When it comes to battling terror groups like ISIS, few tools are as effective as human intelligence. It took years to infiltrate key al Qaeda operatives. The CIA did it with the help of a double agent named Morten Storm.
Storm was a Danish boxer, who was radicalized after he converted to Islam. He quickly rose into the upper ranks of al Qaeda. When the large number of civilian deaths convinced him to turn on the group, Storm helped take out one of its top leaders, Anwar al-Awlaki.
CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank helped tell Storm's story. He is a co-author of the new memoir "Agent Storm: My Life Inside al Qaeda and the CIA."
CNN has learned that a message sent from Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri to an affiliate leader was the deciding factor that led to the closure of American embassies, and triggered a global travel alert. But that was not the only intelligence that has U.S. counter-terror officials concerned. Anderson gets the latest from Philip Mudd a senior official with the CIA and FBI, National security analyst Peter Bergen, and terrorism analyst Paul Cruikshank.
Program note: CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson spent a year investigating convicted terrorist, Bryant Neal Vinas. He is now on assignment in Pakistan tracking down details of Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad. Watch AC360° tonight at 10pm ET to see Parts 2 & 3 of Robertson's report. Watch CNN"s "American Al Qaeda: The Story of Bryant Neal Vinas" on Saturday and Sunday, May 15-16, at 8pm ET.
Paul Cruickshank and Nic Robertson
Nearly a decade ago, a group of Saudis and other men from the Middle East came to the United States to carry out the worst terrorist attack on the U.S.
Not a single one had American citizenship.
Almost nine years after the September 11 attacks, the threat of another major terror strike is still a concern, but where the threat is coming from has changed.
A growing number of American citizens and longtime residents of the United States are becoming radicalized enough by al Qaeda's extremist ideology to kill their fellow Americans, counterterrorism officials say.
A growing number are also learning the bomb-making skills necessary to become potentially dangerous terrorists, the officials say. They are training in the mountains of Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan, where al Qaeda still enjoys significant safety.
That's where, according to the U.S. government, alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was trained by the Pakistani Taliban, a group with close ties to al Qaeda.
Shahzad's case has strong similarities to that of another American who plotted with terrorist groups in Pakistan to attack the United States. His name is Bryant Neal Vinas, a Catholic convert to Islam from Long Island, New York, who became radicalized, traveled to Pakistan to join up with al Qaeda and helped Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization plot a bomb attack on New York City.
When news of Vinas' arrest broke last summer, family members, friends and terrorism experts where dumbfounded by how a studious, middle-class, baseball-loving, all-American kid and onetime U.S. Army recruit could end up plotting to kill in the name of al Qaeda.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/WORLD/meast/11/29/bin.laden.message/art.bin.laden.vid.file.afp.gi.jpg caption="A trial for Osama bin Laden would be a media circus, says Paul Cruickshank, but would be good for the United States."]
Special to CNN
The announcement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of the 9/11 attacks will soon be moved to New York to face trial in a federal court will be welcomed by some Americans as finally starting the process of bringing the perpetrators of these attacks to justice.
To date, not one person has been convicted for the attacks. But it also will be a reminder that their boss, the man most responsible for killing 3,000 civilians - the majority of them Americans but many from all around the world - is still at large.
President Obama has stated that it is vitally important for the country to put some of the controversial policies of the last eight years behind it. While the forthcoming trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and several figures allegedly involved in plotting the 9/11 attacks in New York will be helpful, nothing would help more than if Osama bin Laden were captured, afforded full due process and put on trial.
NYU Center on Law and Security
India’s commercial and cultural capital has been witnessing a terrorist attack whose ambition and scope has led seasoned observers to call it “India’s 9/11″. But just who was responsible? Shortly after the attacks started, several Indian newspapers reported receiving messages from an unknown group calling itself “Deccan Mujahedeen” and claiming responsibility for the attacks. Could this unknown group be responsible? The answer is almost certainly no.
The nature of the attack – something akin to scores of heavily armed terrorists storming the Waldorf Astoria and Ritz Carlton in New York City and then going on a shooting rampage through Times Square and the Upper East side – suggests months of painstaking logistical and operational planning. Only an established militant group would have had the ability to carry out such an attack. The Deccan Mujahedeen is not such a group.
If capability and track record are anything to go by, it is likely that the attack was either carried out by Indian Mujahedeen, an indigenous Indian militant group or a Kashmiri militant group with ties to al-Qaida such as Lashkar e Toiba, or some combination of the two.
Indian Mujahedeen first emerged as a terrorist threat in India exactly a year ago when it launched attacks in the north of India. Since then it has carried out about a half dozen attacks across the country, most recently launching an attack on a market place in New Delhi in September. Its signature tactic has been to set off multiple explosive devices simultaneously in crowded public spaces such as market places and buses. Hundreds have died in these attacks. Indian Mujahedeen has not to date carried out the sort of brazen armed attack seen in Mumbai in the last days. But it does appear to have had some access in the past to RDX, a military high explosive, which has reportedly now been discovered in Mumbai. On September 23 Mumbai police arrested five suspected Indian Mujahideen leaders in the Mumbai area and found a quantity of RDX in their possession. Also found in their possession was a large amount of ammunition, including ammonium nitrate rods, detonators and sub machine guns.