July 2nd, 2012
02:13 PM ET

Officials insist no specific terror threat tied to Olympics

by Suzanne Kelly and Dan Rivers and Jonathan Wald

Government officials from Washington to London insist that there are no known specific or credible terror threats tied to next month's Olympic games in London. Nonetheless, authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are urging vigilance.

President Barack Obama met last week with his national security team to talk about preparations for the Olympic games as well as this week's Fourth of July holiday. After the meeting, the White House issued a statement saying that "The President directed all to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep the American people safe and to continue close cooperation on the Olympics with our British counterparts," according to National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

In a speech just last week, the head of Britain's MI5 domestic security service talked a little more specifically about the current threat environment. Jonathan Evans told the audience at a defense and security lecture that "The games present an attractive target for our enemies and they will be at the center of the world's attention in a month or so. No doubt some terrorist networks have thought about whether they could pull off an attack. but the games are not an easy target and the fact that we have disrupted multiple terrorist plots here and abroad in recent years demonstrates that the UK as a whole is not an easy target for terrorism." FULL POST

Filed under: Al Qaeda • AQAP • Living With Terror • Terrorism
June 27th, 2012
04:54 PM ET

Saudi student convicted in Texas bomb plot

By Terry Frieden

A 20-year-old Saudi student in Texas has been convicted by an Amarillo federal jury of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Although Khalid Ali Aldawsari had not yet constructed a bomb or selected a target, a jury found him guilty of the WMD charge and of illegally buying chemicals on line. The jury was unanimous in its decision.

The arrest focused attention again on the danger posed by "lone-wolf" terrorists.

Prosecutors told jurors the defendant's journal showed he had intended to cause violence and that he believed "it is time for jihad."  The government said Aldawsari had a target list that showed he considered trying to blow up hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants. His list also included the Dallas home of former president George W. Bush. FULL POST

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Filed under: Living With Terror • Lone wolf • Terrorism
Time to declare victory:  al Qaeda is defeated (Opinion)
June 27th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Time to declare victory: al Qaeda is defeated (Opinion)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of opinion articles about national security by participants in the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 25-28 in Aspen, Colorado.

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst

To end World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin demanded an unconditional surrender from the Nazis.  But there will be no such surrender from al Qaeda. The group is not a state that is capable of entering into such an agreement, even if it wanted to do so, which seems highly unlikely.

So we are left with a choice:  We can continue fighting al Qaeda indefinitely and remain in a permanent state of quasi-war, as has already been the case for more than a decade now.

Or we can declare victory against the group and move on to focus on the essential challenges now facing America, notably the country's sputtering economy, but also containing a rising China, managing the rogue regime in North Korea, continuing to delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, and - to the extent feasible - helping to direct the maturation of the Arab Spring. FULL POST

Man accused in plot to blow up U.S. Capitol pleads guilty
June 22nd, 2012
11:26 AM ET

Man accused in plot to blow up U.S. Capitol pleads guilty

By Carol Cratty

A Moroccan man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack on the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty Friday afternoon to a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against government property.

In the plea agreement, Amine El Khalifi, 29, agreed to a prison sentence with a maximum of 25 to 30 years. If he had been convicted in a trial, he could have been sentenced to life behind bars.

U.S. District Judge James Cacheris set a sentencing date of September 14.

El Khalifi came to the courtroom wearing a jail jumpsuit with the word "prisoner" stenciled on the back. He was not in restraints.


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Filed under: Congress • Living With Terror • Terrorism
Why indefinite detention harms America (opinion)
June 8th, 2012
11:47 AM ET

Why indefinite detention harms America (opinion)

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) write in CNN's Opinion page why they oppose indefinite military detention.  Udall, who serves on the Senate's intelligence committee, and Smith, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services committee, are vocal opponents of the authority that was included in the defense authorization bill.

As Udall and Smith note, their opponents continue to strongly resist proposals to have civilian law enforcement take the lead in these terror cases:

Some, however, have argued that this approach to national security - one that involves law enforcement and not solely the military - is tantamount to ceding ground to al Qaeda. This argument, designed to paint members of Congress as "soft on terror," is wrong.

Udall and Smith argue that as far as terrorists are concerned, what happens to them once they are caught is not really an issue:

The question of civilian versus military authority is irrelevant to our enemies. It is, however, incredibly important to protecting Americans' constitutional rights and freedoms while still allowing us to effectively fight terrorism.

Read more about their argument against the clause here

Filed under: Gitmo • Living With Terror • Terrorism
Court blocks release of CIA interrogation methods
May 21st, 2012
05:14 PM ET

Court blocks release of CIA interrogation methods

By Bill Mears

CIA secret interrogation methods - including detention and harsh questioning of suspected terrorists - remain off limits to public release, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The agency was sued eight years ago to provide details of certain communications describing the use of waterboarding and other direct intelligence-gathering methods of foreign terror suspects. A three-judge panel from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled "intelligence methods" are not subject to a Freedom of Information Act request from the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"We give substantial weight to the government's declarations, which establish that disclosing the redacted portions of the (secret memos) would reveal the existence and scope of a highly classified, active intelligence activity," said the judges. FULL POST

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Filed under: CIA • Gitmo • Intelligence • Lawsuit • Legal • Living With Terror
NATO terror plot details emerge
May 20th, 2012
05:30 PM ET

NATO terror plot details emerge

Editor's note: Read all of Security Clearance's coverage of the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago.  Follow our reporting and other key NATO tweets with our NATO summit Twitter list.

Two suspects who appeared in court in Cook County, Illinois, on Sunday are not believed to be part of an alleged terror plot in Chicago during the NATO summit, prosecutors said Sunday.

Instead, charges against the two arose from "related investigations," authorities said.

Three men had previously been charged in the NATO plot, with authorities saying they planned to target President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters, the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and several other law enforcement and financial sites.

The three men charged in the NATO plot were identified as Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Betterly, 24, who told police he resides in Massachusetts, authorities said. An Illinois judge set bail at $1.5 million for each. FULL POST

May 10th, 2012
02:49 PM ET

Al Qaeda in Yemen has "whole outfit" devoted to attacking U.S.

By Barbara Starr

The Yemeni branch of al Qaeda now has "a whole outfit designated to target the U.S. homeland," according to a source closely working with U.S. intelligence agencies and the military.

In addition, the U.S. now believes Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is working on "several types of bombs" that could get past airport x-ray screening machines.

Recommended:  Saudi mole in bomb plot held British passport

The bomb technology is aimed at targeting the U.S., according to the source.

Although the group has not yet succeeded in any of their bomb plots against the U.S., there are several bomb makers and a group of would-be suicide bombers inside the group, which operates out of rudimentary training camps in southern Yemen. FULL POST

May 8th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

Al Qaeda's bomb-makers evolve, adapt and continue to plot

Three months before he was killed by a U.S. drone strike, Fahd al Quso, one of al Qaeda's top operatives in Yemen, spoke at length to a local journalist. He was asked why al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had stopped plotting against the United States. Was it because all efforts were devoted to an internal project?

"The war didn't end between us and our enemies. Wait for what is coming," al Quso replied.

It seems al Quso, the head of the group's external operations, wasn't bluffing after the recent discovery of a device designed to be carried aboard an airliner by a suicide bomber without detection.

U.S. officials describe the device as an evolution of the bomb smuggled aboard a U.S.-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009 by a young Nigerian, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab.

Read more of Paul Cruickshank, Tim Lister and Nic Robertson's reporting about the evolution of al Qaeda's bomb-making

With Gitmo hearing, a legal 'circus' resumes
May 4th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

With Gitmo hearing, a legal 'circus' resumes

By Larry Shaughnessy

The Obama administration's struggle over how to handle the prisoners and prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, enters a new chapter Saturday when a military judge there will convene an arraignment for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men for their alleged roles in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

It could be a routine military commission hearing, with charges being read and pleas being entered, or it could be the latest act of a legal and political free-for-all.

"I've had conversations with other people who believe the circus is going to begin with the first appearance," said Rear Adm. Donald Guter, who once served as the Navy's top lawyer. FULL POST

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Filed under: 9/11 • Gitmo • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed • Legal • Living With Terror • Terrorism
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