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 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 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 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
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.
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