Wednesday, April 06, 2011

FBI Questioning Libyans

Agency Aims to Prevent Revenge Attacks in America, Help Military Campaign
By Devlin Barrett

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun questioning Libyans living in the U.S., part of an effort to identify any Libyan-backed spies or terrorists, and collect any information that might help allied military operations.
The move reflects concerns among U.S. officials—in the wake of an allied bombing campaign that established a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent the massacre of antigovernment rebels—that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi might try to orchestrate revenge attacks against U.S. citizens.
U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that the threat of Libyan-backed terrorism is slightly higher for Europe than for the U.S. Officials on both sides of the Atlantic are searching for signs of nascent terror plots directed or encouraged from Tripoli.
FBI officials declined to comment Monday on the program.
A similar intelligence-gathering effort in 2003, called Operation Darkening Clouds, led to strong objections from the New York Civil Liberties Union. The organization sued in 2008 over that secret operation, calling it invasive and coercive in its questioning of Iraqi-born people in the U.S.
FBI agents began conducting the interviews this week, according to several people familiar with the matter. The agency's initial focus is on people with personal or professional ties to Libya, which could lead to thousands of interviews. Officials cautioned that figure was a very early estimate.
The FBI is particularly interested in Libyans staying in the U.S. on visas, according to several people who are involved in the matter.
The FBI isn't responding to intelligence pointing to any specific plot or plots, according to people familiar with the matter. Instead, the FBI is trying to determine whether there is a threat to Americans in the U.S. or overseas. FBI agents hope to gain enough information from the interviews to understand how much of a threat Libya poses.The FBI effort has other objectives as well. The agency wants to find anyone trying to gather intelligence in the U.S. on behalf of Mr. Gadhafi. The FBI also wants to gather information about Libya that might be of value to U.S. and allied military personnel engaged in Libya.
The intelligence work is another example of U.S. government resources being used to support the mission in Libya. Central Intelligence Agency personnel are in Libya gathering intelligence about the Gadhafi regime's forces and about opposition parties.
People familiar with the effort said it was similar in its goals and methods to Operation Darkening Clouds, which was launched by the FBI at the outset of the invasion of Iraq. That effort led to the compilation of information on more than 130,000 people, prompting the lawsuit from the New York organization, which criticized what it called the "data mining" effort by the government and the subsequent interviews.
The existence and details of Operation Darkening Clouds stayed secret for years. A 2008 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the New York group forced the bureau to turn over internal documents about the operation.
The papers showed the FBI devoted enormous resources to the work, assigning more than 50 agents to it in one field office, New York City, an area that according to a bureau estimate was home to more than 5,000 Iraqi-Americans. At one point, FBI officials estimated that the 2003 effort would involve about 11,000 separate interviews.FBI officials expect the Libyan effort will be on a smaller scale, largely because the number of people from Libya in the U.S. is believed to be much smaller than the number of Iraqis. The 2000 Census recorded more than 5,000 people of Libyan birth in the U.S., compared with a total of nearly 90,000 Iraqi-born people.
Echoes of the Iraq War
In 2002-03, the FBI started collecting information on Iraqis living in the U.S. as part of Operation Darkening Clouds.
*Data was collected on more than 130,000 people.
*An estimated 11,000 people were interviewed over months, starting in March 2003, when U.S. combat in Iraq began.
*Interviews took place nationwide, with many in New York City.
*The FBI drew on investigative databases within at least 29 different agencies, including the Commerce Department, the TSA and the EPA.
*Any related arrests weren't disclosed.
*Details of the secret program emerged in response to 2008 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Washington Post
April 5, 2011
Pg. 19
Fine Print
Gates Was Clear: It's A Matter Of Time Before Gaddafi Is Gone
By Walter Pincus
It's going to take time before Moammar Gaddafi and his family are gone from power in Libya, and, frankly, the ending may not come until the dictator is assassinated by a member of his family or a Libyan military or security officer.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates delivered those messages to Congress last week as he repeatedly preached patience before the House and Senate armed services committees.
In contrast, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has remained the commander of the impatient crowd, those who want to plunge ahead militarily, ignoring lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan.
There also is a congressional Greek chorus, those Republican and Democratic politicians who now question President Obama's decision to intervene and even his authority to act. They have forgotten that in late February and early March a rush of lawmakers called for a no-fly zone and protection for protesting Libyans.
A bit of background:
*In late February, McCain, along with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), called for a no-fly zone, arms and humanitarian assistance, as well as recognition of a nascent Libyan opposition group.
*On March 1, the Senate unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the U.N. Security Council "to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya . . . including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone."
*On March 2, Gates, after noting that there was a lot of "loose talk about some of these military options,'' said that "a no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses."
*On March 4, Gaddafi troops regrouped and attacked protesters, and commentators joined legislators in calls for the president to stop dithering and act. Meanwhile, the French and British governments worked for a Security Council resolution.
*On March 7, the six Persian Gulf states backed a no-fly zone.
*On March 12, the Arab League joined the call for the United Nations to create the zone.
*On March 17, Gaddafi declared that the "moment of truth" had come for Benghazi as his planes dropped bombs on the opposition-controlled city and his tanks and troops moved forward. The Security Council approved the resolution to create a no-fly zone. That night in Washington, Obama met with Gates and his national security team and decided the United States would take the lead in the no-fly program. Plans had already been drawn up in the Pentagon and at NATO for a highly complex operation that would entail dozens of warships, hundreds of aircraft, bases in several countries, and a sophisticated command-and-control operation.
*On March 18, the president discussed his decision with the congressional leadership.
*On March 19, the no-fly zone was initiated along with strikes on Gaddaf's military units on the ground.
Today, nearly three weeks into the operation, Gaddafi remains in power in Tripoli, rebels are in control in Benghazi, ground fighting continues and NATO directs the air war.
Gates told the committees, "The removal of Colonel Gaddafi will likely be achieved over time through political and economic measures and by his own people." The NATO-led operation will aid his departure by degrading his military capability to hold on to power through force, Gates added.
Saying the impromptu early uprisings in Libyan cities showed that citizens were "ready to rise up against this guy," Gates said "significantly" reducing Gaddafi's military capabilities "gives them the opportunity to do that."
The impatient McCain and Lieberman wanted more.
Gates was repeatedly asked when and how Gaddafi would leave. By late afternoon, Gates had sharpened his answer about Gaddafi's possible fate: "A member of his own family kills him or one of his inner circle kills him, or the military fractures, or the opposition with the degradation of Gaddafi's military rises up again and is successful."
McCain had earlier lectured Gates that the "purpose of using military force is to achieve policy goals'' - including "Gaddafi leaving power." Gates said he saw a difference between the political objective of Gaddafi's departure and the military mission. The latter was already successful, he said, then added that he "personally . . . felt strongly" that his mission did not include regime change. "We've tried regime change before, and sometimes it's worked and sometimes it's taken 10 years."
Members also asked about U.S. troops having "boots on the ground" in Libya. The president had said there would be no U.S. ground troops, and Gates emphasized his own view: "Not as long as I'm in this job."
As for the opposition's need for training and command and control, Gates said this was discussed and that other countries had the capability to meet those needs.
And finally, regarding whether Obama abided by the War Powers Act, Gates noted there had been disagreement between the Congress and every president on what the act requires, and Obama had complied when he met with congressional leadership on March 18.

New York Times
April 5, 2011
Pg. 1
Unrest In Yemen Seen As Opening To Qaeda Branch
By Eric Schmitt
WASHINGTON -- Counterterrorism operations in Yemen have ground to a halt, allowing Al Qaeda’s deadliest branch outside of Pakistan to operate more freely inside the country and to increase plotting for possible attacks against Europe and the United States, American diplomats, intelligence analysts and counterterrorism officials say.
In the political tumult surrounding Yemen’s embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, many Yemeni troops have abandoned their posts or have been summoned to the capital, Sana, to help support the tottering government, the officials said. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s affiliate, has stepped in to fill this power vacuum, and Yemeni security forces have come under increased attacks in recent weeks.
A small but steadily growing stream of Qaeda fighters and lower-level commanders from other parts of the world, including Pakistan, are making their way to Yemen to join the fight there, although American intelligence officials are divided on whether the political crisis in Yemen is drawing more insurgents than would be traveling there under normal conditions.
Taken together, these developments have raised increasing alarm in the Obama administration, which is in the delicate position of trying to ease Mr. Saleh out of power, but in a way to ensure that counterterrorism operations in Yemen will continue unimpeded. These developments may also help explain why the United States has become less willing to support Mr. Saleh, a close ally, given that his value in fighting terrorism has been diminished since demonstrations swept his country.
Some experts on Yemen who have observed Mr. Saleh’s long domination through political shrewdness speculated that he might be deliberately withdrawing his forces from pursuing Al Qaeda to worsen the sense of crisis and force the Americans to back him, rather than push him toward the exits.
But a senior American military officer with access to classified intelligence reports discounted those doubts on Monday: “This is a reflection of the turmoil in the country, not some political decision to stop.”
Mr. Saleh’s son and three nephews are in charge of four of Yemen’s main security and counterterrorism agencies, including the Republican Guard and the Central Security Forces, which are trained and equipped by the United States. If they were forced to step down as part of any deal to remove Mr. Saleh, American officials acknowledge that the country’s counterterrorism efforts would be left in the hands of untested lieutenants.
“We have had a lot of counterterrorism cooperation from President Saleh and Yemeni security services,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said March 27 on ABC’s “This Week.” “So if that government collapses or is replaced by one that is dramatically more weak, then I think we’ll face some additional challenges out of Yemen. There’s no question about it. It’s a real problem.”
Perhaps most worrisome, American intelligence officials have collected information from informants and electronic intercepts that Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen has increased planning discussions about another attack. This increased threat “chatter,” as intelligence officials call the reports, was first reported by The Washington Post late last month, but officials say the trend has continued since then.
The Qaeda group in Yemen is responsible for failed plots to blow up a commercial airliner as it approached Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009, and for planting printer cartridges packed with explosives on cargo planes bound for Chicago last October.
The United States now has about 75 Special Forces trainers and support personnel in Yemen, as well as an unspecified number of Central Intelligence Agency operatives. The Americans in Yemen are working closely with dozens of British special forces and intelligence officers, as well as operatives from Saudi Arabia’s spy agencies. While the Americans largely provide intelligence, the Yemeni counterterrorism troops have conducted raids and attacks on suspected terrorists in recent months.
The suspension of these Yemeni counterterrorism operations and the heightened Al Qaeda activity have prompted the United States Central Command to dust off plans to resume airstrikes against top Qaeda targets if the United States receives solid intelligence about the location of senior militants, a senior military official said.
The United States has not carried out such airstrikes in Yemen since last May, when an attack accidentally killed a deputy governor and set off a huge political dispute with Mr. Saleh. Last year, the United States quietly began patrolling Yemen with armed Predator drones.
One top insurgent on the American target list is Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric who is a top propagandist for Al Qaeda. Last Wednesday, Mr. Awlaki broke his silence on the uprisings in the Arab world to speak glowingly in a new issue of the English-language Qaeda magazine Inspire about the toppling of autocratic governments.
Pentagon officials said that the chaotic security conditions in the country might embolden senior Qaeda officials in Yemen to come out of hiding. “If we have Awlaki in our sights, we’ll take a shot,” the senior American military officer said on Monday.
Over the past year, however, the American Special Forces in Yemen have shifted their focus to help the Yemeni security forces carrying out the counterterrorism missions. But those programs to train and assist the Yemenis have also been suspended in the wake of the political tumult. The American Special Forces soldiers are keeping a low profile but are maintaining ties with midlevel and senior Yemeni officers, and provide information on how the military is reacting to the upheaval.
American officials privately concede they have only a marginal influence on Mr. Saleh’s fight for his political survival and exit from power. At best, these officials say, the Americans are looking to identify and carefully support competent lower-ranking officers and civilian officials who could take over the security agencies if Mr. Saleh’s relatives are forced to flee.
Gregory Johnsen, a Princeton scholar who closely tracks militants in Yemen, said the United States’ narrow focus on combating Al Qaeda through military operations overseen by Mr. Saleh and his family means its position could be precarious in a post-Saleh Yemen.
“The U.S. idea of tying counterterrorism to this one family has not been the best way to approach the Al Qaeda problem,” said Mr. Johnsen, who has argued for greater focus on development aid for the impoverished country.
The Yemeni government’s already weak reach is withering by the day, as violent convulsions rack several parts of the impoverished country. American officials said they were watching unrest in Shabwa Province, a Qaeda stronghold, as well as in Jaar, a city in the southern province of Abyan where Al Qaeda is known to have set up a base.
An officer in Yemen’s counterterrorism forces said his unit had not been deployed and was on standby, even though much of the south was apparently outside government control and jihadists had apparently declared a separate emirate in Abyan. Yemeni counterterrorism officers would like to respond, but “we are only door-kickers,” he said. “We need support from the army, and the army is busy splitting.”
Scott Shane and Robert F. Worth contributed reporting from Washington, and Ravi Somaiya from London.

Wall Street Journal
April 5, 2011
Pg. 9
Deaths Raise Pressure In Yemen
By ERIK STIER in San'a, Yemen, and ADAM ENTOUS in Washington
Police opened fire on protesters in the southern Yemen city of Taiz, killing at least 11 people, as the U.S. increased pressure on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to quickly break a stalemate in stalled transition talks focused on easing him out of power.
The U.S. wants the talks accelerated because of concerns the impasse is creating a security vacuum that benefits al Qaeda and invites more violence, officials said. The newfound urgency reflects U.S. intelligence suggesting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, is using the unrest to regroup and to plot fresh attacks on the West.
"There is a gap between what President Saleh said and what the people have asked for," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "We've made it clear to President Saleh, both in public as I'm doing now and in private, that violence is not a solution and that an agreement with the opposition needs to be reached as soon as possible."
The White House has sought to encourage negotiations between Mr. Saleh and opposition groups about a peaceful transition of power. Administration officials now want that transition process should start sooner rather than later.
The U.S. considers the Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate to be the biggest terrorist threat to the U.S. outside Afghanistan and Pakistan.
American special-operation forces have been training Yemeni commandos to fight al Qaeda, and the U.S. military has had an on-again, off-again campaign of airstrikes against militants in the country. The last known U.S. air strike in Yemen occurred in May. U.S. officials attribute the dropoff in strikes to tensions with Mr. Saleh and a lack of actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of al Qaeda leaders in Yemen's rugged tribal areas.
"AQAP is adaptive and they're looking to capitalize on these sort of events, on the instability," an Obama administration official said.
On Monday, uniformed police fired directly into crowds of protesters during a march in the second straight day of violence in Taiz, a city of nearly 500,000, about 120 miles south of the capital, San'a, a witness said. Many of the injured suffered gunshot wounds to the neck and chest, he said.
Mr. Saleh, bolstered by two weeks of massive pro-regime demonstrations, has refused to bow to weeks of protests calling for his resignation. He has rejected as many as seven proposals brought by the opposition to ease him out of power.
Negotiations with the opposition have stalled recently, with no clear solution in sight.
Taiz has consistently been the seat of the country's largest protest movement since calls for Mr. Saleh's resignation began in January. Monday's violence there broke out near a school, witnesses said, placing city residents and children in the middle of the chaos. More than 200 people were injured from police firing on protesters, and 600 people were hospitalized from injuries associated with tear gas, which include seizures and temporary loss of consciousness, medical workers said.
The Taiz crackdown was the most lethal against Yemen's uprising since snipers killed 52 demonstrators in San'a on March 18.
Violence also erupted Monday in the southern coastal city of Hodeida, where gunmen dressed in civilian clothes shot into crowds of demonstrators, wounding seven, according to local reports.
A member for Yemen's opposition said the shootings would give momentum to an international push for Mr. Saleh to step down. "The deaths today in Taiz will be the nail in the coffin of this regime," said Mohammed al-Sabri, spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties, a coalition of opposition parties.
Hakim Almasmari contributed to this article.
April 4, 2011
Gen. Petraeus Being 'Seriously Considered' For CIA Director, NPR Reports
By Tom Bowman
General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, is expected to leave that job by early fall. And the question has been, where does he go from there?
Several sources, including government officials, say Petraeus is being seriously considered for CIA director, and would take the job if offered.
The current spy chief, Leon Panetta, is currently seen as the top replacement for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who says he will step down this year.
White House and Pentagon officials say they will not comment on any personnel changes.
For some time, there was an expectation that Petraeus would take the top NATO military job in Brussels. NATO's current supreme commander, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, is wrapping up his tour and is expected to become the Navy's next top officer, chief of naval operations.
Sources say Petraeus has cooled on the Brussels job. And there are few high profile military jobs left for him.
The Army chief of staff job has already gone to Gen. Martin Dempsey. And there is little indication that Petraeus is being considered for the top military job in the Pentagon, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Sources say that the current No. 2 Pentagon officer, Marine Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright, will be nominated for the top job when Adm. Mike Mullen leaves the post in September.
Cartwright was reported to be Obama's "favorite general" in journalist Bob Woodward's book, Obama's Wars. Stavridis is also considered a possible Joint Chiefs chairman. Some close to Petraeus were surprised that a man they described as "the best general of his generation" was not under consideration for that top Pentagon job.
But Petraeus also has his detractors. He's seen as overly ambitious and too political by some of his peers, earning him the nickname "King David."
Putting a senior officer in charge of CIA is not unusual. Panetta's predecessor was retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden. And there have been admirals and generals running the spy agency since its beginnings more than 60 years ago. Among the early directors was Walter Bedell Smith, one of then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's top aides in World War II.
Petraeus has coordinated with the CIA in his job as commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. And CIA drone strikes have been stepped up in neighboring Pakistan since the early days of the Obama administration.
While it's not certain that Petraeus will get any new job in the administration, NPR reported several weeks ago that his replacement in Afghanistan is expected to be Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, who is currently the deputy commanding officer of U.S. Central Command, which covers both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Allen gained fame within military circles for his work in Iraq's Anbar Province. He was among the key players in what became known as "The Sunni Awakening." The Americans encouraged the Sunni tribes to turn against al-Qaida and support the Iraqi government. It turned out to be a success and helped drive down the violence in Iraq.
No final decisions have been made on Petraeus's replacement. But sources say Allen was the top pick of the CentCom commander, Marine Gen. James Mattis — as well as Petraeus.
Tom Bowman covers the Pentagon for NPR.


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