(CBS News) LONDON - The FBI and a specially trained team of Marines are on the ground in Libya trying to determine exactly who was behind Tuesday's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, but the "who" may be less important than the "why".
"60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan says for the intelligence agencies of the West, what's "important is to look at the ideology that's fueling them ... because it's the same all over the world, with every group that's al Qaeda or al Qaeda-affiliated ... they're driven by a belief that the United States is engaged in a war with Islam."
That message may actually be getting harder for the leaders of al Qaeda and similar groups to sell to young Muslim men - even the young, uneducated ones ripe for terror recruitment - as the war in Iraq and the grim images from Abu Ghraib slowly fade into memory and as the U.S. military prepares to pull out of Afghanistan.
But recent history across North Africa has created fertile ground, with huge populations of long-oppressed Muslims suddenly finding themselves free to join political movements of their choice, and with regional Salafist Muslim groups quickly achieving levels of power they couldn't have dreamed of two years ago. Men with their eye on power - some of whom have spent much of the last three decades in prison as terrorists - are now eager to sell the message to anyone who will buy it, and they are operating in countries with weak central governments and poorly trained, corrupt security forces.Continue »
(CBS News) It has not been widely noted, but the Yemeni military has made some important progress this week in its battle against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Yemeni forces have killed at least 17 al Qaeda militants this week and Yemen's government claims to have regained control of two key AQAP strongholds. Militants were reportedly routed from their positions in Jaar and Zinjibar in the more remote Southeastern section of the country.
U.S. officials familiar with the situation in Yemen say in the past year AQAP had managed to create small safe havens, including training camps, in that region. And it's believed all of the attempted attacks by AQAP aimed at the US have originated in that part of Yemen.
In December 2009 AQAP launched the first "underwear bomb" plot and in the fall of 2010 AQAP militants built two improvised bombs which they hid in printers aboard cargo planes. More recently, a second underwear bomb plot was infiltrated and thwarted by U.S., British, and Saudi intelligence services. None of the attacks succeeded but officials warn AQAP is committed to new attempts.
U.S. officials say they are encouraged by the recent offensive against AQAP, but note new Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi needs more resources and better military coordination to maintain the pressure. The worry is that any pullback or let up could give AQAP time to "dig in".
One other potential bright spot involves opposition to AQAP from Yemeni tribal leaders. Officials say there are some "nascent signs" that certain local strongmen have started to challenge AQAP's presence in the region. But, so far there's little evidence that those efforts are widespread, sustained, or particularly effective.
Most analysts now believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula represents the greatest immediate terror threat to the US and the West, surpassing core al Qaeda in Pakistan in terms of numbers of fighters and capabilities.
In the latest edition of CBSNews.com's series "Flash Points," CBS News senior national security analyst Juan Zarate and national security correspondent Bob Orr discussed recent elections in Egypt.
"The two candidates who have come out of this represent the essence of the power struggle in post-Mubarak Egypt," Zarate said. "It was a fairly clean primary election."
The two candidates -- a veteran of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's regime and a member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood -- face a runoff election in mid-June.
"This is potentially worrisome because you have the potential of the Muslim Brotherhood controlling the presidency and questions as to what that means for Egypt and their peace treaty with Israel," Zarate said.Continue »
(CBS News) The author of al Qaeda's latest bomb-making magazine said that the terror group will continue to pursue attempts to blow up U.S. jetliners and isn't concerned that such plots might be foiled because they represent "such a good bargain."
Abdullah Zul Bejadayn, believed to be a Saudi explosives expert who has been featured in previous bomb-making video tutorials, said in the second edition of "Al Qaeda Airlines" that the militants "do not mind at all in this stage if [plots] are intercepted. It is such a good bargain for us to spread fear amongst the enemy and keep him on his toes in exchange [for] a few months of work and a few thousand bucks."
A double agent working with U.S., Saudi and British intelligence recently infiltrated al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and thwarted a plan to use an underwear bomb to attack a U.S.-bound airplane - a plot similar to a failed attack on Christmas Day 2009. The agent volunteered to carry out the suicide mission, which originated in Yemen, and instead delivered the updated non-metallic explosive device to American officials.Continue »
The group, known as AQAP, made the comments in a statement dated Wednesday, a day before airstrikes in Yemen killed at least seven Qaeda militants, including the group's senior armament member, known as al-Galadi, according to The Associated Press.
(CBS News) U.S. officials confirmed Monday that the CIA last month intervened in a plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner using an improved version of the "underwear bomb" that failed to detonate on a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit in late 2009.
Officials stress that the new plot -- organized by al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP - never posed a threat to aircraft or passengers because it was disrupted so early.
The revelation of the new airliner plot comes one day after a CIA drone strike in Yemen killed Fahd Mohammad Ahmed Al-Quso, an al Qaeda figure indicted in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Terrorists.Continue »
Fahd Mohammad Ahmed Al-Quso, 37, from Yemen, was most notorious for being an alleged planner of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors and blew a 40-foot hole in the side of the warship 12 years ago.
The U.S. Government had offered up to $5 million for information leading to Quso's capture after placing him on the "most wanted" list in May 2003.
Quso had trained in al Qaeda camps in the 1990s, according to federal prosecutors who brought an indictment against him nine years ago.
CBS This Morning senior correspondent John Miller, a former assistant director of the FBI, wrote this piece for CBSNews.com on the arrest today of Amine El Khalifi on charges of attempting to suicide bomb the U.S. Capitol.
Sidi Mohamed Amine El Khalifi came to the United States on June 27, 1999 with his parents on a trip to Orlando, Florida. The baby-faced, brown-eyed Moroccan teenager would overstay his tourist visa and remain here for more than a decade, moving from Kissimmee, Florida to Northern Virginia. He worked at odd jobs and had occasional minor scrapes with the law, including a marijuana charge and traffic infractions.
Khalifi stayed illegally, never applying for citizenship; he flew under the radar of law enforcement and immigration officials until the early days of 2011.Continue »
As tensions rise between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear ambitions, the Pentagon is preparing to bring a decommissioned assault ship back into duty for possible deployment to the Mideast
The plan, first reported in the Washington Post, would create a floating base for commando teams who might deployed against Somali pirates, and other threats. The action is also a possible counter move for Iran's continued threats to shut down a key oil pipeline, the Strait of Hormuz.
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports the Navy is planning to convert a decommissioned amphibious ship, the Ponce, to be used as the mothership. It is expected to be ready to head to the area by June 1.Continue »
Counterterrorism officials in the United States are worried al Qaeda is trying to produce ricin, a deadly poison, to combine with explosives for an attack against the United States, reports the New York Times.
Classified intelligence reports say that the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has been attempting to get large quantities of castor beans, which are needed to produce the white powdery poison that can kill when just a speck is inhaled or absorbed in the bloodstream.
Officials say they have found evidence the operatives are attempting to move castor beans and processing agents to the Shabwa Province. Officials think that once concocted the operatives are planning to release the poison into a contained space like a shopping mall, subway airport.
However, security officials say there's no indication that a ricin attack is imminent.
U.S. counter-terrorism officials have been planning all night for what may follow bin Laden's demise, reports CBS News senior foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.
What they fear most is the "lone wolf scenario" -- individuals they cannot track and cannot do anything to stop who go into a public place and wreak havoc. Some of the most likely targets, officials say, could be areas where Americans are gathering to celebrate bin Laden's death, such as outside the White House or at Times Square.Continue »
Throughout weeks of increasingly bloody protests in Yemen, which have called for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the United States has publicly and privately withheld criticism over the Yemeni government handling of the crisis.
Saleh, a U.S. ally in its fight against al Qaeda, has been spared the disapprobation from Washington that has dispensed towards other Middle East leaders targeted by popular uprisings. But that may be changing.
Reporting in The New York Times Monday, Laura Kasinof and David Sanger write that Obama administration officials have quietly told its allies that they now view Saleh's continued position is untenable, and that he should leave.Continue »
Check and update this page often for the latest news and views on the WikiLeaks saga, as well as our special report.
DECEMBER 20, DAY 23
Fact: WikiLeaks has released 1,824 of the reported 251, 287 U.S. diplomatic cables it claims to have in its possession. That means they have only released slightly less than three-fourths of one percent of the total.
[Guardian (U.K.)] US Suspected Allen Stanford Long Before ECB Deal
"More than two years before he touched down in a helicopter at Lord's cricket ground bearing $20m, US diplomats were so concerned about rumors of 'bribery, money-laundering and political manipulation' surrounding Allen Stanford that they avoided contacting him or being photographed with him."
[Guardian (U.K.)] Syria Believed Israel Was Behind Sniper Killing
"It was late in the evening of 1 August 2008 in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous when the sniper fired the fatal shot. The target was General Muhammad Suleiman, President Bashar al-Assad's top security aide. Israelis, the US embassy in Damascus reported, were 'the most obvious suspects' in the assassination."
[Guardian (U.K.)] Bulgarian Nuclear Project "Dogged by Safety Concerns"
"One of Britain's biggest energy suppliers, which wants to build half a dozen nuclear reactors in the UK, helped develop one in Bulgaria which was 'dogged by ongoing serious safety concerns'".
[Guardian (U.K.)] UK Businessmen "Overeducated" Says Richard Branson
"Perhaps it's because he left school at 15 and ran his own business while his peers were still studying. But Richard Branson believes that the British education system does not serve budding businessmen and women well".
[The Guardian] Britain's biggest defense contractor, BAE, sold the Tanzanian government an overpriced radar system, and after the head of Tanzania's anti-corruption bureau investigated the "dirty deal," his life was threatened, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable. Edward Hoseah, the chief anti-corruption prosecutor in Tanzania, told a U.S. diplomat that "his life may be in danger," after looking into the arms deal. He told the diplomat that, after his investigation began, "he frequently received threatening letters."
[Stars and Stripes] Reporters at Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military's official newspaper, are disturbed by their editors lack of comment over the military-wide ban on looking at The New York Times website and other sites linked to the WikiLeaks CableGate drama. Their ombudsman writes: "The lack of guidance has left every journalist there with a difficult and unfair individual choice: risk committing some violation, even inadvertently, with career or even legal consequences, or not do their jobs properly."Continue »
The United States was secretly given permission from Yemen's president to attack the al Qaeda group in his country that later attempted to blow up planes in American air space.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh told John Brennan, President Obama's counterterrorism adviser, in September 2009 that the U.S. had an "open door" on terrorism in Yemen, the Guardian newspaper of London reported Friday evening.
The disclosure comes from the trove of secret State Department cables released to a number of news outlets by the document-dumping website WikiLeaks.Continue »
last updated 5:30 p.m. ET
The latest U.S. documents released by the WikiLeaks organization include a number of eye-raising revelations including charges that the U.S. has stepped up efforts to spy on United Nations officials and other diplomats from other countries. They also shed light on North Korea's continued role as a world arms dealer, including smuggling missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload to Iran.
Other red flags raised by U.S. diplomats include the security of Pakistan's nuclear program. which was described as vulnerable to smuggling and corruption.
U.S. Spying on United Nations Chief, Diplomats?
The U.K. Guardian reports Washington is running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the leadership of the United Nations, including the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.
A classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to U.S. diplomats under Hillary Clinton's name in July 2009, the Guardian reports, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.
The New York Times also interprets the newly-released diplomatic documents as showing an expanded role of American diplomats in collecting intelligence overseas. Including orders to State Department personnel to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, work schedules and other personal information of foreign dignitaries.Continue »
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