By Peter Bergen and David Sterman
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and a director at the New America Foundation. David Sterman is a graduate student at Georgetown University's National Security Studies Program.
(CNN) - Sometime in late 2007, Basaaly Saeed Moalin, a cabdriver living in San Diego, began to have a series of phone conversations with Aden Hashi Ayrow, one of the leaders of Al-Shabaab, a notorious Somali terrorist group.
Moalin had no idea the National Security Agency was listening in.
In one of those phone calls Ayrow urged Moalin to send money to Al-Shabaab, telling him that he urgently needed several thousand dollars.
At one point Ayrow told Moalin that it was "time to finance the jihad" and at another, "You are running late with the stuff. Send some and something will happen."
By Paul Cruickshank
A potential al Qaeda plot targeting Belgium was thwarted in part by e-mail information provided by U.S. Internet providers, according to Belgian court documents and Western counterterrorism officials.
The case, which came to light in 2008, shows how U.S. intelligence capabilities can aid in disrupting plots.
On Tuesday, American counterterrorism officials revealed that more than 50 plots have been thwarted since September 11, 2001, using National Security Agency surveillance programs. Many of those plots were overseas.
The officials, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, revealed only four of those plots and promised to provide details on the others to Congress in a classified setting. The Belgium plot, though not confirmed to be one of the 50 that relied on the recently revealed secretive NSA program to monitor online messages, appears to fit the bill.
By Dana Bash and Tom Cohen
Bomb plots targeting the New York Stock Exchange and the city's subway were among more than 50 worldwide thwarted by top-secret surveillance programs since the 2011 al Qaeda attacks on the United States, authorities said on Tuesday.
Gen. Keith Alexander, National Security Agency director, FBI and other officials revealed startling details at a House Intelligence Committee hearing aimed at finding out more about the telephone and e-mail surveillance initiatives that came to light this month through leaks of classified information to newspapers.
It was the most comprehensive and specific defense of those methods that have come under ferocious criticism from civil liberties groups, some members of Congress and others concerned about the reach of government into the private lives of citizens in the interest of national security.
National security and law enforcement officials asserted that the leaks were egregious and carry huge consequences for national security.FULL STORY
By Tom Cohen
The man who admitted leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs purportedly went online live on Monday to declare the truth would come out even if he is jailed or killed, and said President Barack Obama did not fulfill his promises and expanded several "abusive" national security initiatives.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Edward Snowden answered questions in an online chat about why he revealed details of the National Security Agency's secret surveillance of U.S. citizens.
Snowden said he did so because Obama campaigned for the presidency on a platform of ending abuses. But instead, he said Obama "closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge."
Snowden also wrote that he had to get out of the United States before the leaks were published by the Guardian and Washington Post to avoid being targeted by the government.
Read the latest here.
By Barbara Starr
Al Qaeda's affiliate inside Syria is now the best-equipped arm of the terror group in existence today, according to informal assessments by U.S. and Middle East intelligence agencies, a private sector analyst directly familiar with the information told CNN.
Concern about the Syrian al Qaeda-affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front, is at an all-time high, according to the analyst, with as many as 10,000 fighters and supporters inside Syria. The United States has designated al-Nusra Front as a terrorist group with links to al Qaeda in Iraq.
That assessment is shared by some Middle Eastern intelligence agencies that have long believed the United States is underestimating the Sunni-backed al Qaeda movement in the country, according to a Middle East source. It is also believed that Iran is running training camps inside Syria for Hezbollah and that other Iranian militia fighters are coming into the country to fight for the regime.
By Ashley Killough
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee strongly asserted Sunday that the National Security Agency is not recording Americans’ phone calls under U.S. surveillance programs, and any statements suggesting differently amount to “misinformation.”
Lining up with Obama administration officials—and the president himself—Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said the NSA “is not listening to Americans’ phone calls,” nor monitoring their emails.
“If it did, it is illegal. It is breaking the law,” Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think (Americans) think there's this mass surveillance of what you're saying on your phone call and what you're typing in your emails. That is just not happening.”
Read the full story on CNN's Political Ticker.
By Pam Benson
Seemingly the perennial bridesmaid, Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell is retiring after a 33-year career.
His successor is Avril Haines, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama who will become the first woman to occupy the No. 2 spot.
Morell, 54, has been deputy director for the past three years and twice has been called to serve as acting chief.
The first time he covered a two-month gap in the summer of 2011 between the departure of Leon Panetta and the arrival of David Petraeus.
By Pam Benson
It would probably be an understatement to say this was one of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s worst weeks on the job.
Leaked details of two top secret surveillance programs had the intelligence community and the Obama Administration scrambling to respond to what appears to be a massive effort to collect phone records of Americans and the e-mails and other communications of foreigners by the National Security Agency.
At a dinner Friday night honoring former CIA Director Michael Hayden, the DNI acknowledged his tough few days with a quip: “So many emails to read, so little time.”
But Clapper had serious comments about what he called “the elephant in the room.”
By Chelsea J. Carter and Jessica Yellin
Following the furor over revelations the U.S. government is collecting telephone records and data mining popular online services, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper took the unusual step Saturday of declassifying some details about the programs.
In doing so, Clapper reiterated President Barack Obama's position that the programs are necessary to fight terrorism, while one of his deputies said the administration was looking into possible repercussions caused by leaks to the media about programs.
"We are doing an assessment of the damage that has been done to U.S. national security by the revelation of this information," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters during a news briefing in Rancho Mirage, California, where President Barack Obama was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"...Currently, there's a review underway to understand what potential damage may be done."
What exactly do they do at the National Security Agency? And who are "they"? CNN's Chris Lawrence explores the secretive world of the NSA.