(The Washington Times) Al Qaeda terrorists are continuing to plan attacks against the United States and are seeking nuclear and other unconventional arms for the strikes, a senior Pentagon official told Congress yesterday. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told a joint House committee hearing that al Qaeda has conducted terrorist attacks against more than two dozen nations since September 11. “Al Qaeda has and will continue to attempt visually dramatic mass-casualty attacks here at home, and they will continue to attempt to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials,” Gen. Clapper said in discussing the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on threats to the United States. “And if they’re so successful in obtaining these materials, we believe they would use them.” He spoke before a joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Gen. Clapper said that al Qaeda has “reconstituted some of its command and support network” in tribal Pakistan along the Afghan border but that the estimates finding are “not a surprise.” “We are at war with an enemy not confined to national boundaries or a single ethnic group,” he said. “Our fight against extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world has kept our nation safe from attacks here at home.” Gen. Clapper warned that al Qaeda is trying to develop or acquire from rogue states nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and said “we can be certain that they will use such weapons against the United States at their first opportunity, especially, if they can, on American soil to kill our citizens, destroy our property, disrupt our economy and attempt to break our national will to resist their extremist objectives.” The testimony followed comments by President Bush on Tuesday that al Qaeda is “fighting us in Iraq and across the world and plotting to kill Americans here at home again.” “The primary concern is al Qaeda in South Asia organizing its own plots against the United States,” Edward Gistaro, a national intelligence officer who drafted the estimate, told the hearing. Mr. Gistaro said “we do not see” al Qaeda operatives working inside the United States. “Our concern that we see increased efforts on the part of al Qaeda to try and find, train and deploy people who could get into this country,” he said. Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the findings of the estimate, a consensus analysis of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, show “the news is not good.” “The recent NIE paints this picture clearly — an unstable region within the borders of Pakistan,” Mr. Skelton told the hearing. “It describes a strong and resurgent al Qaeda; and it warns of a heightened threat environment — one that is, in my humble opinion, unworthy of a superpower.” Mr. Skelton asked whether the estimate should prompting a review of the U.S. military force posture, U.S. modernization plans and whether policies should be changed to deal with a near-term threat scenario. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat and chairman of the intelligence committee, said the intelligence showing al Qaeda is regrouping contradicts Mr. Bush’s statements four years ago that al Qaeda was “on the run.” “The NIE released earlier this month indicates that today our intelligence community believes otherwise,” he said.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Al Qaeda’s safe haven in northwestern Pakistan is largely inaccessible to outside forces and unlikely to be eliminated soon by the U.S. or Pakistani military, top intelligence officials said on Wednesday. At a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pentagon intelligence chief James Clapper said the United States was not content to sit still while the militant network blamed for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington regenerated its strength in North Waziristan. “I think our objective will be to neutralize, not eliminate, but certainly make this safe haven — as we have the others — less safe and less appealing for AQ,” Clapper told a joint session of the House armed services and intelligence committees. But Clapper, undersecretary of defence for intelligence, presented the task of eliminating al Qaeda’s influence in the region as a long-term project that would hinge on U.S. economic aid to the local populace and contributions of military assistance including sophisticated surveillance equipment to the Pakistani military. “This is going to be a long-haul process,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll have any demonstrable change within (a) three-year time frame.” Added Clapper, “It’s not just … putting bombs on targets.” He and other administration officials spoke to lawmakers about al Qaeda’s emergence in Pakistan after White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend refused to rule out U.S. military action against al Qaeda. At a separate hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns reiterated the view that the United States would take unilateral action against al Qaeda in Pakistan under certain circumstances. But he stressed that Washington’s strong preference was to work with the Pakistani government. Burns also defended Bush’s request for $750 million over five years in new aid to help bring jobs and other development to the lawless region. He said the administration would ask Congress to allow duty-free imports from the border region to aid economic development. FAILED ACCORD The Bush administration released unclassified excerpts of a major intelligence report last week that concluded the United States faces a heightened threat from al Qaeda in part because of the Pakistan safe haven. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has deployed more troops to Waziristan where militant tribesmen, accused of harbouring al Qaeda and supporting the Taliban, have stepped up attacks after scrapping a 10-month-old peace deal with the government. Officials in the House session said Musharraf’s accord with tribal leaders in North Waziristan helped al Qaeda build up its safe haven but defended the agreement as a sincere but failed attempt to control militancy. Mary Beth Long, acting assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs, told lawmakers that Pakistan now has 100,000 troops in the area. But officials appeared to play down expectations that stepped up Pakistani military operations would lead to a full-scale assault on al Qaeda sites in a remote mountainous region populated by hostile and heavily armed tribes. “Al Qaeda is now in a part of Pakistan that is largely inaccessible to Pakistani forces, the Pakistani government. Always has been. And it is a very difficult operating environment for them,” said Edward Gistaro, the top U.S. intelligence analyst on transnational threats. “It is just a very difficult environment for outside forces to operate in,” he added.
(Investor’s Business Daily) Missile Defense: Everywhere you look these days, you see signs of nuclear proliferation. It’s a bad omen for the future — and another reason why the U.S. would be wise to get a missile defense system ready ASAP. It’s truly perplexing that our leaders in Washington would watch as rogue nations acquire nuclear weapons, then do nothing to protect us. Yet that’s what happened again Wednesday, when the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut $298 million from U.S. missile defense. That leaves just $80 million for a system that will cost $3.5 billion. Meanwhile: ** Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed his country “will never abandon” its nuclear program, while Russian scientists said Iran could start up its illegal Bushehr reactor next year. ** Saudi Arabia is secretly developing nuclear weapons in response to Iran’s growing threat, according to the Saudi Sawt Al-Salam Web site. As part of the effort, Pakistani scientists are working on a “massive underground nuclear center and missile base south of the capital of Riyadh,” it said. ** Pakistan, already a nuclear power, tested a cruise missile that could carry nuclear missiles. The Babur Hatf VII missile has a 435-mile range, enough to reach neighbors Iran and India. ** Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to “share” a radar system in Azerbaijan with the U.S. — not exactly a solution to U.S. concerns. Earlier, Putin threatened to aim missiles at Europe if nations there took part in a U.S. missile shield. Put bluntly, Russia is part of the threat, Putin’s posturing notwithstanding. As Martin Sieff, senior news analyst for UPI, noted, Russia’s strategic arsenal today has “at least 2,400 warheads — enough to obliterate every major population center in the Northern Hemisphere 10 times over.” Add to that the clear danger posed by nukes in North Korea and China, and the case for missile defense is overwhelming. To counter some of these threats, the U.S. has proposed building a very basic system, putting 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. Both countries enthusiastically embrace the plan. On Thursday, Britain said it would host a missile defense base. Germany and Japan also want a U.S. missile shield. Sadly, this is the program Congress wants to cut — even though our allies desperately want our help. Despite shrill protestations among Democratic politicians that missile defense “won’t work,” the rest of the world appears to strongly believe it will. As our own polling shows (see charts above), missile defense is also widely popular here in the U.S. — among all parties. Only in Congress does there seem to be a majority for keeping America vulnerable to terrorist threats and the possibility of nuclear annihilation.
U.K. terror charge dropped against doctor; ‘A mistake has been made,’ Australian prosecutor says of accused Indian
(AP) BRISBANE, Australia – Australia’s top prosecutor on Friday dropped a terror charge against an Indian doctor accused of supporting last month’s failed bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, Scotland. Prosecutors withdrew the charge against Mohamed Haneef — who faced up to 15 years in prison — in the Brisbane Magistrates Court after a review of the evidence by the federal Director of Public Prosecutions Damian Bugg found two major errors in the case. “In my view, there is insufficient evidence to establish the elements of the offense,” Bugg told reporters in Canberra, adding that he was satisfied there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction.” “On my view of the matter a mistake has been made,” he said. Haneef, 27, had been charged with providing reckless support to a terrorist organization because last July he gave his mobile phone SIM card to his second cousin, Sabeel Ahmed. British police have charged Ahmed, 26, with withholding information that could prevent an act of terrorism. His brother, Kafeel Ahmed, is believed to have set himself ablaze after crashing into Glasgow Airport and remains in a Scottish hospital with critical burns. Errors
In Brisbane, prosecutor Alan MacSporran said authorities had erred in telling the court that Haneef’s SIM card had been discovered inside the vehicle used to attack the Glasgow airport. The card was found in the possession of Sabeel Ahmed in Liverpool, more than 185 miles from the attack scene. The second error related to claims that Haneef had lived with the Ahmed brothers in Liverpool before he moved to Australia from Britain last year. The trio had only spent time together in Britain. Haneef has denied knowing anything about the British bomb plot, and told police he only gave his SIM card to his cousin so he could take advantage of extra minutes left on the account. Haneef was arrested on July 2 as he tried to leave Australia for India. He told police he was rushing to join his family because his daughter had been born a few days earlier by emergency Caesarean section. A court ordered Haneef’s release on bail last week, but Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews kept him in prison by canceling his visa on character grounds, based on information provided by the federal police. Because he has no visa, Haneef will likely be moved to an immigration detention center in Sydney while he appeals the immigration minister’s decision. That case is due before a court on Aug. 8. If his appeal fails, Haneef could be deported to India. Andrews has said he stands by his decision to revoke Haneef’s visa, and was expected to hold a press conference later Friday.
(The Jerusalem Post) The US House of Representatives appropriations committee nearly doubled American funding for Israel’s Arrow and short-range missile defense programs this week, bringing the 2008 total to $150 million. The amount is not only more than last year’s $135 million, but comes earlier in the budget process, holding out the expectation that the allocation will be increased considerably more by the Senate before the final bill is voted on in the fall. Israeli officials see Wednesday’s funding boost as a sign of growing awareness of the risks that Israel faces from the likes of Hizbullah and Iran, as well as appreciation for the success of the Arrow program. “We welcome this important decision by the House Appropriations Committee,” Israel’s Ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor told The Jerusalem Post. “This would support Israel’s efforts to defend itself against the growing missile threats in the Middle East.” In previous years only the Senate has added to the Arrow funding request made by the administration – $70 million for each of the past two years. “The Arrow program is one of the most advanced missile defense systems around and has been proven to work in tests,” said Steve Rothman (D-|New Jersey,) a member of the appropriations committee who played a key role in pushing through the funds. “It provides essential protection against ballistic missiles for Israel’s civilian population, as well as US troops in the Middle East. In light of Iran’s open hostility toward the US and Israel, I consider increasing the effectiveness of the Arrow system to be essential to our defense.” The $70 million added by the House includes $25 million for co-production of the Arrow in the United States and $26 million to explore ways to upgrade the Arrow’s capabilities. Israel wants to improve the Arrow’s ability to intercept nuclear warheads at higher ranges. The last $19 million is directed at the short-range “David’s Sling” program, which is currently being developed to guard against missiles traveling distances upward of 40 kilometers. Before the House addition, the administration had slated only $7 million for the program. The House is due to vote on the defense budget bill next week, with the Senate expected to take it up in September. Despite widespread support for the measure, it could fall victim to a presidential veto if the funding gets tied to Iraq war restrictions unpalatable to the White House. Also in Congress on Thursday, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was set to take up the United Nations’s Human Rights Council’s performance. The committee last month approved legislation proposed by Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota) to end US funding of the council. Coleman has said that the watchdog group’s focus on Israel and failure to investigate other countries made it a “disaster” and that the council “has essentially one issue on its agenda – Israel. You’ve got countries like North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe, where you have state-sponsored brutality, and what we have is deafening silence.”
US Army eyes truck-mounted laser; The US Army is developing a truck-mounted laser weapon to destroy rockets, artillery shells and mortars
(BBC) Aerospace giant Boeing has been awarded a contract to start on the first phase of the project – designing a control system for the laser beam. The solid state laser weapon would eventually be mounted on a 10-tonne, eight-wheel-drive tactical truck. The American military has several programmes underway to develop battlefield lasers. Under the Phase I contract, worth $7m (£3m), Boeing will develop a preliminary design for a “rugged beam control system” to be used on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT). The control system is needed to accurately point and focus a laser beam on an enemy target. The objective of the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) programme is to demonstrate that a mobile, solid state laser can effectively counter rockets, shells and mortars. Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, said the contract was important because “it supports a cornerstone of the Army’s high-energy laser programme”. He added: “We believe this is the next step for developing a weapon system that can change the face of the battlefield.” Directed energy Solid state, electrically powered lasers are one of several “directed energy” technologies being investigated by the US Army. Chemically powered lasers have been able to achieve megawatts (one megawatt equals one million watts) of power; but they are large and heavy, and require a constant supply of chemical fuels. Solid state lasers may lack this power potential, but they tend to be compact and lightweight, holding promise for the development of vehicle-mounted weapons. Massachusetts-based Textron Systems and Northrop Grumman are the only companies currently working on solid state lasers for the US military. In 2005, they were selected to separately develop a 100 kilowatt (kW) solid state laser by 2010. A group at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has hit 67 kilowatts (kW) of average power in the laboratory with a pulsed solid state laser. Pulsed laser beams switch on and off very rapidly. The US military is said to favour a continuous wave (CW), or “always-on” laser. The lethality of a laser comes from more than just the power level. Achieving good beam quality – a measure of how well-focused the laser beam is – is paramount, as is the duration of the beam, or its “run time”. The Boeing contract contains options that, if exercised, will call for the company to build and test part of the beam control system integrated on its vehicle platform. The options would increase the contract cost for the total programme to approximately $50m (£24m). Boeing is also one of several companies, including Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, building the Airborne Laser (ABL) for the US military. The ABL consists of a high-energy, chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted on a modified 747 freighter aircraft. It is designed to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles in their early boost phase, when they are most vulnerable.
ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Friday firmly rejected US threats to strike militants holed up near the Afghan border, saying that American forces will not be allowed to operate in the area. Military ruler Musharraf’s remarks come amid mounting anger at warnings from key ally Washington that it will not allow Osama bin Laden’s rejuvenated terror network to use the South Asian nation’s e,frontier regions as a safe haven. “Inside Pakistani territory only Pakistani forces will operate and they are fully capable of performing this task,” Musharraf told reporters as he left for a visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “We are fighting extremism and terrorism in our national interest and we do not have to please anyone,” state media quoted him as saying. Musharraf also rejected the US allegations that Al-Qaeda is regrouping in Pakistan’s rugged tribal belt, where hundreds of Islamic militants took shelter after US-led forces overthrew Afghanistan’s Taliban regime in 2001. “A small number of Al-Qaeda elements present in the area are on the run and we are pursuing them,” the president said. Pakistan has bristled against the recent string of US threats of strikes against Al-Qaeda, calling them “irresponsible and dangerous”, while hundreds of people have fled the tribal zone fearing military action. The country has been gripped by a wave of suicide attacks and other militant violence since a bloody army operation to clear militants from Islamabad’s Red Mosque earlier this month. More than 200 people have died in the attacks. Senior US State Department troubleshooter Nicholas Burns said this week that Washington would retain the option of targeting Osama bin Laden’s terror group in Pakistani-Afghan border areas in some circumstances. The White House’s top counter-terrorism official Frances Townsend on Sunday caused a stir by refusing to rule out a military incursion into the remote Pakistani regions close to the border with Afghanistan.
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) – He seemed in many ways a typical college student—president of his fraternity at Southern Illinois University, an aspiring rapper who wrote about finding a girlfriend who could cook. His said his favorite book was the Bible. But Olutosin Oduwole also had not-so-typical interests, like buying and selling guns on the Internet.
He allegedly sold a fully automatic M-16 assault rifle he never owned. And a court document says he was seen walking around campus wearing a bullet-resistant vest in May.
Then came the news this week: Police said they found a handwritten note inside his car threatening a “murderous rampage” similar to the one at Virginia Tech that left 32 people and the gunman dead.
On Wednesday—Oduwole’s 22nd birthday—he pleaded not guilty to making a terrorist threat, a felony. He was being held Thursday on $1.1 million bail.
While Oduwole’s friends and others say the purchase of weapons and his sometimes violent rap lyrics add up to a misunderstanding, police suspect he had violence on his mind.
“The note was just one piece of the puzzle,” said Otis Steward, an investigator who said Oduwole’s allegedly fraudulent sale of a gun he never owned and his recent thirst for more firepower raised the level of police concern.
At the time of Oduwole’s arrest, federal authorities had been investigating a gun dealer’s concerns that Oduwole seemed overly eager to receive guns he had purchased online.
That alleged plot was revealed, authorities say, on a piece of paper found inside Oduwole’s car July 20. Rap lyrics were scrawled on one side of the sheet and part of the flipside, where authorities found the words that troubled them.
The note, police say, demanded payment to a PayPal account, threatening, “if this account doesn’t reach $50,000 in the next seven days then a murderous rampage similar to the VT shooting will occur at another highly populated university. THIS IS NO JOKE.”
The writer suggested the shooting would target a “prestigious” university, but that word was crossed out. There was no direct mention of the 13,500-student Southern Illinois University in this city about 20 miles northeast of St. Louis.
At Oduwole’s university apartment, police said they discovered a loaded gun and, according to a search warrant, a photograph of Oduwole flashing gang signs.
Oduwole was legally entitled to purchase the firearms, but federal authorities, with help from the dealer, intercepted the weapons.
His arrest was an “absolute misunderstanding,” said Steve Holman, a 24-year-old Southern Illinois University senior who identified himself as Oduwole’s friend.
John Cernkovich, who until Wednesday was Oduwole’s attorney in the fraud and theft case, said his client was a victim of circumstances.
“I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I understand that in this environment—post Sept. 11—authorities don’t take any chances,” he said.
July 26,2007 (AFP) A teenager and four university students were sentenced to between two years and three years in custody in Britain Thursday after Islamist extremist material was found on their computers.
The three students from Bradford University in northern England were arrested after Mohammed Irfan Raja ran away from his home in London last year, leaving a note for his parents saying he was going to fight abroad.
Raja, who is now 19 but was still at school at the time, had been recruited by the students on the Internet and exchanged Islamist extremist propaganda before going to stay with them, London’s Central Criminal Court was told.
He never went and returned to the family home after three days, but prosecutors said all four were planning to go to Pakistan to train for holy war or “jihad” in Afghanistan.
Sentencing judge Peter Beaumont told them they had become “intoxicated” by extremist propaganda, despite being born in Britain and having enjoyed the benefits of freedom of speech and worship.
“You were intoxicated by the extremist nature of the material each one of you collected — the songs, the images and the language of violent jihad. And so carried away by the material were you that each of you crossed the line.
“That is exactly what the people that peddle this material want to achieve and exactly what you did.”
The custodial sentences were designed to “stop them and you and to protect this country and its citizens abroad”, he added.
Raja, from Ilford, east London, was given two years in a young offenders’ institution while Awaab Iqbal, 20, from Bradford, and Aitzaz Zafar, also 20, from Rochdale, north-west England, were both given three years’ detention.
Usman Ahmed Malik, 21, from Bradford, was sent to prison for three years and Akbar Butt, of Southall, west London, was given 27 months’ detention.
They had denied the charges.
The case comes amid concern at the extent of radicalisation of young British-born Muslims following the 2005 suicide attacks on London’s public transport system by four “home-grown” bombers that killed them and 52 others.
Particular worries have been expressed about the recruitment by so-called radicals at British universities and a request by the government to monitor student activity as recent cases had shown many defendants to be well-educated.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An aircraft mechanic sent e-mails claiming he would detonate explosives at a Utah air force base and kill six hostages if the United States did not remove all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, authorities said Wednesday. Five buildings at Hill Air Force Base were evacuated Tuesday after the e-mails began surfacing, but the threat turned out to be unfounded and no hostages were taken, FBI agent Tim Fuhrman said. William Stiffler, 39, was unarmed when he was arrested Tuesday in Malad, Idaho, as he prepared to board an employee shuttle to the base, Fuhrman said. Stiffler has worked on C-130 planes at Hill since 2001. He was charged with threatening to kill and injure people. He appeared Wednesday in federal court in Salt Lake City and was returned to jail to await a detention hearing Friday. The case was assigned to defense attorney Bob Steele, who said he had just met Stiffler shortly before the court appearance. Fuhrman said FBI headquarters received an e-mail from Stiffler about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, followed by another with similar content three hours later. The first e-mail came from a computer on the base, and the second from a computer at Stiffler’s home, according to court documents. Authorities said Stiffler acknowledged sending the e-mails. The six people Stiffler claimed were hostages included children. They had a connection to Stiffler but were not affiliated with the base, the FBI agent said. All were found unharmed. Stiffler didn’t identify himself in the e-mails, but Fuhrman said the FBI was familiar with him. He did not elaborate on why. Linda Medler, vice commander of the 75th Air Base Wing, said all 24,000 employees at the base undergo a background check. It was unclear if Stiffler has a criminal record. “This one was pretty unexpected,” Medler said. The maximum penalty for conviction on a federal charge of threatening to kill and injure people is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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