By Evan Pérez and Shimon Prokupecz
The admitted mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks has issued a rambling defense of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, on trial in New York for allegedly being al Qaeda's propagandist in the wake of the attacks.
In a rare statement made public, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said Sulaiman abu Ghaith - an Islamic preacher whom the United States has charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and providing material support to terrorists - is falsely accused of being involved in al Qaeda's military activities. Mohammed said abu Ahaith was more of a visiting celebrity who preached the Quran to al Qaeda recruits.
Mohammed's 14-page statement was in response to questions from abu Ghaith's attorney and was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Sunday night.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
Intelligence increasingly shows al Qaeda is encouraging American and other western fighters in Syria to undertake special training to prepare them for possibly returning to their home countries to carry out attacks, U.S. officials told CNN.
National security officials are concerned that amid the mayhem of Syria's civil war, the global terror group has found a safe haven and a place where it again can recruit, plot and train operatives to carry out attacks on the U.S. homeland.
By Evan Perez and Jim Sciutto
The U.S. government has warned airlines to pay particular attention to the possibility of terrorists attempting to hide explosives in shoes, a result of new intelligence, according to two people familiar with the situation.
The officials stressed there is no specific threat or known plot.
Intelligence collected by the United States and other countries has indicated terror groups have been working on new shoe-bomb designs, the sources said Wednesday.
That knowledge prompted the Department of Homeland Security to warn airlines to be on the lookout for possible explosives hidden in shoes on flights from overseas to the United States, they said.FULL STORY
By Jamie Crawford
A security vacuum over vast areas of Syria could allow extremists to access weapons of mass destruction, a top U.S. intelligence official said.
"The current instability in Syria presents a perfect opportunity for al Qaeda and associated groups," to acquire Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons that are scheduled to be destroyed," Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate committee on Tuesday.
By Tom Cohen and Tom Watkins
U.S. counterterrorism officials are closely watching an al Qaeda fighter in Pakistan who could become the next American to be targeted for killing by a drone strike, CNN has learned.
The person, who was not identified, has been the subject of debate among military commanders and intelligence officials for several weeks as they decide what to recommend. President Barack Obama would make a final decision.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
The Obama administration is in high-level discussions about staging an operation to kill an American citizen involved with al Qaeda and suspected of plotting attacks against the United States, a senior U.S. official tells CNN.
The official, who declined to disclose any specific information about the target or the country the suspect presides in, was confirming information first reported by The Associated Press.
The debate about whether to undertake a mission is being held with various commanders in the U.S. military, as well as the U.S. national security agencies. The discussion centers on the risk involved and the importance of the target.
Before military force against an American is approved, there must be an imminent danger and no reasonable prospect of capturing the target. Ultimately, the President would need to sign off on the decision.FULL STORY
By Evan Perez and Paul Cruickshank
U.S. authorities are working with Russia and other countries to try to disrupt possible threats related to the Sochi Olympics, in addition to the toothpaste tube terror concern, a U.S. intelligence source said.
The official said the threats varied in credibility.
The biggest source of those threats is the group Imarat Kavkaz in Russia, which has publicly said it will try to disrupt the Games, the official said Thursday.
By Tim Lister
The Russian security operation surrounding the Sochi Winter Olympics is massive and multilayered. But it only takes one flaw for terrorists to strike, and the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus sees an attack at or around the Games as a glittering prize in its struggle against the Russian state.
The Emirate, born out of the bloody Chechen insurgency of the past 20 years, has made no secret of its aims. Last year, its leader Doku Umarov said the Olympics were to be held "over the bones of thousands of Muslims who were killed and buried on the territory along the Black Sea," and fighters must not allow that "by any means."
With an estimated 100,000 Russian security personnel involved in protecting the Games, and everything from drones to submarines and extensive cyber security mobilized in a massive counterterrorism operation, the prospect of an attack on an Olympic venue seems slight.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said terrorists "are looking for small but impactful murderous events so they can impact the dialogue of the Games." While venue security is tight, "outside the venues, (there are) lots of questions," he said.
By Peter Bergen
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a director at the New America Foundation and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden - From 9/11 to Abbottabad."
When even al Qaeda publicly rejects you because you are too brutal, it's likely a reasonable indicator that you are.
A long simmering dispute between "al Qaeda Central," headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the most brutal al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, generally known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, surfaced publicly on Monday.
On jihadist websites, al Qaeda's central leadership posted a notice saying ISIS "is not a branch of the al Qaeda group."
It is the first time in its quarter century history that al Qaeda has officially rejected one of its affiliates.FULL STORY
By Tim Lister
Al Qaeda appears to have had enough of one of its affiliates fighting in Syria: the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The group has been locked in conflict with other Islamist factions and gained a grim reputation for abuses in parts of Syria it controls, including summary executions and mass killings.
A statement posted on jihadist forums Sunday and purportedly issued by al Qaeda's General Command said "it has no connection with the group" and blamed it for "the enormity of the disaster that afflicted the Jihad in Syria."
The al Qaeda statement, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, follows more than a month of intense factional fighting between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant with other Islamist groups in northern and eastern Syria. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights says it has documented 1,747 people killed in the past four weeks alone but suspects that the real number is substantially higher.
In recent days, the Islamic State has targeted senior figures in other groups. On Sunday, two senior rebel leaders were killed near Aleppo - along with 14 others - when an Islamic State member who was supposedly conducting truce negotiations with them blew himself up, according to the Observatory. The previous day, Islamic State fighters assassinated Abu Hussein al Dik, a senior commander in the powerful Suqour al Sham brigade, near the city of Hama.FULL STORY