M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘al-qaida

Is American intelligence on the right track?

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Over at msnbc.com, I have a report on the annual national intelligence assessment. In it, National Intelligence Director James Clapper told senators that al-Qaida could be receding to purely symbolic status, leaving the United States with the challenge of confronting numerous new, harder-to-get-a-grip-on security threats.

Read the details here and let me know whether you agree. And if so, how should Washington refocus its intelligence resources?

We also have a poll on Facebook: Is the U.S. safer today?

Written by Alex

January 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Update: Two terror threat subjects could be Americans

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Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET: NBC’s Pete Williams reports that U.S. officials believe two of the three men mentioned by their intelligence source could be Americans who flew from Dubai.

Over at msnbc.com’s Open Channel investigative blog, I’ve rounded up what we’re hearing from intelligence sources on the terrorism threat against New York and Washington:

Senior officials told NBC’s Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, and terrorism analyst Roger Cressey that al-Zawahiri has had only limited involvement in al-Qaida operations, knowing he is the primary U.S. target after the killings of Osama bin Laden in May and top al-Qaida strategist Abu Abd al-Rahman Atiyyat Allah last month.

“Bin Laden was more involved in al-Qaida operations” than al-Zawahiri has been since he took over as al-Qaida’s No. 1, a senior official said. “He’s too busy trying to stay alive.”

Read the full post

Written by Alex

September 9, 2011 at 10:08 am

Reporting: U.S. aims to track ‘untraceable’ prepaid cash cards

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Steve Streit, chief executive of prepaid access card firm Green Dot, told CNBC last year how the cards work.

Update: The Network Branded Prepaid Card Association responds here.

Cross-posted from msnbc.com’s Open Channel blog, where it originally appeared. To read it in context, click here.

Right: Steve Streit, chief executive of prepaid access card firm Green Dot, told CNBC last year how the cards work.

By M. Alex Johnson
msnbc.com reporter

As the federal government tells it, the money men behind the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers would never have been identified had they not been lousy bankers:

“The 9/11 hijackers opened U.S. bank accounts, had face-to-face dealings with bank employees, signed signature cards and received wire transfers, all of which left financial footprints. Law enforcement was able to follow the trail, identify the hijackers and trace them back to their terror cells and confederates abroad.”

That’s from a Treasury Department assessment of financial security threats in 2005. It went on to warn that the terrorists could have quietly moved large sums of money into or out of the U.S.:

“Had the 9/11 terrorists used prepaid … cards to cover their expenses, none of these financial footprints would have been available.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alex

September 1, 2011 at 10:03 am


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And I don’t mean this cover, from the weekly edition of The Telegraph, is a perfect front page. I mean it perfectly captures the struggle between the frivolous and the serious that we in the media still haven’t resolved.

Bin Laden compound could yield big intelligence harvest

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“Thousands of documents” recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan could help the U.S. “destroy al-Qaida,” U.S. officials told NBC News. …

U.S. officials would not discuss details of what might be in the papers and on the computer drives, including whether the material was encrypted. But in an interview with NBC News’ Brian Williams, CIA Director Leon Panetta said, “The reality is that we picked up an awful lot of information there at the compound.” …

Panetta confirmed that relatives of bin Laden were in Pakistani custody and said the U.S. had been assured that it would “have access to those individuals.”

Panetta said that combined with the computer data, “the ability to continue questioning the family” could yield significant leads “regarding threats, regarding the location of other high-value targets and regarding the kind of operations that we need to conduct against these terrorists.”

Full story (Alex Johnson/msnbc.com with Jim Miklaszewski and Robert Windrem of NBC News)

Written by Alex

May 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Osama bin Laden killed in Pakistan, Obama says

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"Bin Laden obit"Osama bin Laden, the Saudi extremist whose al-Qaida terrorist organization killed more than 3,000 people in attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, was shot and killed Sunday in a U.S. military operation in Pakistan, and the U.S. has recovered his body, President Barack Obama announced Sunday night.

“Justice has been done,” the president declared as crowds formed outside the White House to celebrate, singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “We Are the Champions,” NBC News reported.

Obama said bin Laden, 54, whom he called a terrorist “responsible for the murder of thousands of American men, women and children,” was killed in Pakistan earlier in the day after a firefight at a compound in the city of Abbottabad in a military operation that was based on U.S. intelligence.

Other U.S. officials said one of bin Laden’s sons and two of his most trusted couriers also were killed, as was an unidentified woman who was used as a human shield.

The news immediately raised concerns that reprisal attacks from al-Qaida and other Islamist extremist groups could follow soon.
“In the wake of this operation, there may be a heightened threat to the U.S. homeland,” a U.S. official said. “The U.S. is taking every possible precaution. The State Department has sent advisories to embassies worldwide and has issued a travel ban for Pakistan.”

Police in New York, site of the deadliest attack on Sept. 11, said they had already begun to “ramp up” security on their own.

Full story (Alex Johnson/msnbc.com with Bill Dedman and JoNel Aleccia of msnbc.com and NBC News dispatches)

Written by Alex

May 1, 2011 at 11:11 pm