Post-9/11 tools a help in Zazi case

Once it became clear to the FBI that Najibullah Zazi posed a real threat, some of the police and intelligence reforms instituted after the 2001 terrorist attacks worked just as planned.

Wiretaps helped reveal what Zazi was saying. Travel records were mined to build a record of Zazi’s journeys.

The arrest of Zazi, and apparent disruption of an alleged bombing plot, “is a situation brought about by the changes in the way we do business since 9/11 — knocking down the walls (between law enforcement agencies) that allows us to work collaboratively here and overseas,” Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis said in an interview.

But it is still too early for anyone outside of law enforcement to gauge whether the techniques and cooperation that led to Zazi’s arrest make the United States considerably safer than on Sept. 11, 2001.

If, for example, Zazi was able to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, move from his New York neighborhood to Colorado, collect bomb-making chemicals and test them in a hotel suite kitchen without drawing the attention of the CIA, FBI or other federal agencies, then there’s still much work to be done, according to intelligence experts.

“It’s impossible to say, based on the facts of the investigation that have been made public so far, what breakthroughs were involved in the investigation and what can be claimed as a success,” said Paul Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, a 28-year CIA veteran who currently runs graduate security studies at Georgetown University.

Not knowing whether information about Zazi’s activities in Pakistan was developed by agents abroad or solely through police questioning in the United States, “there’s not a basis for drawing conclusions about pre- 9/11 vs. post- 9/11 differences,” Pillar said.

Zazi is charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Read More

FBI describes bomb plot

Najibullah Zazi and his father, Mohammed, held in the investigation, are expected in court today.

FBI agents investigating what they describe as a plot to detonate homemade bombs in the United States released documents Sunday asserting that a Colorado airport-shuttle driver admitted to al-Qaeda training and had bomb-making notes in his laptop.Today, 24-year-old Najibullah Zazi and his father, Mohammed, 53, are scheduled to make initial appearances in federal court. They’ve been held in Denver County Jail since late Saturday, when FBI agents raided their apartment and arrested them on nonterrorism charges of making false statements.

Read More

Part 3: Uniform days in Iraq, new future at home

This Denver Post article was written by Kevin Simpson with Michael Riley, Bruce Finley and Craig F. Walker.

A Denver Post team follows a local teenager through his military training to a volatile industrial and agricultural hub in south-central Iraq.

Read More

Pakistan ambassador speaks in Denver

Eight years of fighting terrorism has led to recalibration from Washington to Denver, where Pakistan’s ambassador Thursday delivered a pointed critique of U.S. tactics.

A lack of focus on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, failure to win popular support, impatience, and relying too much on military force such as the unmanned Predator drones have limited U.S. effectiveness, Pakistan Ambassador Husain Haqqani said in an interview here.

“If the United States cannot get the people on its side, then any number of bombings from high altitude are not going to change the ground reality,” Haqqani said.

“This is an ideological war, and it is an economic war. You have to create economic opportunities, because somebody who does not have a future is more likely to become a suicide terrorist than somebody who has a chance to earn a college degree.”

Read More