By Paul Cruickshank
Intelligence committee leaders in Congress warn that al Qaeda's network has strengthened over the past two years, creating new concern over the terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that the United States was no safer today than in 2011, despite the death of Osama bin Laden and the removal of senior al Qaeda operatives in drone strikes.
Their warning reflects growing concern among Western intelligence agencies about al Qaeda's growing strength in the Arab world.
While al Qaeda and groups that link to it have suffered setbacks in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, Somalia, Mali and other "Jihadist fronts," al Qaeda has taken advantage of the political turmoil caused by the Arab Spring to build its operations across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.
By Barbara Starr
In the hours before the 2011 raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the CIA delivered a final, crucial 66-page document to the White House.
Thirty-three pages detailed how the mission would be announced to the world if it was a success. But the other 33 pages spelled out what would have happened, and what would been said, if it all went wrong. The plan was carried to the White House in a locked bag by George Little, then-press secretary to CIA director Leon Panetta. Little spoke to CNN Wednesday, just two days before leaving government service as the Pentagon press secretary.
By Elise Labott
The State Department will designate Boko Haram, a Nigeria-based extremist group with ties to al Qaeda, and Ansaru, an offshoot, as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, U.S. officials told CNN.
The move enables the United States to freeze assets, impose travel bans on known members and affiliates, and prohibit Americans from offering material support.
The United States says Boko Haram has killed thousands since 2009. Human rights groups put the figure at more than 3,000.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa-Fulani language, has launched a self-described "war on Christians" and seeks to impose a strict version of Sharia law across northeastern Nigeria, if not the entire country.
By Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister, and Nic Robertson
Editor's note: Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister are writing a book about Morten Storm and his life as a former informant on terrorist groups.
Western intelligence missed a chance to capture or kill the suspected terrorist thought to be behind the Nairobi mall massacre, according to a former informant for both the CIA and the Danish intelligence service.
Morten Storm, who worked as an informant for five years, had forged a close relationship with the man - a Kenyan called Ikrima - who has been responsible for planning attacks inside Kenya for Al-Shabaab.
Storm, a Danish national, told CNN that in March 2012 the Danish intelligence agency PET had offered him one million Danish krone ($200,000) on behalf of the CIA if he could lead them to Ikrima, the target of an unsuccessful operation by US Navy SEALs last month. The SEALs raided an Al-Shabaab compound at Barawe on the Somali coast, but Ikrima escaped.FULL STORY
By Evan Perez
Four years after political opposition killed his plans to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged 9/11 plotters in civilian court in Manhattan, Attorney General Eric Holder says: "I was right."
Continued delays in the military trial of Mohammed and four others at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, which may not start until 2015, proves his point, Holder said Monday, interjecting a "not to be egocentric about it" qualifier.
By Daniel Burke
As terrorism increasingly becomes a tactic of warfare, the number of attacks and fatalities soared to a record high in 2012, according to a new report obtained exclusively by CNN.
More than 8,500 terrorist attacks killed nearly 15,500 people last year as violence tore through Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
That’s a 69% rise in attacks and an 89% jump in fatalities from 2011, said START, one of the world’s leading terrorism-trackers.
Six of the seven most deadly groups are affiliated with al Qaeda, according to START, and most of the violence was committed in Muslim-majority countries.
The previous record for attacks was set in 2011 with more than 5,000 incidents; for fatalities the previous high was 2007 with more than 12,800 deaths.FULL STORY
The U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda, issued an alert this week to Americans that it is looking into reports that an attack similar to the one at a Kenyan mall could soon occur in the the city.
The embassy's statement said there were no specific details about a possible date or location of a "Westgate-style attack." It didn't say where the reports were coming from.
A U.S. official with direct knowledge of the latest information told CNN the notice was sent "out of an abundance of caution." The U.S. is still vetting the information, the official said, to see if there is any truth behind it.
Washington doesn't think the Westgate attackers or al Qaeda is planning the potential attack, the U.S. official said.
At least 67 people were killed by multiple attackers during the four-day siege at the mall in Nairobi last month. The terrorists who attacked the mall claimed to be members of Somalia-based Al-Shabaab.
The embassy in Kampala - Uganda's capital - urged Americans traveling to the country or living there to register with the State Department's Smart Traveller Enrollment Program.
-CNN's Barbara Starr and Elise Labott contributed to this report.
Editors Note: Jane Harman is director, president and chief executive officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was a nine-term congresswoman from California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee from 2002 to 2006, and a principal coauthor of the Intelligence Reform Law of 2004 and the FISA Amendments of 2008.
By Jane Harman, Special to CNN
The October 5 takedown of Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai – an alleged perpetrator of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, a long-standing occupant of the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list, and alleged one-time member of Osama bin Laden’s security team – surprised many.
It was a brilliantly successful operation conducted by our military under strict legal guidelines for capture, interrogations, arrest and now transfer to New York for trial. This process may be the new gold standard for CT operations going forward.
U.S. officials hope he will provide useful information about his al Qaeda colleagues and plots being planned against Western and American targets so we may be able to thwart future attacks.
But while this capture was picture-perfect, al Ruqai was only one of many terrorists currently on the loose.
By Evan Perez and Susan Candiotti
The United States has brought Abu Anas al Libi - an alleged al Qaeda operative whom U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers captured in Libya this month - to New York, a U.S. attorney's office said Monday.
He was transferred to law enforcement custody over the weekend, the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
Al Libi is expected to appear before a judicial officer on Tuesday, the office said.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
The Libyan government has given the United States "tacit approval" to conduct missions inside Libya to capture suspects involved in the terror attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
The official has direct knowledge of the arrangements but declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information.
Approval for action against Benghazi suspects, which was granted in recent weeks, is the same type of agreement that allowed a U.S. raid this past weekend in Tripoli.