By Gabe LaMonica
Three Republican senators are accusing the Obama administration of compromising intelligence gathering by holding Abu Anas al Libi on a Navy ship instead of sending him to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay.
During a press conference Tuesday, Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called the detainment of al Libi on a Navy vessel in the Mediterranean Sea a "huge mistake."
Graham commended the administration's use of "boots on the ground to capture people" as a "good change in policy," but said there are "fatal flaws" in the U.S. intelligence gathering system.
"It's hard to interrogate a dead man," he said, so it's good that the administration is no longer "killing everybody by drones." But the refusal to send al Libi to Gitmo and to hold him instead at sea is "not a proper way to gather intelligence in the war on terror," Graham added.
By Jamie Crawford
Did the United States intelligence community dismiss a warning of an al Qaeda plot to hijack a commercial airliner a year before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?
That's the assertion made by Judicial Watch, a conservative, nonpartisan government watchdog group, based on a document it obtained from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) through the Freedom of Information Act and distributed to media.
In the Intelligence Information Report dated September 27, 2001, the DIA says al Qaeda planned to hijack a plane leaving Frankfurt International Airport sometime between March and August 2000. Advanced warning of that plot "was disregarded because nobody believed that (Osama) bin Laden or the Taliban could carry out such an operation," the report said.
The plot was eventually delayed after one of the participants withdrew from the plot.
By Evan Perez and Barbara Starr
A key al Qaeda operative wanted for his role in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 has been captured in a U.S. special operations forces raid in Tripoli, Libya, U.S. officials tell CNN.
Abu Anas al Libi was grabbed from the Libyan capital in what one of the officials described as a "capture" operation from the Libyan capital. The U.S. operation was conducted with the knowledge of the Libyan government, a U.S. official said.
Al Libi - on whom the U.S. government had put out a $5 million reward - is alleged to have played a key role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of American embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya.
He has been indicted in the United States on charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, murder, destruction of American buildings and government property, and destruction of national defense utilities of the United States.FULL STORY
By Evan Perez and Paul Cruickshank
A Tunisian man who U.S. authorities allege is an al Qaeda member was extradited Thursday from Belgium to the United States to face charges stemming from a plot to bomb a NATO base there.
Nizar Trabelsi, who was convicted in 2003 for that plot, spent 12 years in Belgian custody and was nearing the end of his sentence. The extradition could help resolve a major concern for U.S. and European terrorism officials who feared that because of shorter sentences in Belgium, Trabelsi could be freed. The same charges in the United States could carry a life sentence, if he is convicted.
Trabelsi was arrested on September 13, 2001, in Belgium - two days after the 9/11 attacks - and charged with plotting to carry out a suicide bomb attack.
Trabelsi was indicted in 2006 by a grand jury in Washington. The indictment was unsealed Thursday.
By Leslie Bentz
American-born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn is calling for attacks on U.S. ambassadors around the world.
In a 39-minute video, Gadahn praised the death of Libya's U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11 last year - and urged wealthy Muslims to offer militants rewards so they can kill others, according to SITE, a jihadist monitoring group.
Specifically, he referenced a bounty set for the death of U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein.
"These prizes have a great effect in instilling fear in the hearts of our cowardly enemies," Gadahn who has a $1 million dollar bounty on his head, says in the video. "They also encourage hesitant individuals to carry out important and great deeds in the path of Allah."FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
New details are emerging about some of the communication between al Qaeda leaders that prompted so much concern among U.S. officials about an imminent terror threat they decided to close nearly two dozen embassies in the Middle East and Africa.
CNN has previously reported U.S. officials intercepted a message between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and a top ally in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, with al-Zawahiri telling al-Wuhayshi to "do something" - an inference to a terror plot.
Now, two U.S. officials tell CNN that in his communication with al-Zawahiri, al-Wuhayshi, who is the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), laid out a plan for a plot; then, al-Zawahiri acknowledged the communication. Al-Wuhayshi, the officials said, was not asking for permission from al- Zawahiri - but rather informing him of his plans.
This scenario - that al-Wuhayski presented al-Zawahiri with a plan - was first reported Friday in the Wall Street Journal.
By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister
For al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, keeping a grip on a far-flung brand and staying relevant while avoiding a visit from a Hellfire missile or U.S. Navy Seals brings multiple challenges.
For a start, his authority derives from his long stint as Osama bin Laden's deputy; he certainly lacks the Saudi's aura among jihadists. He has lost many of his management team to a remorseless drone campaign.
Al Qaeda central doesn't have the money it did in the good old days before the U.S. Treasury started going after beneficiaries in the Gulf. And all the action nowadays is among the franchises in places like Yemen, Somalia and Libya.
To put it kindly, Zawahiri is like the CEO of a company where local franchises do what they want.
By Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank
The revelation that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been communicating directly with the group's Yemeni franchise about future operations is causing plenty of consternation among western counter-terrorism officials.
It suggests a heightened level of co-ordination between al Qaeda 'central' and its branches, and an initiative by Zawahiri to leverage instability in places far away from his hideout – thought to be somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
There are still few confirmed specifics about the nature of the plot that Zawahiri was supposedly discussing with Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But he has clearly identified that group as an effective affiliate, possibly the one best placed to attack U.S. interests directly.
U.S. officials were concerned that a plot was timed to go into operation to coincide with the end of Ramadan, which has often been a period of increased terrorist activity. The Muslim holy month ends on Wednesday.
By Barbara Starr
A message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to his second in command in Yemen told him to "do something," causing U.S. and Yemeni officials to fear imminent terrorist action, CNN has learned.
For weeks, U.S. and Yemeni officials watched a rising stream of intelligence about the possibility of a major terrorist attack in Yemen but grew increasingly alarmed after intercepting a message within the past several days said to be from al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be in Pakistan. The message was sent to Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group's Yemeni affiliate. U.S. intelligence believes al-Wuhayshi has recently been appointed the overall terror organization's No. 2 leader.
U.S. officials cautioned that there may be multiple sources of intelligence including intercepts of electronic information from phone calls, web postings, but also interrogation of couriers or other operatives.
CNN had the information over the weekend and decided not to report the details about al-Zawahiri's involvement based on U.S. government concerns about the sensitivity of the information. Now that it has been widely reported in other media, including the New York Times and McClatchy, CNN has now decided to report it as well. FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
American special forces units overseas have been on alert for the past several days for a mission to attack potential al Qaeda targets if those behind the most recent terror threats against U.S. interests can be identified, a senior Obama administration official told CNN.
The official declined to identify the units or their locations because of the sensitive nature of the information.
The units, along with several others, were put on heightened alert by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week.
The United States closed embassies and consulates across an area of Africa and the Middle East and imposed a global travel alert for Americans following threats against U.S. interests described as serious and credible.