.
By remaking itself into an American enterprise, al-Qaida is now more lethal than ever. Its new generation of leaders understands the way America works, having lived here for decades. They have a better sense of our security blind spots. They also know which kinds of attacks will produce both mass panic and maximum economic damage.
Al-Qaida’s indigenous rebirth, moreover, befogs our military strategy. We’re no longer at war with just a foreign enemy, but fellow Americans recruited by the enemy. They’re supplied, in turn, by a seemingly endless stream of homegrown foot soldiers, fed by a native Muslim population once believed quiescent and nonthreatening.
Shockingly, the War on Terror has morphed into a mini-civil war, and it’s posing major new challenges to its prosecution. We’re now battling our own citizens. How do we deal with wartime traitors? Can the CIA assassinate them? Can it spy on them? What about their civil rights?
This muddies an already muddy war — and it’s all part of al-Qaida’s plan.
After 9/11, the group vowed to convert our own people against us, something once thought impossible. But it’s managed to groom a startling number of American citizens and residents and install them in top leadership slots, including:
• Adnan Shukrijumah: The long-time Florida resident, who obtained a green card while living in the U.S. for more than 15 years, has replaced 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammad as chief of al-Qaida’s terror operations.
Believed to be directing U.S. terrorist cells from Pakistan, Shukrijumah, 35, recently was indicted as a conspirator in last year’s plot to blow up the New York subway. There’s a $5 million reward for his capture.
• Adam Gadahn: The California-born Muslim convert assists Shukrijumah and Osama bin Laden as al-Qaida’s chief propagandist. He tailors the group’s message to American Muslims, as well as disaffected minorities ripe for conversion.
In 2006, Gadahn invoked U.S. Muslims to attack military bases, singling out California’s Camp Pendleton as a candidate for “a shooting spree.” Three years later, a Muslim soldier went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood. Gadahn, 31, praised the attack and urged more.
The first American to be charged with treason in 50 years, Gadahn is hiding in Pakistan with a $1 million bounty on his head.
• Anwar Awlaki: Articulate and media savvy, the American-born cleric is al-Qaida’s top recruiter of Western suicide cells.
Awlaki has recruited or radicalized countless homegrown terrorists, including the Fort Hood shooter and the Times Square bomber, both English-speaking citizens. Authorities also believe he ordered the Christmas airliner attack, which puts Awlaki in the middle of the last three major terror acts on U.S. soil.
Thought to be bin Laden’s heir, Awlaki has called on American Muslims to turn against their government, and has even justified killing American civilians. “Jihad against America is binding on every other (American) Muslim,” he said.
The 39-year-old Awlaki lived in the U.S. for 21 years before fleeing to Yemen after 9/11. Treasury last month designated him a “key leader of al-Qaida” and froze his assets. He’s also on the CIA’s terrorist hit list.
• Samir Khan: A U.S. citizen who grew up in New York and Charlotte, N.C., the Web-savvy 24-year-old is now in Yemen helping Awlaki target American audiences as al-Qaida’s newest propagandist.
Khan is editor of al-Qaida’s splashy new organ, “Inspire,” a Webzine that provides jihadists step-by-step instructions in English on making bombs that can elude bomb-sniffing dogs.
• Omar Hammami: The ex-Baptist convert to Islam grew up in the Alabama suburbs before joining al-Qaida.
He’s now, at 25, a field commander in Somalia, another key al-Qaida hot spot, where he’s recruiting and training U.S. jihadists. His trainees include dozens of Minneapolis college kids, including one who earned the dubious title, “first American suicide bomber.”
This new cadre of al-Qaida leaders is enlisting a growing faction of the U.S. Muslim community, many of them African-American and white converts who don’t fit the Arab terrorist profile. As many as three dozen U.S. converts are said to have gone through al-Qaida training in Yemen, where they’ve received Awlaki’s blessing. They reportedly include blond-haired, blue-eyed types — fitting a profile of Americans that al-Qaida in the past could only dream of recruiting.
Its recruiting effort is made all the easier by some 15,000 jihadi Web sites — 80% of which are operating off servers based inside the U.S. Across the country, moreover, mosques and Islamic bookstores sell Awlaki’s recorded sermons as CD box sets. It’s all protected “free speech.”
“Jihad is becoming as American as apple pie,” Awlaki boasts. More and more, he warns, terror attacks will come “from within” — even within our own military.
Meanwhile, the so-called moderates of the Muslim establishment are sitting on their hands. Major Muslim groups have refused to cooperate in terror probes until the FBI backs off mosques. Their cold war turned hot last fall, when a Muslim leader in Detroit died in a shoot-out with agents, triggering outcry throughout the Muslim community.
It’s just a matter of time before a homegrown nut inspired by a radical mosque or Web site overcomes their bomb-making learning curve and successfully detonates one, blowing up a building or a mall or a plane inside America. And then we’ll all wonder why more wasn’t done to shut down these sites. Of course, by then we’ll be sweeping up the remains of victims, and it will be too late.
“America cannot and will not win,” Awlaki hisses. With Washington running from the war, disengaging from an enemy that now counts our own citizens among its senior ranks, we cannot afford to dismiss his words as bluster.
• Sperry, formerly IBD Washington bureau chief, is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “Infiltration” and “Muslim Mafia.”

Under New American Management Al-Qaida Now Poses Inner Threat – Investors.com

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It’s Obama’s White House, but it’s still Bush’s world

By Julian E. Zelizer – Washington Post 
Sunday, August 15, 2010; B01
When conservatives brand President Obama a socialist or a foreigner, his aides laugh it off. When critics disparage him as arrogant or aloof, they roll their eyes. But if liberals dare compare Obama to his predecessor in the Oval Office, the gloves come off.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told the Hill newspaper last week. “Those people ought to be drug-tested. I mean, it’s crazy.” Gibbs went on to deride such critics as the “professional left,” who will be content only “when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.”

Even though Gibbs later semi-apologized, saying he had spoken “inartfully,” it’s not hard to see why the comparison stings. As the midterm elections approach, Democrats have made George W. Bush a focus of their fall campaign. Speaking at a Texas fundraiser Monday, Obama asked: “The policies that crashed the economy, that undercut the middle class, that mortgaged our future — do we really want to go back to that, or do we keep moving our country forward?” Their message is clear: Republicans still embody the Bush agenda, and only with a Democratic White House and Congress will the nation be able to truly break from the past.

The president is correct in part. Just look at the health-care overhaul, Wall Street reform and the new emphasis on diplomacy in American foreign policy to see the difference that one election can make. Yet the break between Bush and Obama should not be exaggerated. Dismantling the past is extraordinarily difficult. In a host of arenas, Obama is holding on to the Bush administration’s policies and practices, even some that he decried during his presidential campaign and vowed to undo. From the wars we fight to the oil we drill for, we’re still living in the Bush era — like it or not.

First, consider the strengthening of presidential power. Every president since Richard Nixon has fought to restore the authority of the executive branch that was diminished as a result of Watergate. No chief executive was as successful as Bush, especially since he had the help of Vice President Dick Cheney, who had dedicated much of his career to criticizing the 1970s reforms that he thought had emasculated the White House. Bush relied on signing statements and executive orders to implement initiatives such as warrantless wiretapping without having to get approval from Congress.

Obama has not done much to reverse the trend. While he has worked harder to court Congress, allowing legislators to craft the details of the health-care legislation, for example, he has not stepped back from Bush’s robust use of executive power. He has relied on it to strengthen environmental programs and agencies that had been weakened since the 1980s. On national security, the pattern is more striking. Obama’s Justice Department has turned to Bush’s sweeping interpretation of the “state secrets” privilege to battle lawsuits involving the rendition and torture of terrorism suspects, and the president has defended the right of the government to conduct intrusive domestic wiretapping programs.

The second enduring legacy of the Bush presidency is the sprawling counterterrorism infrastructure created after Sept. 11, 2001. The Bush administration vastly strengthened the government’s ability to fight terrorist networks by collecting information, tracking and closing down financial and nonprofit organizations, and interrogating detainees. Although Obama was a critic of this program on the campaign trail, much of it remains in place — most notably, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Early in the Obama presidency, Jack Goldsmith, a former lawyer for the Bush administration who had become a vocal critic of its counterterrorism policies, criticized Cheney for exaggerating the differences between the two White Houses. “The new administration,” Goldsmith wrote in the New Republic, “has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit.”

And in a blistering report on the administration’s national security record released last month, the American Civil Liberties Union warned of the “very real danger that the Obama administration will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful during the Bush administration. There is a real danger, in other words, that the Obama administration will preside over the creation of a ‘new normal.’ “

The report praised Obama’s decisions to release the Bush administration’s “torture memos” and to outlaw secret CIA prisons overseas, as well as his prohibition of torture, but criticized the administration for, among other things, failing to eliminate military commission trials and targeted killings of terrorism suspects. ACLU Director Anthony Romero declared himself “disgusted” with the president’s policies.
Nor, in a practical sense, has the Obama administration distanced itself from the Bush administration’s third legacy, its wars for regime change. After the 2001 attacks, Bush defended a vision of foreign policy that sought to remove terrorist-friendly governments from power and rebuild their countries’ civilian and security institutions. These principles underpinned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

To the frustration of many liberals, Obama has not changed course. While following through with Bush’s withdrawal schedule for Iraq, Obama has expanded Bush’s mission in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more troops into the conflict. He is now relying on Gen. David H. Petraeus, who Bush used to clean up the problems in Iraq, to strengthen the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. And Obama’s withdrawal dates remain fuzzy. At the end of this month, 50,000 U.S troops will still be in Iraq, while the July 2011 deadline for leaving Afghanistan remains far from solid (in fact, many administration officials backed off that date almost as soon as it was announced).

The Bush administration also rejected strong regulatory oversight of offshore oil drilling — a fourth critical legacy. In keeping with their long-held position that oil companies should be free from government restrictions in order to help end American dependence on foreign oil, Bush officials allowed agencies responsible for oversight to be weakened, staffing them with administrators who were skeptical of climate change and other scientific arguments about the environment.

Although many Democrats initially decried Bush’s deregulatory policies on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the gulf, it soon became clear that blame also rested with the Obama administration. In a series of penetrating articles for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson revealed how the Obama White House had not done much to repair the broken Minerals Management Service and had been willing to trade support for offshore drilling in exchange for votes on climate-change legislation. Ignoring the advice of scientific experts, the administration authorized an aggressive round of drilling in the gulf without adequate environmental review.

After the spill, the Obama administration did impose a moratorium on drilling and stuck with it despite enormous political fallout; when a federal judge struck down the first ban, Obama imposed another. Yet the moratorium has been far from airtight, with loopholes allowing several kinds of drilling to continue.
Fiscal policy is the final area where Bush’s legacy still looms. The tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 provided substantial tax relief for middle- and upper-income Americans, with the benefits weighted toward the wealthiest citizens. Building on Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics, the Bush administration pushed for big cuts based on the notion that they would propel economic growth. Moreover, during the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008, the administration proposed the Troubled Assets Relief Program — with Democratic support — which offered a massive bailout to the nation’s financial sector.

These policies remain intact. Obama, as a senator and presidential candidate, helped push the TARP through Congress, and as president he extended and defended the bailout. On the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire this year, the verdict is still out. Here, Obama and the Democrats have made an aggressive push to overturn part of the Bush legacy: They have rallied support to allow the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire — in order to reduce the deficits they helped create — while extending the cuts for Americans earning less than $250,000 a year. It’s not clear whether they will succeed; after all, many Democrats are nervous about being tagged as members of the party that raises taxes.

Almost since before he took office, Bush was written off by many as an intellectual and policy lightweight, an accidental commander in chief. Nonetheless, it soon became clear that his would be a very serious presidency — one with long-term consequences for the nation and the world, far beyond his two terms in office.

Obama, who won the presidency on a platform of change, is now seeking to recycle that anti-Bush magic for the midterm vote. Yet, he is learning the hard way that it is easier to campaign against the Texan’s legacy than to actually govern against it. It is Bush who, despite avoiding the post-presidential limelight (at least until his memoir is published in November), has continued setting the terms of the debate, so much so that his successor and opponents must adopt many of his ideas, however reluctantly.
We may live in the age of Obama, as many call it, but it’s still Bush’s world.

Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the editor of the essay collection “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment,” forthcoming this fall, and the author of the forthcoming “Jimmy Carter.”

It’s Obama’s White House, but it’s still Bush’s world

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Airline Security: Gentle Solutions to a Vexing Problem

Central America: An Emerging Role in the Drug Trade

By Fred Burton and Ben West
U.S. President Barack Obama outlined a set of new policies Jan. 7 in response to the Dec. 25, 2009 Northwest Airlines bombing attempt, which came the closest to a successful attack on a U.S. flight since Richard Reid’s failed shoe-bombing in December 2001. As in the aftermath of that attempt, a flurry of accusations, excuses and policy prescriptions have emanated from Washington since Christmas Day concerning U.S. airline security. Whatever changes actually result from the most recent bombing attempt, they will likely be more successful at pacifying the public and politicians than preventing future attacks.
At the heart of President Obama’s policy outline were the following key tactics: pursue enhanced screening technology in the transportation sector, review the visa issuance and revocation process, enhance coordination among agencies for counterterrorism (CT) investigations and establish a process to prioritize such investigations. While such measures are certainly important, they will not go far enough, by themselves, to meaningfully address the aviation security challenges the United States still faces almost nine years after 9/11.

Holes in the System

For one thing, technology must not be seen as a panacea. It can be a very useful tool for finding explosive devices and weapons concealed on a person or in luggage, but it is predictable and reactive. In terms of aviation security, the federal government has consistently been fighting the last war and continues to do so. Certain practical and effective steps have been taken. Hardening the cockpit door, deploying air marshals and increasing crew and passenger awareness countered the airline hijacking threat after 9/11; requiring passengers to remove their shoes and scanning them prior to boarding followed Reid’s 2001 shoe-bombing attempt; and restrictions on liquids and gels followed the 2006 trans-Atlantic plot. Not enacting these measures would have meant not learning from past mistakes, and they do ensure that unsophisticated “copycat” attackers are not successful. But such measures — even those that are less technological — fail to take into account innovative militants, who are eager and able to exploit inevitable weaknesses in the process.

Even advanced body-imaging systems like the newer backscatter and millimeter-wave systems now being used to screen travelers cannot pick up explosives hidden inside a person’s body using condoms or tampons — a tactic that was initially thought to have been used in the Aug. 28 assassination attempt against Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. (It is now believed that the attacker in that case used an underwear bomb like the one used in the Christmas Day attempt.) Moreover, X-ray systems cannot detect explosives cleverly disguised in carry-on baggage or smuggled past security checkpoints — something that drug smugglers routinely do.
Preventing attacks against U.S. airliners would require unrealistically invasive and inconvenient measures that the airline industry and American society are simply not prepared to implement. El Al, Israel’s national airline, is one international carrier that conducts thorough searches of every passenger and every handbag, runs checked luggage through a decompression chamber and has two air marshals on each flight. The airline also refuses to let some people (including many Muslims) on board. While these practices have been successful in preventing terrorist attacks against the airline, they are not in line with American and European culture and President Obama’s insistence that measures remain consistent with privacy rights and civil liberties. It is also economically and politically unfeasible for major U.S. airlines operating hundreds of flights per day from hundreds of different cities to impose measures such as those followed by El Al, an airline with fewer planes and a smaller area of operation.
And as long as U.S. airport security relies on screening techniques that are only moderately invasive, there will be holes that innovative attackers will be able to exploit. While screening technology is advancing, there is nothing in the foreseeable future that would be able to do more screening with less invasiveness. The U.S. prison system grapples with the same problem, and even there, where inmates are searched far more invasively than air travelers, contraband is still able to flow into facilities.
Focusing on the visa issuance and revocation process also leaves holes in the system. The Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had been given a multiple-entry U.S. visa, which allowed him to travel to the United States. When Abdulmutallab’s father expressed concerns to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on Nov. 19, 2009, that his son might have been involved with Yemen-based Islamist militants, Abdulmutallab’s name and passport number were sent from the U.S. Embassy in Abuja to Washington and placed in the “Visa Viper” system, which specifically pertains to visas and terrorist suspects. His name and passport number were also logged into the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, but not the “no-fly” list.
This standard operating procedure (which does not automatically result in a visa revocation) passed the responsibility from the CIA agents who spoke to Abdulmuttalab’s father on to the U.S. State Department, where agents unfamiliar with the specifics of the case did not, apparently, decide to act on it. In hindsight, the decision not to take the father’s warning more seriously appears to be a glaring mistake, but in context it seems less obvious. The father’s tip was vague, with little indication of what his son was up to or, more important to U.S. CT agents, that he was planning even to travel to the United States, much less attack a U.S. airliner.

Intelligence Limitations

The possibility of yet another jihadist suspect emerging in the Middle East does not pose an existential threat to the United States, so this raises the third challenge: prioritizing CT investigations. Vague warnings such as the tip from Abdulmuttalab’s father spring up constantly throughout the world and CT investigators have to prioritize them. Only the most serious cases get assigned to an investigator to follow up on while the rest are filed away for future reference. If the same name pops up again with more information on the threat, then more action is taken. U.S. CT agents are most concerned about specific threats to the United States, and with no actionable intelligence that Abdulmutallab was plotting an attack against the United States, his case was given a lower priority.
Nevertheless, not acting immediately on the father’s vague threat proved to be a near-fatal move. This highlights the danger of the unsophisticated, ill-trained militant, referred to in U.S. CT circles as a “Kramer jihadist” (after the bumbling character in the sitcom “Seinfeld”). By himself, a Kramer jihadist poses a minimal threat, but when combined with a trained operative or group, he can become a formidable weapon. Abdulmutallab had been radicalized, but there is nothing to suggest that he had extensive jihadist training or any tactical expertise. He was simply a willing agent with a visa to the United States. When put in the hands of a competent, well-trained operator (such as those involved with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), a Kramer jihadist can be outfitted with a device and given a support network that could supply him with transportation and direction to carry out an effective attack. There are simply too many radical Islamists in the world to investigate each one, but immediately revoking visas to keep suspects off U.S. airliners until they can be investigated further is a fairly simple process and would be an effective deterrent.
Finally, the lack of coordination among agencies in CT investigations is an old problem that dates back well before 9/11. This challenge lies in the fact that the U.S. intelligence community is broken up into specific agencies — each with its own specific jurisdiction and incentive to leverage its power in Washington by controlling the flow of information. This system ensures that no single agency becomes too powerful and self-interested, but it also fractures the intelligence community and bureaucratizes intelligence sharing.

National Counterterrorism Center

In order to investigate a case like Abdulmutallab’s, agents from the CIA must work with agents from the FBI, and the State Department is tasked with coordinating the requests for information from various foreign governments (whose information is not always reliable). For foreign threats specifically aimed at airlines, agents from the Transportation Security Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Director of National Intelligence, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement must be notified. Rallying and coordinating all the appropriate actors and agencies to respond to a threat requires careful bureaucratic maneuvering and presents numerous opportunities to be bogged down at every step. Certainly, the more overt the threat, the easier it is to move the bureaucracy, but a case as opaque as Abdulmutallab’s would not likely inspire a quick and decisive follow-up.
The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was created to aggregate threats from various local, state and federal agencies all over the world in order to streamline the threat-identification and investigation process. However, the additional bureaucracy that was generated with the formation of the NCTC has essentially canceled out any benefit that the center might have contributed.
When it comes down to it, modern airliners — full of people and fuel — are extremely vulnerable targets that can produce highly dramatic carnage, characteristics that attract militants and militant groups seeking global notoriety. And Abdulmutallab’s efforts on Christmas Day certainly will not be the last militant attempt to bring an airliner down. As security measures are changed in response to this most recent attempt, terrorist planners will be watching closely and are sure to adapt their tactics accordingly.

Read more: Airline Security: Gentle Solutions to a Vexing Problem | STRATFOR

Airline Security: Gentle Solutions to a Vexing Problem is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Airline Security: Gentle Solutions to a Vexing Problem | STRATFOR

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