Al Quaeda Operatives Captured by CIA Provided Intelligence Behind New Orange Heightened Terrorist Threat Alert

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Homeland Security Today Magazine Briefed That Three Al Qaeda Cells Appeared to Coordinate Bomb Plots in US.

Senior US counterterrorist and intelligence officials in Washington told Homeland Security Today Magazine in recent days intelligence gleaned as a consequence of the arrest in Texas of alleged Al Qaeda courier Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed, and the subsequent unreported capture by the CIA of two operatives of an Al Qaeda cell operating in Mexico for which she was ferrying “instructions” to suspected Al Qaeda members in New York, contributed significantly to the nation’s capital, New York City and New Jersey being put on high alert Sunday.

Washington-based counter terror intelligence sources told HSToday Ahmed was on her way to New York to deliver what were described as “instructions” from an Al Qaeda cell. The officials said intelligence provided by Ahmed – who authorities believe was operating as a “mule;” a conduit for passing plot instructions - during interrogations led agents of the CIA’s top secret operation to secretly capture Al Qaeda operatives to an undisclosed location where at least two members of the cell were taken into custody and transferred to one of the CIA’s clandestine terrorist detention facilities.

To arrange an interview with David Silverberg, Editor and Chief of Homeland Security Today Magazine, contact: Gwyn Thakur, President, Effective Marketing Inc., 978-852-6398,

Intelligence provided by these two captured Al Qaeda operatives and Al Qaeda members arrested in Pakistan and Britain culminated in the orange alert for Washington, DC, New York City, and New Jersey, US intelligence sources told HSToday.

According to these sources, the Al Qaeda operatives captured in Pakistan as a result of a CIA-supervised operation have been tied to the cell operating in Mexico to which Ahmed allegedly was working. Ahmed and the arrested Pakistanis, the sources said, are linked to a cell in Britain members of which were arrested Tuesday and in possession of information on an “active” plot to attack New York about which Ahmed reputedly was carrying instructions on, the sources said.

Among the Pakistani Al Qaeda members arrested is Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, who operated a secret Al Qaeda communications system used to transmit coded messages among Al Qaeda cells in the US, Mexico and Britain. Computers seized during his arrest unquestionably provided the CIA with a rich repository of intelligence on Al Qaeda operations, infrastructure and plans to attack the United States.

Another of the Al Qaeda members arrested in Pakistan is Mussad Aruchi, described as a nephew of Khalid Shiek Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks and a cousin of Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of planning and carrying out the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and reputedly employed by a US oil and gas pipeline testing company with reputed ties to Middle East terror groups.

A senior US official quoted Monday said Khan’s capture provided extraordinary details about Al Qaeda’s sophisticated and extensive reconnaissance of the financial institutions that were named in the warning on Sunday as targets of apparent Al Qaeda bomb plots.

Counterterror sources who spoke to HSToday implied that there is a connection between Khan and Pakistani Al Qaeda members he was associated with and the unidentified Al Qaeda cell for which Ahmed – who is said to be of Pakistani origin – allegedly was working. The “instructions” Ahmed reputedly was to deliver in New York – which may have involved bomb plots there - may even have been transmitted via the Al Qaeda communications system used by Khan, the sources said.

“The links between all these people is disturbing,” one of the sources said. “It may be that we were very, very...lucky, and managed to roll up an important Al Qaeda network – but it’s hard to tell, since the group’s cells are highly compartmented and its members on a strict need to know basis when it comes to operational plans and planning.”

Still, the source told HSToday, “the links are bothersome, and the people rounded up so far appear to have contemporary knowledge of identical information – and very...important.”

Intelligence sources further tell HSToday that the six men and one woman the FBI issued a “be on the lookout” alert for to the public on May 26 may be linked to the Al Qaeda cell in the US that is believed to be involved in the bomb plots behind the new orange alert.

When media reports speculated that the latest orange alert was based on outdated intelligence, the Bush administration found itself in a sensitive position trying to explain without divulging its secret Al Qaeda sources that the alert was in fact based on reliable, current intelligence.

The various sources interviewed by HSToday in recent days said it was “a mix” of the information obtained as a consequence of the arrest of Ahmed and the secret capture of fellow Al Qaeda cell members, the two Pakistanis, Al Qaeda operatives arrested in Britain and electronic communications intercepts of known and suspected Al Qaeda members that prompted Sunday’s alert.

On Tuesday, the White House lashed out at reporters and critics who suggested the alert was based on outdated intelligence. The White House issued a statement saying the intelligence is “chilling.” Press Secretary Scott McClelland said “it's wrong and plain irresponsible to suggest that (the alert) was based on old information."

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said at a press conference Monday “intelligence reports have provided a level of detail that is very specific. The quality of this intelligence, based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen and is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information.”

Also on Monday, a senior intelligence official told reporters on background at DHS that “the new information is chilling in its scope, in its detail, in its breadth...What we have are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and now we have some very specific, and as (Ridge) said, specific and credible information regarding al Qaeda's plans to carry out attacks here in the's intelligence is both a cause for concern as well as, clear evidence of success in the war against terrorism. Because of the tremendous detail and specificity that we've been able to acquire, the collection agencies have been able to acquire, about upcoming attacks.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday that administration officials disclosed Tuesday that a “separate stream of intelligence, which they had not previously disclosed, reached the White House only late last week and was part of a flow that the officials said had prompted them to act urgently in the last few days.”

Continuing, The New York Times reported “a senior White House official who mentioned the new stream of intelligence in an interview refused to say anything more about its source or content. The official said it had not been publicly disclosed out of concern that such a step could compromise intelligence and law enforcement operations in the United States and around the world. Officials would not describe those operations but said they were meant to disrupt a possible plot.”

The Washington Post also reported Wednesday that a source said “the government has ‘very, very recent information showing a clear terrorist intent related to planning attacks'...the information makes clear that ‘this is not information for information's sake. The context is attacking.’"

White House Press Secretary McClelland said Wednesday “there is another new stream of well,” but that he was unable to “go further into it because it could compromise some ongoing operations...”

During a background briefing for reporters Monday, a senior intelligence official had declined to comment on whether “there have been recent events that have not been reported” that were behind Sunday’s new terror alert.

“I don't think I'll get into the details of where it came from,” the official said, noting, however, that “within the past days, we've acquired additional information that give a remarkable level of clarity and that information is very fresh, but it comes against a strategic backdrop that we've been worried about for a long time.”

Counterterror and intelligence sources told HSToday an attack plot involved the Al Qaeda cell for which the 48-year-old Ahmed allegedly was caught carrying instructions for, and appear to be tied to plots described in information in the possession of the Al Qaeda operatives arrested in Pakistan and the UK.

Ahmed was arrested July 19 while being processed to board an airliner bound for New York at the McAllen (Texas) Miller International Airport. She was “flagged” by a computer database inquiry performed by an astutely “suspicious” Customs and Border Protection officer.

According to the sources who spoke on background to HSToday, intelligence derived from the investigation spurred by Ahmed’s arrest reputedly involves bomb plots that may be planned prior to the November presidential election, perhaps as soon as September. It is unclear, however, whether the plots have been disrupted by the arrests of Ahmed and the secretly captured Al Qaeda cell members with whom Ahmed allegedly was associated.

Neither the CIA, FBI, or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would confirm the claim.

Authorities investigating Ahmed, who was found in possession of thousands of dollars in US and foreign currency and an allegedly forged passport, say they determined she had traveled from Johannesburg through Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, to London and on to Mexico City before being “smuggled” across the border into Texas.

Beginning in the late 1980’s, according to a variety of classified CIA intelligence reports made available to HSToday, Middle East terror groups established conduits in Mexico via Panama to smuggle members into the US.

Al Qaeda reportedly has obtained counterfeit passports from organized crime syndicates operating in South Africa. The Al Qaeda members rounded up in Pakistan in late July are said to be from South Africa and may be tied to the terror group’s cell Ahmed is said to be linked to, intelligence sources told HSToday.

The alleged Al Qaeda operatives captured in Pakistan – several of whom were wanted in connection with the terror group’s 1998 bombing of the US embassies in East Africa - are believed to have arrived in Pakistan on a flight from the United Arab Emirates just days before their arrest in late July, according to Pakistani intelligence. Another of the Al Qaeda members nabbed in Pakistan was picked up while boarding a flight to the UAE. US authorities say Ahmed also transited through the UAE prior to being smuggled into the US from Mexico.

Texas Rep. Soloman Ortiz, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee, issued a statement saying there is “very credible” intelligence that Ahmed made 250 trips to the US over an undisclosed period of time.

Meanwhile, ABC News reported intelligence sources as saying Al Qaeda planned to send operatives into the US from Mexico who are involved in pre-election attack plots, possibly using fuel tanker trucks.

For some time, counterterror authorities have picked up shards of intelligence indicating Al Qaeda has a keen interest in using fuel tanker trucks in attacks inside the US, HSToday was told.

Abroad, tanker trucks are common weapons in the terrorist’s arsenal. Last May, chemical and fuel-filled trucks were used in three simultaneous terror attacks on housing complexes in Saudi Arabia. Thirty-five people were killed, including eight Americans. A year earlier, a remote-controlled bomb was used to explode a fuel tank truck at Israel’s largest fuel depot in Tel Aviv.

Two fuel tank trucks were reported stolen in recent months and remain unaccounted for. One is a gasoline tanker stolen in mid-April, and the other is a propane tank truck stolen in south Texas. Two other propane trucks that were stolen from a San Antonio, Texas company were found last week at an abandoned warehouse outside Laredo. One tanker carried about 3,000 gallons or propane; the other about 2,600 gallons. San Antonio FBI official Patrick Patterson said the Bureau believes the trucks were destined for Mexico, and said he couldn’t rule out terrorism.

According to FBI and other authorities familiar with the matter interviewed by HSToday, there’s a growing concern over fuel tanker trucks being stolen in south Texas and being transported across the border into Mexico.

Expert on Homeland Security available for comment

To arrange an interview with David Silverberg, Editor and Chief of Homeland Security Today Magazine, contact: Gwyn Thakur, President, Effective Marketing Inc., 978-852-6398,

HSToday was launched as a monthly magazine in May 2004. HSToday is the first monthly magazine to provide strategic insight and analysis into the policy, structure, politics and priorities of the $100 billion homeland security market. Visit their website at

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