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Author Topic: Shooting at Ft. Hood Texas 11/05/09 13 dead, 43 wounded-(Murder Charges)  (Read 612636 times)
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Monkey All Star Jr.
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« Reply #1000 on: January 03, 2010, 06:33:21 PM »

US, UK shut Yemen embassies
Last updated 07:47 04/01/2010

The U.S. embassy in Yemen, seen here, is closing over Al Quaeda threats linked to the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 terror plot. Britain is also closing its embassy in Yemen.

EMBASSIES CLOSED: Both the US and British embassies in Yemen have been shut after al Queda threats.

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The US and Britain have closed their embassies in Yemen in the face of al Qaeda threats, after both countries announced an increase in aid to the government to fight the terror group linked to the failed attempt to bomb a US airliner on Christmas Day.

The confrontation with al Qaeda's offshoot in Yemen has gained new urgency since the 23-year-old Nigerian accused in the attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told American investigators he received training and instructions from the group's operatives in Yemen.

US President Barack Obama said on Saturday that the al Qaeda offshoot was behind the attempt.

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said the American Embassy, which was attacked twice in 2008, was shut on Sunday because of "indications al Qaeda is planning to carry out an attack against a target inside of San'a, possibly our embassy."

"We're not going to take any chances" with the lives of embassy personnel, Brennan said. A statement on the embassy's website announcing the closure did not say how long it would remain closed.

In London, Britain's Foreign Office said its embassy was closed for security reasons. It said officials would decide later whether to reopen it on Monday.

The closure comes as Washington is dramatically stepping up aid to Yemen to fight al Qaeda, which has built up strongholds in remote parts of the impoverished, mountainous nation where government control outside the capital is weak.

Over the weekend, General David Petraeus, the US general who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced that Washington this year will more than double the US$67 million in counterterrorism aid that it provided Yemen in 2009.

On Saturday, Petraeus met with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to discuss coordination in the fight against al-Qaida.

Britain announced on Sunday that Washington and London will fund a counterterrorism police unit in Yemen. Britain will also host a high-level international conference on January 28 to come up with an international strategy to counter radicalisation in Yemen.

The US also provided intelligence and other help to back two Yemeni air and ground assaults on al Qaeda hide-outs last month, reported to have killed more than 60 people. Yemeni authorities said more than 30 suspected militants were among the dead.

The US has increasingly provided intelligence, surveillance and training to Yemeni forces during the past year, and has provided some firepower, a senior US defence official has said.
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Some of that assistance may be through the expanded use of unmanned drones, and the US is providing funding to Yemen for helicopters and other equipment. Officials, however, say there are no US ground forces or fighter aircraft in Yemen.

On Thursday, the embassy sent a notice to Americans in Yemen urging them to be vigilant about security.

Yemeni security officials said over the weekend that the country had deployed several hundred extra troops to Marib and Jouf, two mountainous eastern provinces that are al Qaeda's main strongholds in the country and where Abdulmutallab may have visited.

US and Yemeni investigators have been trying to track Abdulmutallab's steps in Yemen, which he visited from August until December 7. He was there ostensibly to study Arabic in San'a, but he disappeared for much of that time.

Yemeni media also reported that the coast guard was increasing patrols to stop any incoming militants after an al Qaeda-linked insurgent group in Somalia, al-Shabab, claimed last week that it would send its fighters to help the terror group's offshoot there.

Al Qaeda fighters have dramatically increased their presence in Yemen over the past year, taking advantage of the San'a government's weak control over much of the country.

Tribes hold sway over large areas, and many of them are discontented with the central government and have given refuge to al Qaeda fighters, both Yemenis and other Arabs coming from Saudi Arabia or war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, was the scene of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, and in the years after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the Yemeni government worked with Washington to crack down on al Qaeda figures on its soil.

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Monkey All Star Jr.
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« Reply #1001 on: January 03, 2010, 06:44:35 PM »

Video:  al-Qaida Threat Closes U.S. Embassy in Yemen

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« Reply #1002 on: January 03, 2010, 07:05:21 PM »

US toughens screening for US-bound flights

By Jo Biddle (AFP)

WASHINGTON — US officials Sunday toughened security measures for all US-bound airline passengers, and warned those traveling from 14 targeted nations would have to undergo mandatory tight screening.

The new measures came in the wake of the botched Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines plane heading from Amsterdam to Detroit which has forced many nations to boost airport security.

All passengers flying into the United States from abroad will be subject to random screening or so-called "threat-based" screens, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) said in a statement.

But it further mandated that "every individual flying into the US from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening."

The tough rules go into effect from midnight Sunday (0500 GMT Monday) and follow the failed plane attack blamed on a 23-year-old Nigerian who had recently traveled to Yemen to train with Al-Qaeda.

Suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reportedly boarded the flight at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport after flying in from Lagos, Nigeria.

Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are currently the only four countries deemed by the State Department to be state sponsors of terrorism.

But a senior administration official told AFP the mandatory stringent measures, which would include pat-downs and enhanced screening, would apply to all passengers traveling from or via a total of 14 countries, including Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

He refused to reveal the remaining four nations.

According to the US prosecutors, Abdulmutallab tried to bring down the Northwest Airlines Airbus A330 using a device containing the explosive PETN, also known as pentaerythritol.

Stitched into his underwear, it was not spotted by the traditional metal detectors. It failed to go off properly, but sparked an on-board fire put out by passengers.

Dutch officials have said they now plan to put full-body scanners into use within three weeks, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Sunday British airports were going to gradually introduce such equipment.

"We have recognized that there are new forms of weapon that are being used by Al-Qaeda so we've got to respond accordingly," Brown said.

US President Barack Obama on Saturday accused Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Yemen-based cell of Osama bin Laden's group, of targeting the Northwest jet carrying 290 people.

But amid questions over the failures in US security, his top counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan said there had been no evidence which would have detected the plot sooner.

"There was no smoking gun. There was no piece of intelligence that said this guy is a terrorist and is going to get on a plane... None whatsoever," Brennan told Fox News Sunday.

The terror scare has prompted Obama to order a review of intelligence and security operations, and he will meet with spy chiefs and top officials Tuesday to discuss the findings.

The United States and Britain meanwhile closed their embassies in the Yemeni capital on Sunday, as Brennan said there were indications "Al-Qaeda is planning to carry out an attack against (a) target inside of Sanaa, possibly our embassy."

But Brennan indicated the United States was not opening a new front against Al-Qaeda in Yemen and has no plans to send troops there.

"I wouldn't say we're opening a second front. This is a continuation of an effort that we had underway, as I said, since the beginning of the administration," said Brennan.

Brennan also accused a radical Yemeni cleric, Anwar al-Awlaqi, of trying to "instigate terrorism" saying he was linked to both the plane bomb plot and the shooting that killed 13 people at the Fort Hood army base in November.

"Mr Awlaqi is a problem. He's clearly a part of Al-Qaeda in (the) Arabian Peninsula. He's not just a cleric. He is in fact trying to instigate terrorism."

Meanwhile, the family of Abdulmutallab, who is the son of a wealthy banker, have said they will travel from northern Nigeria to Detroit to attend his arraignment due on Friday.

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« Reply #1003 on: January 03, 2010, 07:22:24 PM »

Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab superimposed over an image of a airplane, with Arabic script which translates in English, beginning with the white script over the blue background, as: "Al-Qaida group in the Arabian Peninsula the Operation of the Mujahid brother Umar al-Farouk the Nigerian," and in the red script, below: "in retaliation to the American aggression on Yemen." (AP Photo)

Yemen Slideshow:

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« Reply #1004 on: January 03, 2010, 07:32:03 PM »

Intelligence Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

President Obama doesn't need an investigation to figure out how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab got on a Detroit-bound plane.


Intelligence about terror threats rarely comes on such a silver platter: A Nigerian banker went to the U.S. Embassy in Lagos to warn that his son had fallen under "the influence of religious extremists based in Yemen" and was a security risk. This came after months of U.S. intelligence intercepts about al Qaeda plans for an attack using a Nigerian man. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab paid for his ticket with cash and didn't check any luggage.

Yet a headline in the Washington Post summed up the current state of our intelligence: "Uninvestigated Terrorism Warning About Detroit Suspect Called Not Unusual."

President Obama promises to investigate what went wrong, but there's no big mystery. He should simply review testimony put in the public record in early December, before the Christmas Day incident. Sen. Joe Lieberman's Homeland Security Committee heard an explanation of how U.S. intelligence agencies decide when to put suspected terrorists on a watch list or a no-fly list.

Timothy Healy, the head of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, explained the unit's "reasonable suspicion" standard like this:

"Reasonable suspicion requires 'articulable' facts which, taken together with rational inferences, reasonably warrant a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities, and is based on the totality of the circumstances. Mere guesses or inarticulate 'hunches' are not enough to constitute reasonable suspicion."

If this sounds like legalistic language, it is. Indeed, a quick Web search was a reminder that this language is adapted from Terry v. Ohio, a landmark Supreme Court case in 1968 that determined when Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches allows the police to frisk civilians or conduct traffic stops. In other words, foreign terrorists have somehow now been granted Fourth Amendment reasonableness rights that courts intended to protect Americans being searched by the local police. Thus was Abdulmutallab allowed on the airplane with his explosives.

The difference between law-enforcement procedures and preventing terrorism could not be clearer. If a well-respected banker takes the initiative to come to a U.S. embassy in Nigeria to report that he thinks his son is a terrorist, we expect intelligence officers to make "hunches," such as that this person should have his visa reviewed and be searched before getting on a plane. Information is our defense against terrorism, but evidence of terror plots is often incomplete, which is why intelligence requires combining facts with hunches.

The result of prohibiting hunches was that Abdulmutallab was waved through. Information about suspected terrorists flows into a central Terrorist Screening Database, which is then analyzed by the Terrorist Screening Center, where FBI agents apply the "reasonable suspicion" standard to assign people to various watch lists including "selectee" lists and the "no-fly" list. It's at this point where an approach based on domestic law enforcement trump prevention, undermining the use of information.

Aside from concluding that we are misapplying a reasonableness test, the Abdulmutallab investigation likely will conclude that information in the databases of the National Security Agency, CIA and State Department weren't properly mined to connect dots. His name went onto the list of 400,000 people who might have links to terror, but not the list of 14,000 subject to multiple screenings before boarding an airplane or the list of 3,400 people who are not permitted to fly.

The Obama administration has leaned toward treating terrorism as a matter for domestic law enforcement, such as trying terrorists in civilian courts instead of in military tribunals. But this legalistic culture also undermined intelligence in the Fort Hood case in November. The FBI knew that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been exchanging emails with a Yemen-based imam with ties to the 9/11 hijackers. The agency, operating by the standards of domestic law enforcement instead of applying information to prevention, surmised that the "content was explainable by his research" and failed to warn the Army of its potential risk.

In contrast, British authorities last May denied Abdulmutallab the right to re-enter the United Kingdom, where he had been president of an Islamic Society while in college. In Britain, domestic intelligence is the job of M15, which unlike the FBI has no power to arrest or responsibility for criminal prosecutions. Instead, it is free to focus on gathering intelligence, making hunches and preventing wrongdoing. The British ban on Abdulmutallab didn't require any FBI-like "reasonable suspicion" test.

After 9/11, the key political issue that went unresolved was what Americans expect from their intelligence agents. We send the mixed message that we want them to prevent attacks, but only if they operate under strict restrictions based on rules crafted for domestic law enforcement.

We have a choice. We can limit how information is used or we can allow smart use of information to prevent attacks. If we continue to choose to limit how information can be used in our defense, we shouldn't be surprised when our defenses fail.

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« Reply #1005 on: January 03, 2010, 07:47:36 PM »

New U.S. air traveler screening focuses on 14 nations

Sun Jan 3, 2010 7:33pm EST

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Air travelers from Nigeria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and nine other countries will face full-body pat downs before boarding airliners under new security screening procedures targeting foreign passengers announced by the United States on Sunday.

The procedures, which go into effect on Monday, follow the botched Christmas Day bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner blamed on a Nigerian man who U.S. officials believe was trained by al Qaeda in Yemen.

Passengers traveling from or through nations listed as "state sponsors of terrorism" -- Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria -- as well as Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen will face heightened screening, an Obama administration official said.

Nearly all of those are Muslim countries.

Such passengers will be patted down, have their carry-on luggage searched and could undergo advanced explosive detection or imaging scans, according to the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity.

The Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. agency responsible for air security measures, announced the "enhanced screening" procedures, adding that any passengers on U.S.-bound flights could be subjected to random security searches.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, was arrested by U.S. authorities after being accused of carrying a bomb sewn into his underwear onto a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25. He got through security screening in Amsterdam, and was subdued by passengers and crew after trying to blow up the plane.

President Barack Obama said on Friday it appeared Abdulmutallab was a member of al Qaeda and had been trained and equipped by the Islamic militant network in Yemen.


The announcement of the new security steps comes amid rising criticism by U.S. Republicans and others that American diplomatic and intelligence officials failed to prevent the December 25 incident despite having evidence about Abdulmutallab.

The new rules apply to anyone with a passport from any of the 14 countries, and anyone stopping in those countries, the administration official said.

The Transportation Security Administration said it issued security directives to all U.S. and international airlines with inbound flights to the United States that would include random screening of passengers. This random screening policy applies to any airport in the world for flights coming to the United States, the official said.

"Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening," the agency said in the statement.

"The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S.-bound international flights," it added.

U.S. intelligence officials have said they believe that al Qaeda leaders are hiding out in Pakistan after being chased from Afghanistan during the war that began in 2001 in the weeks after the group's September 11 attacks on the United States. Most of the men who carried out the September 11 hijackings of U.S. airliners were Saudi-born.

Yemen also is emerging as a major area of al Qaeda activity, according to security experts.

(Writing by Deborah Zabarenko, editing by Will Dunham)

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« Reply #1006 on: January 03, 2010, 07:53:40 PM »

Desperate Somalis pursue asylum via 'back-door' route to United States
Mohamed Kheire

AMY TAXIN Associated Press Writer

January 2, 2010 | 8:26 p.m.

LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) — The asylum seeker from Somalia hung his head as an immigration judge grilled him about his treacherous journey from the Horn of Africa. By air, sea and land he finally made it to Mexico, and then a taxi delivered him into the arms of U.S. border agents at San Diego.

Islamic militants had killed his brother, Mohamed Ahmed Kheire testified, and majority clan members had beaten his sister. He had to flee Mogadishu to live.

The voice of the judge, beamed by videoconference from Seattle, crackled loudly over a speaker in the mostly empty courtroom near the detention yard in the desert north of Los Angeles. He wanted to know why Kheire had no family testimony to corroborate his asylum claim.

Kheire, 31, said he didn't have e-mail in detention, and didn't think to ask while writing to family on his perilous trek.

It seemed like the end of Kheire's dream as he waited for the judge's ruling. He clasped his hands, his plastic jail bracelet dangling from his wrist, and looked up at the ceiling, murmuring words of prayer.

Kheire is one of hundreds of desperate Somalis in the last two years to have staked everything on a wild asylum gamble by following immigration routes to the United States traditionally traveled by Latinos.

With the suspension of a U.S. refugee program and stepped-up security in the Gulf of Aden and along Mediterranean smuggling routes, more overseas migrants from Somalia are pursuing asylum through what one expert calls the "back door."

"The U.S. has closed most of the doors for Somalis to come in through the refugee program so they've found alternative ways to get in," said Mark Hetfield, senior vice president for policy and programs at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. "This is their new route."

About 1,500 people from around the world showed up in U.S. airports and on the borders seeking asylum during the 2009 fiscal year, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Somalis were the biggest group to make the journey, with most arriving in San Diego. More than 240 Somalis arrived during that period — more than twice the number from the year before.

Like Kheire, they have been shuttled to immigration detention centers in California while legal advocates have scurried to find lawyers and translators to help them navigate the country's immigration courts.

Many end up defending themselves. Those who lose may remain temporarily. Somalis may be deported, but immigrant advocates say authorities often do not send them back immediately because of difficulties making the trip.

For many, it has become increasingly dangerous to stay in Somalia. The African nation has not had a functional government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos.

Somali refugees say they are fleeing repression by armed militias defending majority clans and the Islamic militant group al-Shabab, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States.

"There are stories about houses being blown up by rocket launchers that you don't hear coming out of other countries as a normal occurrence," said James Duff Lyall, an attorney for the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, who has represented several Somali asylum seekers in Lancaster. "The consistently horrific stories are striking."

In 2007, Kheire's brother was shot in the head in his music store in Mogadishu after refusing to bow to al-Shabab's demands that he shutter the shop. A year later, Kheire's sister was beaten with a stick and left bleeding outside a school.

That night Kheire, whose family belongs to a minority clan, was visited by three men who rammed his chest with a rifle butt and debated whether to kill him.

Once they left, Kheire decided to leave. His wife and then-nearly 4-year old son went to stay with family. He sold his taxi and used the money to go to Kenya, where a smuggler arranged for him to travel to Dubai, then to Cuba, using fake documents.

He then went to Ecuador and Colombia, where he boarded a small boat with about 20 African migrants. It took them a week to reach Costa Rica. They traveled by night, bailing out sea water with plastic bins. During the day, they hid in forests along the shoreline and waited for smugglers to bring them food.

In Nicaragua, Kheire was herded into the back of a sweltering truck container for 18 hours, fearing he would die of suffocation or be caught by police.

In Guatemala, he crossed a river atop two rubber tires bound together to reach Tapachula, Mexico. He spent 12 days in immigration detention before authorities released him with a piece of paper ordering him to leave the country in 30 days. He would carry the paper on a plane to Tijuana and in the taxi to the U.S. border.

Immigration experts say such circuitous paths are routes of last resort.

"I always call it the back door," said Bob Montgomery, director of the San Diego office for the International Rescue Committee.

"When the refugee program is not robust, we see more people trying to come through the asylum system," he said.

Most Somalis have reached the United States — there are some 87,000 here — through U.S.-sponsored refugee resettlement programs. But the State Department in 2008 suspended a family reunification program for refugees over fraud concerns. The number of Somalis admitted by refugee programs dwindled to about 4,000 last year.

Those now traveling through Latin America are taking a path well-worn by asylum seekers from other countries. Immigration attorneys say they have worked with clients from Ethiopia and Iraq who also reached the United States via Mexico.

Ronald Smith, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said most asylum seekers arrive in U.S. airports — not on the southern border. However, asylum experts said more people may now be seeking to come here by land due to tighter travel restrictions.

"To get a flight from Africa to Europe is very hard. The easiest place to go is America," said Yahya Idardon, an asylum seeker who fled Somalia last year after his father and brother were killed. "Africa to Latin America is easy ... when you are going to Latin America, no one is concerned about you, no one is asking, so it is easy to go there and cross all these countries."

Once reaching the U.S. border in San Diego, Somalis are frisked and fingerprinted and screened by an asylum officer to gauge whether they have a credible fear of returning home.

They have then been shuttled to an immigration detention center until their cases go to court.

Roughly 80 Somalis are being held in Lancaster, a detention center 50 miles north of Los Angeles. Dozens more have been held in San Diego and the remote border town El Centro, immigration attorneys said.

In Lancaster, Somalis and other asylum seekers wear light green jail jumpsuits. There, Somalis take vegetarian meals, since their Muslim faith prevents them from eating the lunch meat served to other detainees.

Several Somalis said they never expected to be detained — especially since they didn't try to sneak across the border.

"They're coming to the United States, which is a symbol of freedom and democracy around the world," said immigration attorney Lyall, who represented Kheire. "They're not expecting to go to jail and be fed bologna sandwiches."

On Jan. 4, the government plans to start releasing many asylum seekers while they wait for their immigration cases to be heard. It is unclear how many Somalis will be let out as they must prove their identity and many don't have documents. And still others say they have nowhere to go even if they were freed, their attorneys said.

Compared with asylum seekers from other countries, Somalis have been more likely to win their cases, according to immigration court statistics.

But in the courtroom in Lancaster, Kheire spent the last few moments of his asylum hearing in agony, worried the judge would send him back to Mogadishu to face the threat of death — even after he had survived such a harrowing journey.

The attorneys for Kheire and the government sat quietly in the courtroom, listening to the judge read the ruling as Kheire prayed.

A Somali interpreter whispered urgently into Kheire's ear. He broke into a hesitant smile. He would be allowed to stay.

Kheire left the courtroom in his black, laceless sneakers and jail jumpsuit, escorted by sheriff's officials. Later that night, he was dropped off by authorities at a nearby train station. He had five dollars in his pocket.

"They said, 'This is America. Welcome to the United States of America,'" Kheire said.,0,1954786,full.story

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« Reply #1007 on: January 04, 2010, 10:42:43 AM »

Matt Cooke thankful for life after Fort Hood

By George Basler • • January 2, 2010, 7:30 pm

KILLEEN, Texas -- As a believer in God, Matthew Cooke knows he should forgive -- eventually.

The emotional and physical wounds are still too raw, two months after the former Chenango County resident was shot at point-blank range as he sat in a processing center at Fort Hood, Texas. The 30-year-old U.S. Army specialist was one victim of Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who opened fire Nov. 5, killing 13 people and wounding 30.

"I hope he's sentenced to life imprisonment, not death," said Cooke, who is recuperating at his home in Killeen. "Life imprisonment is better, so he could suffer more."

Cooke's goal for the New Year is recovering emotionally and physically from the shootings that left him with four wounds: two in his back, one that grazed his head and one that tore up his intestines. He underwent emergency surgery on that day and his injuries were substantial. His bladder was damaged and he lost four feet of his small intestine.

Cooke had recovered enough to go home from the Carl E. Darnell Army Medical Center just before Thanksgiving. Later, a bacterial infection that affected his kidneys put him back in the hospital for four days in mid-December. He's home again, but faces another major surgery during the first part of 2010.

In some ways, though, the emotional wounds are tougher to deal with than the physical ones.

Cooke's daily routine now includes taking two pills for anxiety, as well as other medications and Percocet, a painkiller, as needed. His moods can swing widely, and he can go "from being the nice Matt to being the angry Matt within seconds" as he deals with the pain, stress and memories, he acknowledged.

What makes the stress greater is that he witnessed the shootings at home in the United States, seemingly a place of security and comfort, not in combat.

"Being deployed twice to Iraq, you expect it over there," he said. "You don't expect it here."

To help soldiers at Fort Hood deal with the stress, the Pentagon has sent scores of psychologists, therapists and chaplains to counsel soldiers and their families.

They help some, but Cooke said: "I'll always have a memory of the shooting."

On the day of the memorial for the victims, Cooke watched the service on television from his hospital room and saw members of his unit, 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Brigade, honored.

"I started crying," he said.
Heard 'Allahu Akbar'

Cooke joined the Army 10 years ago after graduating from Afton High School, where he was voted the shyest member of his class. On the day of the shootings, he had gone to the Soldier Readiness Center to have blood work done prior to a scheduled deployment to Afghanistan.

Prior to that day, he had never had any contact with Hasan, the shooter.

"All of a sudden the shooting went off, and I heard the shouting, 'Allahu Akbar' (Arabic for God is Great),'" he said.

At first Cooke thought it was a training exercise. Then, the shooting got louder. He followed his training and dropped to the ground. Then, he noticed a fellow soldier, whom he identified as Sgt. Howard, with what looked like a wound to the chest. He crawled over and covered Howard's body with his own.

"I was filled with adrenaline. I really didn't feel the shootings," he said.

Another soldier, Pvt. Amber Barr, helped carry him to the truck that took him to Darnell medical center, Cooke remembers. He also remembers fellow solider, Sgt. Nicolle Brossard, helping to carry him from the vehicle to the front door of the hospital.

Doctors later said Cooke would have likely bled to death without Barr's action and the work of other soldiers outside the processing center who worked to stop the bleeding.

One good thing is he remained conscious and could tell doctors where he was hurting, Cooke said.

Following his surgery, Cooke woke up in the intensive care unit of the Scott & White Trauma Center in Temple, Texas, where he had been taken for the operation.

"I feel great I'm still alive. I believe God had a hand in it," he said. "When I covered him (Sgt. Howard), I believe God had a hand in that, too."
Doing his job

Matthew and Sara Cooke, Matthew's wife of nearly three years, aren't focused on New Year's resolutions as 2010 begins. They're locked in on something more basic: the family and Matt's recovery. The couple has a 14-month-old son, Gabriel. Matthew also has a 5-year-old son, Zachary, from a previous marriage.

As the wife of a soldier, Sara has seen her husband deployed to a combat zone, something that places a strain on a family.

When she rushed to see her husband on the day of the shooting, military personnel initially wouldn't allow her in the hospital because of a lockdown. She later was admitted briefly, under police escort, during Matthew's surgery.

"I'm so thankful he made it through," she said. "I don't know what I'd do without him."

As she talks about that traumatic day, Sara readily acknowledges she doesn't think she could have done what her husband did, covering a fellow soldier with his own body. The fact that he took this action makes her proud.

Since the shooting, Matthew has met with Sgt. Howard, who, in an emotional moment, thanked Cooke for saving his life.

The "thank you" meant a lot, Cooke said.

"I do consider myself a hero for saving his life," he said.

At the same time, he added: "I also consider myself someone who just did their job. I saw a wounded soldier and came to his side. I did what any other soldier would do."
Support from home

The shooting has led to an outpouring of support from well-wishers. Boxes of cards, letters and pictures filled his hospital room and now fill his home. There are too many to count.

Some of the most prized communications came from schoolchildren. Cooke specifically mentioned a package from a third-grade class in the Afton School District. Inside were letters and pictures. Service and fraternal organizations, such as the American Legion in Norwich, also sent letters. They are still coming to his home, after being forwarded by the Darnell medical center.

"It makes me realize people do care about soldiers," he said. "There are a lot of people I'm going to have to write back to."

Cooke, while not fully recovered, is strong enough to travel short distances. Over Christmas, he and his family visited his in-laws in Oklahoma, about a five-hour drive.

Still, Cooke and his family face some tough times over the next several months.

One will be major surgery -- hopefully his last -- to take place early in the year. He should be in the hospital for two weeks after that, followed by two weeks of recovery at home, Sara said. Then comes occupational and physical therapy at home.

Doctors are optimistic about the pace of his recovery, Cooke said. He will return to light duty after his therapy and hopes to be back to full strength within six months.

On the day of the shooting, he never really saw Hasan, he said. He was too focused on getting to the ground and helping Sgt. Howard, who was bleeding in front of him

Cooke may see Hasan up close in the coming year, however. That would happen if he's called to testify at the accused killer's trial. While he doesn't know if he will be called, Cooke is eager to testify.

Then, he will face a decision about staying in the Army.

That, however, is for another day. Today, Cooke is focused on the obvious.

"The doctors say I'm progressing," he said. "I'm just very, very grateful."


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« Reply #1008 on: January 04, 2010, 11:50:15 AM »

Yemen Says It Killed Militants as Three More Embassies Shut

Published: January 4, 2010

SANA, Yemen — Yemeni government forces killed two suspected Qaeda militants on Monday and wounded others in a firefight 25 miles north of the capital, Yemeni officials said, tying the militants to the continuing threats directed against the United States and British Embassies here.

Those embassies remained closed on Monday for a second day, and the French, German and Japanese embassies also closed.

The Yemeni forces were tracking Nazih al-Hanq, whom they suspected of belonging to the regional terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, when they came under fire in the city of Arhab, the officials said. They said that two of Mr. Hanq’s bodyguards were killed and perhaps three others wounded, but that Mr. Hanq escaped in the area between the villages of Al Hanq and Beit Boussan.

Arhab was the site of one of several strikes against militants on Dec. 17 that came after American officials, working closely with Yemeni authorities, obtained information that four suicide bombers were aiming at Western targets in Yemen. The strikes killed three of the suspected bombers and damaged two Qaeda training camps.

More security forces were visible Monday on the streets of Sana, the capital, and Yemeni officials said security was tightened at airports and foreign embassies. Not all international activity has halted. The Japanese national soccer team is here to play a match in the Asian Cup qualifying round.

The local Qaeda group was identified by President Obama as responsible for the attempt to bring down an international flight into Detroit on Christmas.

The Yemenis have been working more closely with American military intelligence officials and counterterrorism advisers for the last year, and carried out raids and air strikes against Al Qaeda on Dec. 17 and Dec. 24.

In Washington, American military and intelligence officials said they first picked up warnings of imminent attacks about three weeks ago, using information obtained from enhanced intelligence-sharing established with Yemen last year.

The information pointed to four suicide bombers headed to Sana to attack Western targets, possibly the American and British Embassies. The military strikes in December disrupted those attacks, the officials say.

The airstrikes and raids in December killed three of the suicide bombers, while a fourth was captured with his suicide vest still intact by Yemeni special operations forces searching through the rubble of the strikes, the American officials said.

Some of the information learned from the interrogation of the surviving suicide bomber, as well as from other sources, helped provide information for Dec. 24 strikes.

Those were on a site where American officials believed the two top Qaeda leaders in Yemen were attending a meeting with Anwar al-Awlaki. He is the radical American-born cleric who has been linked to the Fort Hood, Tex., killings. Mr. Awlaki survived, the Yemenis say.

President Obama’s counterterrorism chief, John O. Brennan, said in an array of Sunday television appearances that there were only “disparate bits and pieces of information” available to intelligence agencies about the suspect in the plane case, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. “There was no smoking gun piece of intelligence out there that said he was a terrorist,” Mr. Brennan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

On Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration issued new regulations that passengers from 14 nations would receive “full-body pat-down and physical inspection of property” before they can board a plane headed to the United States. Those countries include Pakistan, Nigeria and Yemen and the four nations still listed as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

President Obama, who has been in Hawaii over the holidays, was flying back to Washington on Monday.

He is to meet with top advisers in the Situation Room on Tuesday to go over the reviews of how intelligence agencies missed signs that could have raised a red flag on the Nigerian suspect, and how aviation security systems allowed the explosives onto the plane that was the target.

Mr. Brennan, who has been put in charge of reviewing American security measures in the wake of the thwarted attack, said that he was persuaded there were “plans for Al Qaeda to carry out attacks in Sana, possibly against our embassy, possibly against U.S. personnel.”

Mr. Brennan painted a picture of robust and innovative Qaeda operations in Yemen.

“Al Qaeda has several hundred members, in fact, in Yemen, and they’ve grown in strength,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Sunday’s decision to close the embassies came after a quiet 90-minute visit with Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American military commander responsible for the Middle East.

On Saturday, he delivered a message that administration officials described as one of support for Yemen’s unity — Mr. Saleh is battling separatist movements and is eager to have the use of American technology — and for its counterterrorism efforts. It was General Petraeus’s third trip to Yemen since he took up his post 14 months ago. American officials in Yemen said that the threat that led to the embassy closings was specific, but they offered no details.

The American Embassy in Sana has been a repeat target. Al Qaeda struck there with a car bomb in September 2008, leaving 19 people dead, including an 18-year-old American woman, members of Yemeni security forces and six militants.

Last January, gunmen in a car exchanged fire with the police at a checkpoint near the embassy, hours after it received threats of a possible attack by Al Qaeda, according to The Associated Press. No one was injured.

And in July, security was upgraded in Sana after intelligence reports warned of attacks.

After the 2008 embassy attack, the United States began to step up its military and security aid to Yemen, with some $67 million spent in fiscal 2009, a figure that General Petraeus said would more than double in 2010, to around $150 million, if Congress approved.

The security assistance last year paid for training and equipping Yemeni security forces, and the “sensitive support” of highly classified communication intercepts and satellite imagery.

How to step up aid to the Yemeni government — without creating such a heavy presence that it inspires others in the country to join the Qaeda affiliate’s ranks — will also be one of the first issues on Mr. Obama’s agenda this week.

David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Peter Baker from Honolulu.

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« Reply #1009 on: January 04, 2010, 11:59:27 AM »

Embassies shut after 'Yemen lost track of arms trucks'

The closure of three embassies in Yemen followed local security forces losing track of six trucks full of arms and explosives, say reports from Yemen.

France announced its mission in the capital Sanaa was shut on Monday, a day after the US and UK closed theirs.

It comes after threats from an al-Qaeda wing linked to an alleged plot to blow up a transatlantic plane over the US.

But the UK Foreign Office said it was unaware of such a threat, and denied it was the cause for the embassy closure.

Yemeni government sources, meanwhile, said their forces had shot dead two militants north of Sanaa.

A Yemen-based group called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) last week urged attacks on "crusaders" in embassies, as it claimed an alleged attempt to bomb a US airliner on Christmas Day.

The US shut its embassy in Sanaa on Sunday, citing "ongoing threats" by the militant organisation, and the UK followed suit.

On Monday, France shut its Yemen embassy, Japan suspended its consular service in Sanaa, and Spain restricted public access to its mission there.

According to Yemeni media, it comes after six trucks full of weapons and explosives entered the capital, and the security forces lost track of the vehicles.

Britain said on Sunday the shutdown was for unspecified security reasons.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardener says Western embassies in the region are a prime target for al-Qaeda.

The Yemeni authorities have tightened security measures at Sanaa's airport, as well as around a number of embassies.

Meanwhile, all travellers flying to America are now being subjected to tougher screening, introduced by the US government.

Passengers from 14 countries, including those the US deems state-sponsors of terrorism - Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria - will face extra searches.

Yemen and Nigeria - through which the main bomb plot suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, travelled - also face the new restrictions.

Passengers flying from other countries will be checked at random.

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« Reply #1010 on: January 04, 2010, 12:08:11 PM »

Yemen rules out US intervention

Yemen's foreign minister has ruled out direct US military intervention to tackle the al-Qaeda group operating in his country.

Abu Baker al-Qirbi made his remarks to Al Jazeera on Monday as the US and British embassies in the capital, Sanaa, remained closed to public following threats by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"Yemen is going to deal with terrorism in its own way, out of its own interests and therefore I don't think it will counterfire," al-Qirbi said.

"The negative impact on Yemen is if there is direct intervention of the US and this is not the case."

Yemen is battling to control an al-Qaeda movement estimated to have hundreds of fighters in the country, as well as so-called Houthi rebel fighters in the north of the country and a secessionist movement in the south.

Raid on al-Qaeda

At least two suspected al-Qaeda members were killed during a raid near Sanaa on Monday.

Officials said up to three other suspects had been wounded during the operation in the Arhab district, around 30km northeast of the capital.

The US and British embassies in the capital, Sanaa remained closed on Monday citing threats against foreign interests from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Security officials told The Associated Press news agency the raid was not connected to the threats that prompted the US and UK embassy closures.

The French embassy was also shut to the public on  Monday, while the Japanese mission suspended consular activities as Yemeni authorities increased security in the city.

John Brennan, the US president's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, warned on Sunday that "there are indications that al-Qaeda is planning an attack against a target in Sanaa".

Over the weekend, Barack Obama, the US president, accused Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsulaof arming and training a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a US airliner bound for the city of Detroit on Christmas Day.

The Yemen-based group, which claims to be affiliated with Osama bin Laden's organisation, had earlier claimed responsibility for the failed attack and called for  strikes on embassies in Yemen.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said that the failed attack was in response to a series of raids in western Yemen, which the groups says were carried out by US warplanes. Washington and Sanna have denied the claims.

The intensification of security efforts in Sanaa comes just days after the British government announced plans to join the United States in funding an "anti-terrorist" force in Yemen.

Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, has said he will hold a meeting in London on January 28 to discuss how to counter radicalisation in Yemen.

Economic aid

Al-Qirbi told Al Jazeera that the country needed development aid to improve social conditions in the country.

"Economic growth is a necessity for Yemen because one of the main challenges facing Yemen is to improve the standards of living, create jobs and fight poverty because these are the elements that contribute to extremism in Yemen," he said.

"Our first priority is development assistance and then we need also assistance to build and expand our counter-terrorism units"

Abu Baker al-Qirbi,
Yemeni foreign minister
"Our first priority is development assistance and then we need also assistance to build and expand our counter-terrorism units, equip them with all the logistic support they need.

"I know the Americans have committed more money for our counter-terrorism units and that is one area we need support in."

Hillary Mann-Leverett, a former US diplomat who worked at the national security council, told Al Jazeera that Yemen had long been a troubled state plagued by poverty and violence.

"The most important thing here for geopolitics globally and within the region, is that Yemen has been a fractured, desperately poor and deeply fractitious country that all the countries in the region and the superpowers have used as a battleground," she said.

But Mann-Leverett also said that the Obama administration's policies towards the region were partially to blame for threats against Washington and its allies.

"We have given the Saudis a green light to militarily intervene in Yemen and to characterise what is happening in Yemen as a Sunni-Shia war [with] the Saudis there to defend the Sunnis against craven Shia," she said.
"We're paying the price today of outsourcing our policy to the Saudis."

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« Reply #1011 on: January 04, 2010, 04:43:41 PM »

Extremists Online Discussed Blowing Up Planes Weeks Before Northwest Flight 253 Attempt

Online Extremists Recommended Methods Exactly Like Those Used by Abdulmutallab

JERUSALEM, Jan. 4, 2010

Extremist Internet forums discussed blowing up planes three weeks before the Detroit attempt -- and have also discussed ways of using deadly biological agents onboard planes.

Video:  What did he say that prompted the bomber's father to alert the CIA?

A private Israeli intelligence company told ABC News Monday there was a surge of online discussions in extremist Islamic forums about blowing up planes three weeks before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to bring down Northwest Flight 253. The discussions recommended using "improvised detonation chain" devices, exactly like the one used onboard the Detroit-bound flight.

The company has also tracked specific -- and in its view -- credible plans to attack planes using deadly biological agents.
Extremist Internet forums discussed blowing up planes three weeks before the Detroit attempt -- and have also discussed ways of using deadly biological agents onboard planes.

A private Israeli intelligence company told ABC News Monday there was a surge of online discussions in extremist Islamic forums about blowing up planes three weeks before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to bring down Northwest Flight 253. The discussions recommended using "improvised detonation chain" devices, exactly like the one used onboard the Detroit-bound flight.

The company has also tracked specific -- and in its view -- credible plans to attack planes using deadly biological agents.

Internet Forums Advocated Use of Biological Toxins

From those details and level of expertise displayed Aviran says he knew the threats were serious and sent a warning to his company's clients worldwide which include in his words, "Western governmental agencies."

At the same time he claims there have also been terrifying online exchanges about using aerosols filled with biological agents to attack planes.

Two individuals, both well-known members of extremist forums, according to Aviran, have been leading these discussions which include the use of Botulinum toxin. Botulinum is one of the deadliest substances known to mankind.

The two individuals have been participating in Islamic Internet forums for several years and are known to the intelligence gatherers at Terrogence.

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« Reply #1012 on: January 05, 2010, 06:38:20 PM »

Christmas Day Plot Reflects Failure to Connect Warning Signs, Officials Say

Terror analysts and officials say the failure to detect the Northwest Airlines plot ahead of time shows that warning signs were not properly shared among agencies and that the system in place may be flawed. The questions that are being raised about the lead-up to the incident are reminiscent of those raised in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting.
Evidence was mounting on a looming terror attack months ahead of the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day, but it was spread across so many agencies and so many countries that no single warning sign resulted in stopping the suspect from boarding an airplane to Detroit.

Terror analysts and officials say the failure to detect the plot ahead of time shows that warning signs were not properly shared among agencies and that the system in place may be flawed.

The questions being raised about the lead-up to the incident are reminiscent of those raised after the Fort Hood shooting, in which an Army psychiatrist with a record of questionable behavior and radical Muslim beliefs opened fire on his fellow soldiers, killing 13.

In those two incidents, the warning signs did not trigger preventive action: the dots were not connected and the plots were carried out.

"In both cases, there were enough signs and symptoms for anybody to diagnose there was a problem," said Michael Wildes, a former federal prosecutor who works at the immigration law firm Wildes & Weinberg. "In both cases, while they may have taken note, nobody was in a position to ... react adequately."
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      Officials: Protocol Followed, but System Failed to Prevent Terror Attempt

Wildes is among those who say that the administration is going to need to take a "big-picture" approach to fighting terrorism. The administration is already making changes to the way agencies process intelligence about terror suspects -- and it is being urged to act more quickly on evidence that comes across analysts' desks in the future.

During remarks Tuesday, President Obama said that the U.S. intelligence agencies had the details they needed but "failed to connect those dots" on the warnings about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

One brightly blinking warning sign involves radical Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki, who is tied to both the Fort Hood shooter and the Northwest suspect Abdulmutallab and whom U.S. intelligence has monitored since late 2008.

Fox News has learned that the cleric posted a blog on Oct. 7 that vaguely warned about an attack in the pipeline by declaring Yemen would be the "new front of Jihad."

"America cannot and will not win. The tables have turned and there is no rolling back of the worldwide Jihad movement," Awlaki wrote in the post. "And when this new front of Jihad starts in Yemen it might become the single most important front of Jihad in the world."

One source said he's almost certain that the 23-year-old Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian native who traveled to Yemen for several months in 2009, had direct contact with the American-born Awlaki.

In addition, telephone intercepts during this period spoke of a plot involving "The Nigerian," but they were not more specific.

The clearest warning may have come from Abdulmutallab's father, who went to the U.S. embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, in November after a phone call from his son in which, sources said, Abdulmutallab claimed it would be their last conversation.

The father, Umar Abdulmutallab, told U.S. officials that his son was missing, that he might be in Yemen and that he had extremist views. This information was the basis of a State Department cable, obtained by Fox News, that said Abdulmutallab "may be involved with Yemeni based extremists."

But while the National Counterterrorism Center then added his name to a terror watch list, the name was never directed to a smaller list that would have required secondary screening at an airport or prohibited him from getting on a plane.

His visa was also not revoked.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told "Fox News Sunday" that despite the after-the-fact scrutiny on missed signals, there was no "smoking gun" that would have sent the suspect hurtling onto everybody's radar screens.

But he acknowledged that dots were not connected.

"There was no piece of intelligence that said, 'This guy's a terrorist. He's going to get on a plane.' No, not whatsoever," Brennan said. "It was the failure to integrate and piece together those bits and pieces of information."

Brennan said there's no indication so far that any agency was hoarding information intentionally.
"There were some lapses. There were some human errors," he said.

Jim Harper, a member of a Department of Homeland Security privacy committee and scholar with the Cato Institute, said intelligence officials are dealing with an unfathomable amount of information about possible threats every day and that the warning signs about Abdulmutallab might not have been strong enough.

"It's obvious in hindsight but for the people who are actually looking at these reports they're trying to winnow through lots and lots of data points," he said. "I'm hard-pressed to say there's clear error in failing to pick this guy out."

Obama said a week ago in Hawaii that the warning from the suspect's father was not "effectively distributed" and that other "bits of information ... could have and should have been pieced together."

Obama met with agency heads Tuesday to discuss the results of internal reviews and reforms that are being put in place to avoid another terror attempt.

"When a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day, the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way. And it's my responsibility to find out why and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future," he said.

Fox News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.

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« Reply #1013 on: January 05, 2010, 06:43:28 PM »

Muslim Headscarf Case Leads to Guilty Plea

Produced by Chip Mitchell on Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Valerie Kenney, 54, faced a felony charge after her supermarket encounter with a Muslim woman.

Cook County authorities have dropped a hate-crime charge against a southwest-suburban woman who pulled on a Muslim woman’s headscarf.

Valerie Kenney has copped a plea for an incident November 7, two days after deadly shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.

The 54-year-old bank teller encountered 28-year-old stay-at-home mother Amal Abusumayah in a Tinley Park supermarket. Abusumayah says Kenney complained loudly about the Fort Hood rampage then yanked on her headscarf.

On Tuesday, Kenney pled guilty to misdemeanor battery and apologized to the victim. A judge ordered probation, a $2,500 fine, community service, and a course on managing anger and accepting diversity.

ABRAHAM: It gives her an opportunity to learn from her mistake.

That’s Christina Abraham of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

ABRAHAM: And we think this does send a message to the greater community that hate crimes are not going to be tolerated and that this sort of behavior is wrong.

Neither Kenney nor her attorney could be reached for comment about her plea bargain.

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« Reply #1014 on: January 05, 2010, 06:52:44 PM »


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« Reply #1015 on: January 05, 2010, 07:21:38 PM »

2009: The Year of Homegrown Jihad

CBN News 5 January 2010
By Erick Stakelbeck

From the Fort Hood massacre to the failed attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas day, Islamic jihadists have never been more active in their attempts to attack the U.S. Many of the plots were hatched by U.S. citizens -- homegrown jihadists.

Exibit A: Five middle class friends from the Washington, D.C., suburbs: one was a dental student at a local university, all were praised as "good kids" by leaders of their northern Virginia mosque.

"I have always known these kids as fun loving, career focused children that had a bright future ahead of them," said Mustafa Abu Maryam, youth coordinator of the young men’s mosque in Alexandria, Va.

CBN News Terror Analyst Erick Stakelbeck talked with Pat Robertson on Tuesday's "The 700 Club" about the growing threat of homegrown jihad. Click play for the interview.

Now, a good part of that "bright" future may be spent behind bars. The men traveled to Pakistan in November to link up with Islamic terrorist groups and wage jihad against U.S. troops.

Their capture by Pakistani authorities capped a full year of terrorist plots, attacks and arrests involving U.S. citizens

Terrorism experts say the rise of homegrown terrorism has left the U.S. more vulnerable to attack than at any time since 9/11. (...)

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« Reply #1016 on: January 05, 2010, 07:26:01 PM »

Attorney Denies Five Planned Terror Attacks
Monday, January 04, 2010

The attorney representing five Americans who have been detained in Pakistan is denying that his clients planned to carry out terrorist attacks.

Their lawyer says the five men planned to travel to Afghanistan to help fellow muslims, "who are being victimized by western forces."

The five young muslim men are from the Washington, D.C. area.

Pakistani police say they will charge the men with terrorism and seek life sentences against them.

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« Reply #1017 on: January 05, 2010, 07:36:25 PM »

Can The U.S. Trust Yemen To Fight Al-Qaida?

8:55 a.m. | Corey Flintoff | National Public Radio

The man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day was allegedly trained by al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. Analysts say that after tolerating al-Qaida's presence, Yemen's government has to confront a force that has become an increasing threat to its own survival. But, they say, the U.S. must take a light hand in helping out.

As President Obama convenes a meeting Tuesday of his national security staff to discuss the attempt by a terrorist to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, one question will probably loom large: Can America trust Yemen to assist in the fight against al-Qaida?

The Nigerian man accused of attempting to blow up a trans-Atlantic, Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas was allegedly trained by al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. The U.S. Army major accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in November had e-mail contacts with an Islamist preacher in Yemen before the shootings.

The U.S. has been engaged with Yemen on counterterrorism efforts for more than a decade — beginning even before the attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole in October 2000, killing 17 American sailors — and yet the threat from extremists there appears to keep growing.

An Al-Qaida Base

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday that al-Qaida is using the rugged, poverty-stricken country "as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region."

But over the weekend, the head of Yemen's national security agency, Ali Muhammad al-Anisi, said the threat of terrorism in his country was overstated. "Yemen is not a refuge for al-Qaida, as some claim. These are exaggerations," he said.

The story behind al-Qaida's involvement in Yemen is a familiar one. Yemen, on the Arabian peninsula, is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world and has strong tribal networks and a weak, corrupt central government — elements that make it a breeding ground of Islamist radicals. The country of 24 million people has large swaths of ungoverned territory and shares a border with Saudi Arabia.

Analysts say that after tolerating al-Qaida's presence for years, Yemen's government finally has to confront a force that has become an increasing threat to its own survival. But, they say, the U.S. must take a light hand in helping out.

Christopher Boucek, who studies Yemen at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says al-Qaida hasn't always been a priority for the Yemeni government in the past, but that the group has now become a direct threat.

"I think they need to be a partner in this," he says. "Al-Qaida has attacked Yemeni officials, Yemeni soldiers and government buildings."

Treading Lightly

But Boucek also says the U.S. shouldn't be perceived to have too much direct involvement in Yemeni affairs. "Direct U.S. military presence there is flat-out a bad idea," he says. "You'll just feed into the grievances that undermine the Yemeni government."

Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says that for years Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was hesitant to crack down on al-Qaida, because he was beholden to some elements of the group, who helped his forces prevail in a civil war in the south of the country in the 1990s.

"[Al-Qaida] is also very tied to the tribal elements that keep him in power," Zenko says.

Barbara Bodine, who was the U.S. ambassador to Yemen from 1997 to 2001, says she thinks the Yemeni government can be a reliable partner in fighting al-Qaida. "They now have the political will to address this," Bodine says, "but they have a real capacity problem."

Poor Country

"It's very hard for Americans to understand how poor this country is," Bodine says. "There are no resources. This is a country the size of France, and it doesn't have a single river or lake. When they were exporting oil, their exports were roughly the same as Bakersfield, Calif."

Yemen's dwindling output of oil is now selling at vastly lower prices, too, because of the worldwide recession.

Yemen also has security problems that go far beyond the threat of al-Qaida. Boucek points out that the country's army has been strained by fighting with Shiite rebels in the north, and that the government is also trying to stave off a secessionist movement in the south.

Bodine says the United States can help Yemen most by contributing to programs that build the government and the civil service, as well as the military. "Building the civil service is not very sexy," she says, "But a state needs a strong civil service. Yemen may never be a prosperous state, but it can be a functional one."

U.S. Aid

The Obama administration is seeking a 56 percent increase in development and security aid to Yemen this year, boasting the amount to more than $52 million. That does not include counterterrorism funding of about $63 million this year.

Boucek says the U.S. also should focus on issues like improving Yemen's judicial system. Yemeni nationals can't be extradited under the country's Constitution, Boucek says, so it should be a long-term goal to train Yemeni prosecutors and judges.

"If it's not doable to extradite Yemeni nationals who are wanted in the U.S.; you need to help the Yemenis prosecute them," Boucek says.

Boucek points out that many other nations can help with civil capacity building in Yemen, thereby avoiding a large American footprint in the country.

Al-Qaida Weaknesses

While al-Qaida is a growing problem, Bodine says it has built-in weaknesses that Yemen and the U.S. should exploit. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is a divided organization, she says, comprising elements from Saudi Arabia and Yemen that have very different goals.

"The leadership is essentially Saudi," Bodine says, "which makes it politically easier for the Yemeni government to go after them." She says Yemeni members of the organization are more likely to have domestic concerns, while the Saudi leadership is focused on much broader operations, such as the attempted bombing of the U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.

"Let's make it clear that this is a Saudi organization using Yemeni soil to further its own agenda, because that will isolate them from the Yemenis," Bodine says.

Bodine, who now teaches at Princeton, says despite all the problems, Yemen has some advantages.

"They don't have the sectarian divisions that Iraq has," she says. "They don't have warlords like Afghanistan, and they don't have the clan violence of Somalia. Yemen doesn't have to be a failed state."

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« Reply #1018 on: January 05, 2010, 07:44:18 PM »

Jan 5, 2010
US' X'mas plane bomb failed attempt

Anwar al-Awlaqi mastermind?

SANAA - RADICAL US-Yemeni imam Anwar al-Awlaqi, who may be linked to the botched Christmas Day Al-Qaeda attack on a US airliner, is a young cleric the United States accuses of instigating 'terrorism.'

A White House aide has directly accused Awlaqi of having links with the man suspected of shooting dead 13 people at a Texas military base in November, Major Nidal Hasan.

US Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan has also said the US-born imam might have had contact with the man who allegedly attempted to blow up a US airliner on Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

'I think what we are clear about is that Mr. Awlaqi was in touch with Hasan... and there are indications that he had contact, direct contact, with Abdulmutallab,' said Mr Brennan on Sunday. 'Awlaqi is a problem. He's clearly a part of Al-Qaeda in (the) Arabian Peninsula. He's not just a cleric. He is in fact trying to instigate terrorism.'

Awlaqi's name was already cited in the November 5 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas after US intelligence agencies intercepted emails exchanged between him and Hasan - the army psychiatrist of Palestinian origin.

US President Barack Obama on Saturday accused the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, of arming and training Nigerian suspect Abdulmutallab. The New York Times previously reported that Abdulmutallab told FBI agents he was connected to the Al-Qaeda affiliate by a radical Yemeni cleric whom he contacted online. -- AFp

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« Reply #1019 on: January 05, 2010, 07:54:34 PM »

Women in Uniform: Eight Who Fell, and One Who Steps Forward

Of the 13 fatalities in Fort Hood last November, three were women: Sgt. Amy Krueger, Pvt. Francheska Velez and Lt. Col. Juanita Warman.


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