UK Terror Plot: American Connections?


ABC News is reporting this morning that the FBI is looking into potential connections between the plotters in the UK and people in the United States:

U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News the FBI is investigating new leads that involve a possible connection between people in the United States, in major east coast cities, and the London bomb plotters.In an interview with ABC News this morning, White House Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend said while there is currently no indication of any plotting in the United States, she confirmed, "There are leads that the FBI is running."
There's also new information today on the depth of the connections to al-Qaeda and Pakistani militant groups to this plot, at the link above and in this Times of London piece.Other developing news over the last few hours:1. The US Embassy in India released an advisory warning American citizens of a pending al-Qaeda attack in Delhi and/or Mumbai. No evidence so far of a direct connection to this plot.2. The NSA was apparently involved with intercepting the group's communications. (Note to those who think this has anything to do with recent NSA controversies: it doesn't. This is what the NSA has always done. The NSA does surveillance on British subjects with the British government's consent, and the UK's GCHQ returns the favor when necessary. The new NSA terrorist surveillance program is controversial primarily because it is the NSA directly conducting domestic surveillance on U.S. persons.)3. British transport authorities are debating about how to transition the emergency aviation security measures into sustainable policies.4. DHS gets good marks for its initial response yesterday in a WaPo story.For more updates, check my usual site, Homeland Security Watch. And keep tabs on ABC News, the Times of London, TIME, and the Guardian, which have provided the best media coverage of the story so far.UPDATE 3:37 PM EST 8/11: This ABC News piece updates their earlier post, and suggests that there are actually no real U.S.-based leads:
In the last several weeks, the FBI dispatched over 200 agents from FBI Headquarters and had agents in every FBI field office running down leads and looking for any angle or connection to the U.K. plot and suspects, according to FBI and Justice Department officials.As part of this effort, MI-5 and British security services provided a list of the suspects' names to U.S. officials. The FBI, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and other agencies spread around the intelligence community ran the names through all of their various databases looking for any information drawing a nexus between the U.K. suspects and any U.S. individuals or other U.S. connections. There were some hits for phone calls made to relatives who live in the U.S., but so far none of these leads has developed any evidence of terrorism or plotting inside the United States.According to one Justice source, as the FBI looked for leads, there was a spike in the number of FISA applications submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to establish court-approved secret wiretaps and surveillance on potential terrorism suspects.As noted yesterday, at this time, counter-terrorism officials have not been able to find any links inside the U.S. associated with this plot.
-- Christian Beckner
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