From the Washington Times
Officials: CIA thwarts new al Qaeda underwear bomb plot
WASHINGTON — The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials said Monday.
The plot involved an upgrade of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009. This new bomb was also designed to be used in a passenger's underwear, but this time al-Qaida developed a more refined detonation system, U.S. officials said.
The FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane, officials said. They said the device did not contain metal, meaning it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it was not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Monday that she had been briefed about an “undetectable” device that was “going to be on a U.S.-bound airliner.”
There were no immediate plans to change security procedures at U.S. airports.
The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It's not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said President Barack Obama learned about the plot in April and was assured the device posed no threat to the public.
“The president thanks all intelligence and counterterrorism professionals involved for their outstanding work and for serving with the extraordinary skill and commitment that their enormous responsibilities demand,” Hayden said.
The operation unfolded even as the White House and Department of Homeland Security assured the American public that they knew of no al-Qaida plots against the U.S. around the anniversary of bin Laden's death. The operation was carried out over the past few weeks, officials said.
“We have no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the anniversary of bin Laden's death,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on April 26.
On May 1, the Department of Homeland Security said, “We have no indication of any specific, credible threats or plots against the U.S. tied to the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death.”
The White House did not explain those statements Monday.
The CIA mission was such a secret, even top lawmakers were not told about it as the operation unfolded, one U.S. official said Monday.
The AP learned about the thwarted plot last week but agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way. Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP decided to disclose the plot Monday despite requests from the Obama administration to wait for an official announcement Tuesday.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security acknowledged the existence of the bomb late Monday, but there were no immediate plans to adjust security procedures at airports. Other officials, who were briefed on the operation, insisted on anonymity to discuss details of the plot, many of which the U.S. has not officially acknowledged.
“The device never presented a threat to public safety, and the U.S. government is working closely with international partners to address associated concerns with the device,” the FBI said in a statement.
It's not clear who built the bomb, but, because of its sophistication and its similarity to the Christmas bomb, counterterrorism officials suspected it was the work of master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri or one of his protégées. Al-Asiri constructed the first underwear bomb and two others that al-Qaida built into printer cartridges and shipped to the U.S. on cargo planes in 2010.
Both of those bombs used a powerful industrial explosive. Both were nearly successful.
The operation is an intelligence victory for the United States and a reminder of al-Qaida's ambitions, despite the death of bin Laden and other senior leaders. Because of instability in the Yemeni government, the terrorist group's branch there has gained territory and strength. It has set up terrorist camps and, in some areas, even operates as a de facto government.
But along with the gains there also have been losses. The group has suffered significant setbacks as the CIA and the U.S. military focus more on Yemen. On Sunday, Fahd al-Quso, a senior al-Qaida leader, was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle along with another operative in the southern Shabwa province of Yemen.
Al-Quso , 37, was on the FBI 's most wanted list, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 injured.
Al-Quso was believed to have replaced Anwar al-Awlaki as the group's head of external operations. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. airstrike last year.
From Google News
Border Patrol gets first new strategy in 8 years
by ELLIOT SPAGAT
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. Border Patrol on Tuesday unveiled its first national strategy in eight years, a period in which the number of agents more than doubled and apprehensions of people entering illegally from Mexico dropped to a 40-year low.
The new approach — outlined in a 32-page document that took more than two years to develop — uses buzzwords like "risk-based" and "intelligence-driven" to describe a more nuanced, targeted response to constantly evolving threats.
The Border Patrol previously relied on a strategy that blanketed heavily trafficked corridors for illegal immigrants with agents, pushing migrants to more remote areas where they would presumably be easier to capture and discouraged from trying again.
"The jury, for me at least, is out on whether that's a solid strategy," Chief Mike Fisher told The Associated Press.
Young U.S. drivers know risks, but text anyway
(Reuters) - Most young American drivers agree that it is dangerous to text while driving, but nearly a third admit they do it anyway, a survey by Consumer Reports shows.
While eight in ten said they knew of the risks, about 29 percent of drivers 16 to 21 said they had used text messaging in the past month, the survey found. And, 47 percent said they had made a phone call while driving, without a headset or other hands-free device.
The same survey showed that 48 percent said they had seen one or both of their parents using a cell phone without a hands-free device.
Nevertheless, last year there were the fewest traffic fatalities in the United States in more than six decades.
The number would have been even lower if not for traffic deaths caused by drivers who were distracted by using a mobile phone or engaged in other types of attention-dividing tasks, said Rebecca Lindland, director of automotive research for IHS Inc.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that in 2010, some 3,092 were killed in "distracted-affected crashes," or 9.4 percent of all road deaths.
A NHTSA survey earlier this year showed that younger drivers from ages 18 to 20 showed the highest level of phone involvement in crashes or near-crashes. Drivers of this age are three times more likely to read or send an email or text message while driving than those 25 and older, the NHTSA survey found.
Reports of texting while driving drop sharply as age increases, NHTSA said.
The Consumer Reports survey said that half the young drivers survey said they are less likely to text while driving or use a handheld phone while a friend is in the vehicle with them.
A NHTSA observational study found that in the latest two years for which data was available, 2009 and 2010, 5 percent of drivers were seen talking on handheld phones.
Thirty-seven of the 50 U.S. states have totally banned using the keyboard - texting - on a mobile phone or other device while driving, and 10 states have outlawed the use of handheld phones.
The states, along with the District of Columbia, that have banned phone calls while driving - without using a hands-free device - are California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, West Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Connecticut.
The Consumer Reports survey questioned 1,049 people ages 16 to 21 and the NHTSA survey from earlier this year questioned 6,000 people of driving age. Both surveys were of U.S. drivers.
Ohio ER policy aims to fight drug abuse
by JIM PROVANCE
COLUMBUS — Ohio has gotten emergency rooms to join the fight against the over-prescription of addictive painkillers.
Gov. John Kasich said Monday the next step, getting similar involvement from physicians across Ohio, will be tougher.
"They had a lot of problems out in the state of Washington on this, because there's a reluctance to let legislators or bureaucrats, cabinet officials or not, tell the doctor how to practice medicine," the governor said after speaking at the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities' Opiate Summit.
He hopes to take statewide a fight that so far has largely focused on so-called "pill mills" in southern Ohio.
The administration unveiled a new protocol hospital emergency rooms have agreed to follow to restrict the prescription of addictive painkillers to patients who complain of pain. Thirty-nine percent of all opiate prescriptions nationally come from emergency rooms.
"There's a message to those going into those emergency rooms: We're not giving the stuff to you willy-nilly anymore," Mr. Kasich said. "We're not going to allow you to get a prescription and go out and give it some relative or give it to some kid, or give it to anybody. … Not only were the emergency rooms excited about cooperating with these protocols, but then the urgent care centers came in and said, ‘Can we help, too?'?"
Dr. Ted Wymyslo, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said the voluntary guidelines don't have the force of law, so an emergency room or urgent care center that strays would not face penalties.
"You don't want to be the [emergency department] or urgent care in your community that does not follow this, because you will get everyone who wants to divert drugs or wants to abuse drugs coming to your center, and that's largely not what any of these centers wants to be about," he said.
The state began distributing the new protocols on Monday.
"Handling this challenge with statewide agreement allows hospitals to present a united front, encouraging those in chronic pain to work closely with their primary care physicians while discouraging dangerous, drug-seeking behavior that is part of the addiction epidemic Ohio is working to break," said Mike Abrams, president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association.
The guidelines attempt to prevent repeat emergency room prescriptions for the same injuries, longer-term prescriptions for opiods like OxyContin and methadone, and routine replacement of reportedly lost or destroyed prescriptions. Emergency rooms would reserve the right to perform urine or other methods of drug screening on patients and request medical and prescription records from other hospitals.
"By and large, the emergency department physicians won't be prescribing more than a three-day supply of opioids and other controlled substances, because they want to reconnect patients with their own personal physicians or some specialist," Dr. Wymyslo said. "They are buying them the time to get to the ultimate care that they're seeking."
HSI rescues 4 from violent Phoenix human smuggling drop house
PHOENIX — Four Mexican nationals, including three suspected torture victims, were rescued from a human smuggling drop house Wednesday by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assigned to the Phoenix Border Enforcement Security Task Force Drop House Response Group, with support from the Phoenix Police Department.
Following their rescue Wednesday, three of the hostages told HSI investigators their captors had beaten, sexually assaulted and attacked them with a stun gun. One man had been stabbed.
The four were freed after HSI special agents developed information that suspected human smugglers were operating out of a residence located near 83rd Avenue and Osborn. Based upon that information, investigators initiated surveillance of the house and subsequently observed a vehicle enter its garage only to leave a short time later. Special agents stopped the vehicle, discovered $7,200 in the vehicle, and apprehended two suspected smugglers and two recently smuggled Mexican nationals. Shortly after the vehicle stop, agents observed three other men leave the residence on bicycle and on foot. All three were identified as suspected smugglers and apprehended.
When HSI special agents and Phoenix Police Department officers entered the residence, they discovered four male Mexican nationals in a bedroom. Two of the men were bound with rope around their ankles, and a third man had been stabbed recently on his upper back. All three had other visible injuries consistent with being physically abused. The fourth man appeared physically unharmed.
The stabbing victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and later released to authorities. The other three men were evaluated and treated as needed by the Phoenix Fire Department at the scene. All four of the men are now in ICE custody and receiving victim services.
"Tragically, this case shows yet again the brutality of the human smuggling trade," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI Arizona. "To the smugglers, these human beings are nothing more than a business commodity. They have no qualms about using ruthless violence in an effort to collect their smuggling fees. HSI is fully committed to disrupting this violent activity and dismantling the criminal organizations involved."
The five suspected smugglers, all of whom are Mexican nationals, were arrested by the Phoenix Police Department and booked into the Maricopa County Jail Thursday on kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault and extortion charges. They are expected to make their initial court appearance late Thursday. The five may also face future federal charges.
The investigation is ongoing.
HSI established the Drop House Response Group in September 2009 to identify, target and dismantle the infrastructure used by human smuggling organizations operating in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
From the FBI
FBI Statement on Seizure of IED Overseas
As a result of close cooperation with our security and intelligence partners overseas, an improvised explosive device (IED) designed to carry out a terrorist attack has been seized abroad.
The FBI currently has possession of the IED and is conducting technical and forensics analysis on it.
Initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations.
The device never presented a threat to public safety, and the U.S. government is working closely with international partners to address associated concerns with the device.
We refer you to the Department of Homeland Security, including the Transportation Security Administration, regarding ongoing security measures to safeguard the American people and the traveling public.
From the Department of Honeland Security
FEMA and its Partners Release the National Preparedness Report
by Tim Manning, Deputy Administrator, Protection and National Preparedness
Today, we released the 2012 National Preparedness Report. The report identifies significant progress the nation has made in areas of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. Overall the report found that the nation has increased its collective preparedness, not only from external threats, but also for natural and technological hazards that face its communities.
The report is part of Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness.
PPD-8 aims to strengthen the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.
The report focuses on five mission areas as outlined in the National Preparedness Goal released in September 2011. Those areas are prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. These mission areas include 31 core capabilities essential to preparedness. The NPR offers an assessment of each of these 31 core capabilities.
Overall, the NPR found the nation has made significant progress in enhancing preparedness and identifies several significant areas of national strength. For example, the nation has built the foundation for an integrated, all-hazards planning architecture that considers routine emergencies and catastrophic events.
Operational coordination has also improved with the adoption of the National Incident Management System, which provides a common doctrine for incident management. In addition, intelligence and information sharing capabilities are stronger thanks to a national network of fusion centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces that bring together federal, state, and local law enforcement, Intelligence Community resources, and other public safety officials and private sector partners.
The report also identified opportunities for national improvement in cybersecurity, long-term recovery, and integrating individuals with access and functional needs into preparedness activities.
Everyone plays a role in preparedness and continued progress depends on the whole community working together. FEMA developed the NPR in close coordination with leaders of federal departments and agencies, and the report reflects inputs from state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, private and nonprofit sector partners, and the general public.
The National Preparedness Report is the next step in implementing PPD-8. Since the President signed the directive in March 2011, FEMA and its partners have released the first edition of the National Preparedness Goal, the National Preparedness System description, and the working drafts of the National Planning Frameworks. For more information on PPD-8 and to download the report, visit www.fema.gov/ppd8
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