Friday, October 29, 2010

US: New faction of al Qaeda behind bomb plot

(CNN) -- U.S. officials say that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a fairly new arm of the umbrella terrorist organization, is behind an apparent plot to send explosive devices to U.S. destinations via cargo planes.

"Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is an organization of several hundred individuals that are dispersed throughout the country," presidential counterterrorism advisor John Brennan told reporters Friday. "They are murderers and they are determined to carry out attacks on innocent lives, whether they be Yemeni, Americans, Westerners or others. ...

"If anything, this just demonstrates to us and, I think to the Yemenis as well, that we need to redouble our efforts so that we're able to destroy al Qaeda, and we will."
Brennan pointed to the botched attempt last Christmas to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day. U.S. and Yemeni officials have linked the attempt by man who tried to ignite explosives in his underwear to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


Discovery Targeted to Launch Tuesday at 4:17 p.m.

Fri, 29 Oct 2010 08:27:55 AM CDT

The launch of space shuttle Discovery is targeted for Tuesday, Nov. 2, at 4:17 p.m. EDT.

Managers are meeting to discuss the plan to repair helium and nitrogen leaks in the pressurization portion of space shuttle Discovery’s right-hand Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod. The leaks must be fixed before launch and the decision was made to delay picking up the launch countdown by at least a day.

Since the scheduled launch day fell close to election day, NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding said the launch team members have been encouraged to take advantage of early voting or absentee ballot options so they could take part in the elections.

Obama: "credible terrorist threat"

CNN: WASHINGTON — Calling it a "credible terrorist threat," President Barack Obama said apparent explosive material was found on two U.S.-bound packages from Yemen, triggering searches of flights with other packages from Yemen and an investigation into whether al-Qaida was behind a new terror plot.
Sources told NBC News that both packages contained toner cartridges with wires and white powder. The devices were found in Britain and Dubai last night.

Obama: Yemen devices a 'credible terrorist threat'
Calling it a "credible terrorist threat," President Barack Obama said apparent explosive material was found on two U.S.-bound packages from Yemen. Full story

Homeland Security said in a statement it was taking new measures, "including heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports."

A law enforcement official told NBC that the two packages were addressed to a synagogue and a Jewish community center in Chicago.
One U.S. official said authorities are investigating whether the incident was a dry run for a plot to send bombs through the mail delivery system.

Yemen is the home of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the offshoot branch that claimed responsibility for an attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner last Christmas.

One device was found during a stopover in Britain. A UPS cargo flight had been bound for Chicago but was at a British airport when the cartridge was spotted.

Officials found the suspicious item during basic security screening

In Chicago, synagogues were warned to be on alert Friday.
"We were notified this morning that synagogues should be on the alert," Linda Haase, associate vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told Reuters. "We are taking appropriate precautions and are advising local synagogues to do likewise."

TSA issues alert
The Transportation Security Administration earlier said that cargo flights that landed safely at Newark and Philadelphia airports were being searched after "reports of potentially suspicious items onboard."
Two jets in Philadelphia belonging to UPS were searched. A federal law enforcement official told the AP that nothing suspicious was found.

The flight that landed at Newark, N.J., also was a UPS cargo jet. After the jet was searched, officials gave the all clear.
In New York, an Emirates commercial flight arrived from Dubai around 3:30 p.m. ET and was also being searched as a precaution.
The flight is carrying one of some 15 packages from Yemen that the U.S. wants to inspect, WNBC said.

"This is only because there is cargo from Yemen on the flight," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko. "There is no known threat associated with this cargo or this flight."

Earlier Friday, a UPS truck was searched and then cleared in Brooklyn.


Spy budget released

Washington (CNN) -- The United States spent $80 billion on spy activities in 2010, the first time the government has officially announced the total tab for intelligence spending.

The amount included $53.1 billion on non-military intelligence programs, a 6 percent boost from the previous year, according to a statement released Thursday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The military spent an additional $27 billion on its intelligence apparatus, said Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan.

No further details were released.
The government is required by law to reveal the total amount of money spent to spy on other nations, terrorists and other groups by the CIA, the National Security Agency and the other agencies and offices that make up the 16-member intelligence community.

While the total intelligence spending has never formally been announced, this is the fourth year the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released the national intelligence budget figure for non-military activities. The intelligence community had resisted efforts to reveal the number, arguing that enemies of the United States could learn valuable information by watching trends in spending.

The amount designated for military battlefield intelligence had remained classified. Last year, however then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair revealed to reporters the total cost for all intelligence gathering was $75 billion, and indicated the amount spent on strictly military intelligence was approximately $25 billion.

At the urging of the commission set up to investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed a law in 2007 mandating public disclosure of the non-military spending number at the end of each fiscal year. Specific details on how much each agency spends and on what remain classified.
The current director of national intelligence, James Clapper, had said at his confirmation hearings this past summer that the budgets for both strategic intelligence and military spying should be officially made public.
The head of the Senate Intelligence committee said it is time to pare down non-military intelligence spending, which has doubled since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

"Given the nation's financial situation, it is my view that the intelligence budget needs to be carefully reviewed and that cuts will be necessary," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.

The senator indicated there is waste and duplication within the budget and added, "It is clear that the overall spending on intelligence has blossomed to an unacceptable level in the past decade."
Approximately 100,000 people work on national intelligence, with the majority of employees serving at the big four intelligence agencies: the National Security Agency, the CIA, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The United States spent $49.8 billion on its national intelligence programs in 2009, $47.5 billion in 2008 and $43.5 billion in 2007, according to the previous reports.


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