Sunday, January 3, 2010

U.S. Embassy Closed in Yemen: Qaeda Threat Cause

They got us running scared again. This is the third straight President unable to deal with the al Qaeda threat. We keep getting brought to our knees by a handful of murderers. The greatest solution is to start treating the average Muslim with some respect. Stop supporting Arab dictators, and giving Israel a blank check.

U.S. President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism advisor says a threat from an al-Qaida affiliate led to the closure of the American embassy in Yemen. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports this same group has been linked to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner.

John Brennan says the embassy was closed to protect the lives of its staff.

"There are indications that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is targeting our embassy and targeting our personnel and we are not going to take any chances with the lives of our diplomats and others who are at that embassy," he said.

The president's homeland security advisor told the FOX News Sunday television program the United States is working with the Yemeni government to deal with the terrorist threat.

On NBC's Meet the Press, he was asked if that means Yemen is a major new front in the war on terrorism.

Brennan said it has long been an area of concern.

"We have been focused on this issue," he added. "We need to make sure that we continue to provide the training, the support that Yemen needs to counter this very serious threat."

The United States and Britain have agreed to fund a new counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen. The British government, which has also closed its embassy there, is hosting a conference later this month designed to boost Yemen's ability to fight terrorism.

On Saturday, President Obama said an al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen apparently trained and equipped the Nigerian man accused in the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight.

Brennan - who is leading a White House investigation into the incident - told ABC's This Week there were bits and pieces of information about the suspect, but no definitive evidence.

"There was no single piece of intelligence, a 'smoking gun' if you will, that said that Mr. Abdulmutallab was going to carry out his attack against that aircraft," he explained.

Congress is planning hearings into the matter over the coming weeks. The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee says he wants to know why so many Yemenis held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have been sent back home in recent years.

Senator Kit Bond of Missouri told Fox News Sunday many of those returned to Yemen are now active in al-Qaida.

Meet the Press (1-3-2010) Transcript, Video

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Complete transcript. Excerpt below:
MR. GREGORY: This security threat, the reason to close the embassy, is it because of specific intelligence that says an attack is coming?

MR. BRENNAN: Yes, there are indications that al-Qaeda's planning to carry out an attack in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. I spoke with our ambassador down there, Ambassador Seche, this morning, as well as last night. Both the U.S. and the British embassies have been closed to give the Yemeni government an opportunity to thwart that threat and the plans that are afoot right now from al-Qaeda.

MR. GREGORY: A threat against our embassy?

MR. BRENNAN: It's a threat--they--we know that they have been targeting our embassy, our embassy personnel, and we want to make sure that we do everything possible to safeguard our diplomats and others that are down there. So that was the prudent step to take.

MR. GREGORY: The president talking about al-Qaeda in Yemen. Is Yemen a new front in this battle against al-Qaeda?

MR. BRENNAN: No, it's not a new front. We've known about it for quite some time; and that's why from the very first day of this administration, and even in the last administration, there has been tremendous focus on Yemen. I traveled out to Yemen twice over the past several months, I spoke with President Saleh. I spoke with President Saleh this week. We have been focused on this issue. We need to make sure that we continue to provide the training, the support that Yemen needs to counter this very serious threat. There are several hundred al-Qaeda members right now inside of Yemen, and the fight is being taken to them. Events during the last month demonstrated the Yemeni government resolve, and there are a number of operatives and leaders of al-Qaeda in Yemen that are no longer with us today because of those actions.

MR. GREGORY: Is the U.S. providing fire power to the, the Yemen government?

MR. BRENNAN: The U.S. is providing a range of support that includes security, intelligence, and military support to the Yemeni government. We're doing this in close cooperation with the Yemenis, we're doing it the right way, and we've been able to make some progress.

Transcript: ABC This Week (1-3-2010)

Complete transcript. Excerpt below:

MORAN: Well, this morning, there is news out of Yemen that the United States embassy has been closed for security reasons and the British embassy closed, as well. What can you tell us about the intelligence? What is it showing about the new threats to U.S. interests there?

BRENNAN: Well, I think it underscores the threat that Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula poses to U.S. interests. I spoke with our ambassador in Sana’a, Steve Seche, there earlier this morning and last night, looked at the intelligence that’s available as far as the plans for Al Qaida to carry out attacks in Sana’a, possibly against our embassy, possibly against U.S. personnel, decide that it was the prudent thing to do to shut the embassy, but we’re working very closely with the Yemeni authorities to address the threat that is out there. But, again, it just demonstrates that Al Qaida is determined to carry out these attacks and more determined to thwart those attacks.

MORAN: There’s a live threat, there’s an active threat?

BRENNAN: There is. Al Qaida has several hundred members, in fact, in Yemen, and they’ve grown in strength. That’s why, from the very first day of this administration, we’ve been focused on Yemen. I’ve traveled out to Yemen twice, talked with President Salih, in fact, just this past week. We’re continuing this dialogue. We’ve provided equipment, training. We’re cooperating very closely.

So this is something that we’ve known about for a while. We’re determined to destroy Al Qaida, whether it’s in Pakistan, Afghanistan or in Yemen, and we will get there.

MORAN: And there’s a report that the British and -- and the United States are now setting up a counterterrorism police force in Yemen. The efforts that you’ve described, counterterrorism police force, is this evidence that this is a new front? And does it require more American boots on the ground in Yemen?

BRENNAN: Well, we’ve been investing in Yemen for many, many months now, and we’re working very closely not just with the Yemenis, but with our international partners, with the British, with the Saudis, and others to make sure that we provide the Yemeni government the wherewithal to carry out this fight against Al Qaida.

So it’s not a new front. It’s one that we’ve known about. It’s one that we’ve been able to make tremendous, I think, progress and gains. Just this past month, we and the Yemenis were able to identify the location of some of these Al Qaida operatives and commanders and leaders, successful strikes that were carried out, and there are several of the Al Qaida members, operatives, and the senior leaders who are no longer with us today as a result of those actions.

Transcript: Face the Nation (1-3-2010)

Complete transcript. Excerpt below:

SCHIEFFER: Thank you. Well, let’s get right to the big story. And the news overnight of course was that the U.S. embassy and the British embassy in Yemen had been closed because of a security threat.

David Martin, what have you been able to find out about this?

MARTIN: Usually when you close an embassy, it’s because there has been chatter on the Internet and on cell phones about some sort of vague attack against Western interests. That’s different from what almost happened on Christmas Day in Yemen.

There was a specific plot to attack the American embassy on Christmas Day, and the U.S. preempted that attack with an air strike of its own. It launched jets off a carrier and cruise missiles from ships offshore. And it hit two training camps in Yemen.

And General David Petraeus has said that they intercepted four suicide bombers who were on their way to the capital. And they also killed some senior al Qaeda in Yemen operators. So when you look at that and you remember what else happened on Christmas Day, namely the near-miss on the bombing of the airliner in-bound to Detroit, Yemen -- al Qaeda in Yemen really was planning a Christmas surprise.

SCHIEFFER: So what you’re telling us here is these were U.S. aircraft flying off a U.S. carrier that carried out the strike. We heard about that they had -- that there had been some strikes, but the credit seemed to be going to the Yemenis. This was a U.S. operation?

MARTIN: It was. The Yemenis gave the green light. It was done with their permission. But this was an American strike conducted with American intelligence and designed to preempt an attack against an American target.

SCHIEFFER: But apparently, Bob Orr, they still think the threat is out there because today both the British embassy and the American embassy in Yemen have been closed. What about this guy that was caught on this attempt on the U.S. airliner? He has been talking a lot since they took him into captivity.

ORR: After he was arrested, we’re talking about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man on Northwest Flight 253. After he was arrested, he almost immediately gave up everything to the FBI. In fact, he was so cooperative, that one investigator said it was almost like he was bragging. And there was some fear that maybe he was spreading disinformation.

It turns out so far that the story he has told has checked out every step of the way. He said he went to Yemen, check. He said he got explosives there. Said he trained with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula there.

He told us one thing that’s very haunting -- or he told investigators (INAUDIBLE). And that is that when he was training in Yemen, he trained with a number of other people. He didn’t know how many. He called them his brothers. He said though we were segregated. And he felt that was because he wasn’t supposed to know too much about what other people were up to.

If you take that information at face value, you have to assume there may be something out there.

Full-Body Scanners: British Airports Now Using Them

Why did it take this latest incident, 8 years after 9-11, to employ them. Until recently airport security required us to take off our shoes. Obviously, the politicians are not stupid enough to require us to take off our underwear. I had been arguing for some time that the practice of removing shoes was a false sense of security. Now we have a new excuse that will not make us safer. We need a government that has an effective worldwide strategy for fighting terrorism. We need a new agency made up of skilled counter-terrorists. We need an agency that connects the dots. We obviously have a government that is clueless:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown says full-body scanners will be introduced in Britain's airports in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt of a U.S. airliner.

Brown told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday that all airport security would be increased in Britain, and all passengers even those only transiting through the country will have their hand luggage screened for traces of explosives.

The suspect in the failed Northwest Airlines bombing had changed planes in The Netherlands and gone through security but not through a full-body scanner.

Britain's main airport operator BAA says it has ordered full-body scanners and would introduce them as soon as possible. BAA operates Europe's busiest airport, Heathrow, as well as other British airports.

Heathrow and Manchester airports have had trials using the full-body scanners.
This individual should have been on the radar. It was laughable failure:
British intelligence officials knew that the Nigerian man suspected of trying to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner had ties to U.K. extremists did not consider him enough of a high risk to alert American authorities, a senior British official said Sunday.

Officials realized about a year after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came to London to study in 2005 that he was in contact with Islamic extremists whose communications were being monitored, a senior government official told The Associated Press on Sunday.

But there were no signs that Abdulmutallab wanted to target the United States or was considering turning toward violence, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work.

"It was clear he was reaching out to radical extremists in the U.K. but there was nothing to indicate he was violent," the official said. "There is a very large number of people in the U.K. who express interest in radical extremism but never turn to violence. He only pinged up on our radar because of other people we were interested in."