Possible Tie Between Hakimullah Video and Pakistani Taliban Claim of Responsibility for Attack

A prominent expert on jihadist media says there is an apparent link between the new video message in which Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, once thought to have been killed, proclaims he is still alive, and a message posted overnight Saturday in which the Pakistani Taliban appears to claim credit for the failed Times Square car-bomb attack.   Rita Katz, founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private organization that monitors and translates extremist Web postings, late on...

Times Square Bomber Made Relatively Clever Efforts to Cover Tracks

While investigators and experts are saying that the bomb which authorities defused in an SUV at New York's Times Square on Saturday night was so crudely designed and constructed as to be almost idiotic, some investigators also say that one reason that the would-be bomber or bombers have not yet been arrested is that they made relatively sophisticated efforts to cover their tracks and conceal their identity (or identities). As we reported on Sunday, the Nissan Pathfinder in which the bomb...

Is Hakimullah Mehsud Alive? New Video Evidence

A new video offers potentially conclusive evidence that Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud survived a Predator attack in January. News reports and U.S. officials had argued that Mehsud, a notorious media hound who was silent for months afterward, had been killed by a CIA drone strike in Waziristan. But as Declassified reported previously, unnamed Pakistani officials began a whispering campaign last week claiming that Mehsud was only wounded in the attack and is now recovering. In the new...

Cops Say Neither License Plates nor VIN on Bomb SUV Were Reported Stolen

While someone tried to obliterate the unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from one or more parts of the SUV used in Saturday night's unsuccessful Times Square bombing, investigators have succeeded in recovering the VIN from the engine block of the Nissan Pathfinder, a senior law-enforcement official says. The official, who asked for anonymity when discussing a continuing investigation said the VIN—a unique multiple-letter and digit-identification code stamped at the factory by car...

Feds Feared Multi-City Attacks

When federal and local law-enforcement authorities first learned that a car bomb had been discovered in New York's Times Square, one of their most urgent concerns was that there were bombs placed elsewhere and that the attempted attack as part of an elaborate 9/11-style series of assaults.As a result of discussions between domestic and foreign counterterrorism agencies, two federal officials told Declassified, one of the first steps the Department of Homeland Security took in the wake of...

Times Square Car Bomb Could Have Created 'Big Fireball'

  A car bomb installed in an SUV and driven into a parking spot near New York's Times Square around dinner time on Saturday was of relatively primitive design and construction. But if it had exploded, it could have created a "big fireball" and spewed out "a lot of shrapnel" that might have killed or maimed many people visiting the busy Manhattan entertainment district, a senior law-enforcement official tells Declassified. The person or people who constructed and planted the device are...

Brooklyn 'Computer Wiz' Accused of Conspiring With Al Qaeda Affiliate in Yemen

A New York-born man described by a law-enforcement official as a computer expert is at the center of the latest investigation into Americans who have tried and, in some but not all cases, succeeded in hooking up with Al Qaeda elements based overseas. Wesam el-Hanafi, a 34-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native, is one of two men indicted by Federal authorities in Manhattan on Friday on charges of conspiring to provide material support, including computer expertise, to Al Qaeda—more specifically to...

Arizona Needs Homeland Security's OK to Deport

Amid the outrage about Arizona's strict new immigration law—which calls for the pursuit, arrest, and deportation of illegal aliens—a pivotal question remains: how will the Obama administration respond? Only the feds can deport a person, which means that Arizona will need Department of Homeland Security cooperation to carry out local law. But don't bet on the state getting it. A DHS spokesperson says the issue is under "review." But two administration officials, who asked for...

Is Hakimullah Mehsud Alive?

Pakistani intelligence officials are reportedly claiming that an American drone attack failed to kill Hakimullah Mehsud after all. As Declassified previously reported here and here, the Pakistani Taliban commander, who costarred in the "martyrdom video" of a Jordanian double agent who killed seven Americans and a Jordanian intelligence officer at a secret CIA base in Afghanistan in December, was thought to have been in the sights of a missile fired by a Predator drone this January. In...

Pentagon Confirms It Gave $1.4 Billion in No-Bid Fuel Contracts to Mysterious Companies

The Pentagon's main supply agency has acknowledged awarding $1.4 billion in no-bid contracts to two foreign companies whose ownership and management seem extremely mysterious. The contracts, involving delivery of aviation fuel to U.S.-run air bases in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, are currently under investigation by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, one of Congress's most powerful panels. Among other things, the subcommittee is examining...

How the Media Dealt With Carl Levin's 'S--tty' Questions

American broadcast TV networks appeared to have no hesitation about what to do when Sen. Carl Levin, grand inquisitor in a Senate investigation into the alleged delinquencies of Goldman Sachs, repeatedly quoted from an internal e-mail circulated within the investment bank that used a dirty word. "boy that timeberwof [misspelling of Timberwolf] was one s--tty deal," wrote one senior Goldman banker to another in June 2007. At a jampacked public hearing on Tuesday, Levin repeatedly badgered...

Senators Say Obama Administration Fails to Comply With Fort Hood Subpoenas

The leaders of the Senate's most powerful oversight committee say the Obama administration has "failed to comply" with subpoenas the committee sent to the Justice and Defense departments demanding access to records and witnesses the committee says it needs to pursue an investigation into the background to the mass shootings at Fort Hood last Nov. 5 by accused killer Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. In a statement released on Tuesday, Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman...

Queens Terror Suspect Pleads Guilty on Eve of Scheduled Trial

On the eve of his scheduled trial in Manhattan, an alleged member of a notorious British-based Islamic extremist group pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda, according to a federal official who asked for anonymity when discussing the case. Syed Hashmi was arrested in London four years ago and was extradited to the United States in May 2007—the first case in which anyone had been extradited from Britain to America on terrorism charges,...

Transatlantic Flight Diverted to Maine After Unruly Passenger Mentions Explosives

A Delta Airlines transatlantic flight made an unscheduled landing in Maine on Tuesday after an unruly passenger made threatening comments involving explosives, according to three federal officials who asked for anonymity when talking about an incident still under investigation. The Paris-to-Atlanta flight, Delta 273, was diverted to Bangor after the passenger, who has not yet been identified publicly, apparently announced that he was in possession of explosives and a fake passport. Initial...

Feds Say Armed Man Arrested Near Obama Was Cop Wannabe

An armed man was arrested Sunday at a North Carolina airport where President Obama's plane was about to depart, but federal authorities now believe the man was only a harmless police wannabe. Joseph Sean McVey was arrested after his car, equipped with police lights and a conspicuous array of radio equipment, much of it obsolete, pulled up outside the security perimeter of the Asheville Regional Airport, according to a federal law-enforcement official, who requested anonymity when...

Security Stepped Up at Comedy Central Following Threats Against 'South Park'

The New York Police Department has stepped up security at the headquarters of the Comedy Central cable channel after an Islamic extremist Web site posted apparent threats to the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, for making fun of the Prophet Muhammad. Paul Browne, NYPD deputy commissioner and chief spokesman, says that his department for some time has been aware of the small group, which appears to organize around a now-unreachable Web site called RevolutionMuslim.com, at...

Has Syria Really Delivered New Missiles to Hizbullah?

U.S. national-security officials say they have no confirmation of Israeli claims that Syria has delivered or is in the process of delivering new, longer-range Scud missiles to the radical Lebanese Shiite group Hizbullah. Although Syria may have begun making preparations to do so, U.S. intelligence reporting indicates that no such shipments have actually occurred, two senior U.S. officials tell Declassified, requesting anonymity when discussing sensitive information. According to the officials,...

Underpants Bomber Inspires New Counterterrorist 'Pursuit Team'

In the wake of the failed Christmas Day underpants bombing attempt, the government's National Counterterrorism Center has set up a new "pursuit team." Its main objective: to spot and pull together fragmentary and inchoate threat information like the scraps of information the government had gathered but failed to assemble before the Dec. 25 close call. The NCTC, which was created after 9/11 to improve intelligence analysis and distribution, came under predictable criticism in...

Feds Lose Top Al Qaeda Expert

One of the federal government's most knowledgeable experts on Al Qaeda and related terror phenomena quietly left the government within the last few weeks. Philip Mudd, a career CIA analyst, had been serving on special assignment at the FBI as associate executive assistant director of the bureau's national-security branch since 2005; previously, he had served in various analytical positions at the CIA, including as a deputy national-intelligence officer for Near East and South Asia issues and,...

U.S. Military Says It's Positive It Killed Insurgent Leader Whose Existence It Once Doubted

The U.S. military in Iraq says the American command there is positive that raids it conducted with Iraqi security forces over the last weekend killed both Abu Ayyoub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, alleged two most senior leaders of Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate. "We can confirm with certainty that Masri and [Hamid Dawud Mohammad Khalil] al-Zawi [the supposed real name of Baghdadi], were killed," said Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, a spokesman for U.S. Forces In Iraq, in an e-mail sent to...

Does Death Prove Iraqi Al Qaeda Leader Existed?

U.S. and Iraqi forces may have announced the killing of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi—but U.S. military authorities once publicly questioned the existence of any such person. In a May 3, 2007, press briefing, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, then a top U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, was asked about the reported capture or death of two top leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI): Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Caldwell denied that U.S. forces were holding Masri, an Egyptian jihadist who succeeded...

Air Travel to Europe May Face New Setback

Air-traffic authorities in Britain are now warning that new volcanic-ash clouds from Iceland may set back their efforts to reopen air travel in and out of the U.K. on Tuesday.In a statement issued late on Monday (London time), NATS, Britain's air-traffic-control service, announced that since its distribution of a relatively optimistic bulletin earlier in the day, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano had "strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east towards the...

Senators Carry Out Their Threat to Subpoena Fort Hood Evidence

The leaders of a key Senate oversight committee are carrying out a threat they issued last week. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Sen. Susan Collins, the committee's ranking Republican, sent subpoenas to Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday, demanding that they hand over documents and other information related to the Nov. 5 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. Lieberman and Collins...

Are Iraqi Al Qaeda Leaders Really Dead?

U.S. intelligence and defense officials say "indications" have reached Washington appearing to substantiate claims by the Iraqi government that its security forces over the weekend killed the two most senior leaders of Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate. However, given the fact that in the past similar claims sometimes turned out to be premature—in that Qaeda operatives who had been allegedly killed miraculously came back to life—some American officials remain cautious, saying they don't...

A Break in the Ash Clouds?

Authorities in Britain are hopeful about an apparent break in the volcanic eruption in Iceland that has paralyzed air traffic across the Atlantic and within Europe. Earlier today (noon Greenwich Mean Time) Britain's Meteorological Office published a graphic saying the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano had "virtually ceased," with only small amounts of volcanic ash being reported at altitudes of up to 6,000 feet. No significant ash is being reported above 35,000 feet, according to...

Is Homeland Security Wary About Reporting on Right-Wing Extremists?

Despite a recent upsurge in threats and violence by far-right groups and loners, the Homeland Security Department appears gun-shy about reporting or monitoring the trend too closely. Domestic security and counterterrorism officials say that even though, in light of recent events, a controversial report issued a year ago by Homeland Security about a "resurgence" in far-right radicalization and recruitment appears well informed, if not prescient, the Department has done nothing to re-issue the...

Exclusive: House Republican Staffer Introduced Alleged NSA Leaker to Reporter

Declassified has learned that a member of the Republican staff of the House Intelligence Committee was the individual who introduced a senior National Security Agency official, indicted earlier this week for leaking classified information, to the journalist who allegedly received and wrote about the secret material. The congressional staffer, Diane S. Roark, was the staff expert on the budget of the ultrasecret eavesdropping and code-breaking agency when she introduced alleged leaker Thomas A....

Air-Travel Disruptions Could Last for Days Due to Volcano

Severe disruptions in air travel across the Atlantic and within Europe, caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland, could continue for days, U.S. government aviation officials say. Authorities in Britain closed five major airports, including London's Heathrow, and the governments of Ireland, France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway reportedly were taking similar precautions. Safety officials are concerned about the threat of mechanical breakdowns posed by a huge cloud of ash generated...

Senators Accuse Obama Administration of Stonewalling Ft. Hood Probe

Leaders of the Senate's principal oversight committee are accusing the Obama administration of stonewalling an investigation they have been conducting into the background to the deadly shootings at the Ft. Hood military base last Nov. 5, for which Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan was arrested and charged. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Susan Collins...

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