A USA Today article reports today that the December 21, 2003 raising of the national threat level to orange — high — was due to specific information from a new intelligence source. Government officials tell USA Today that starting December 5, a source alerted U.S. authorities to al Qaeda's intentions of using explosives on board commercial aircraft, specifically on two Air France flights between Paris and Los Angeles around Christmas Day and New Year's. Intelligence officials say the source also alerted them to cities and specific infrastructure as being potential targets, such as Las Vegas and nuclear and oil facilities. Between December 21 and January 9, over 15 flights have been either cancelled or disrupted due to what the government saw as credible threats to those flights. The national threat level was lowered back to yellow — elevated — on January 9, 2004.
Plus, an article on the arrest before Christmas of a terror suspect in Britain — an Algerian asylum seeker believed to have links to al Qaeda was planning a suicide operation and had written his family notes talking of his plans to "martyr" himself, a British paper reported this weekend. The suspect had shaved off his body hair, the paper reported, in a religious act, one that potential suicide bombers practice as an effort to be "clean" before entering heaven.
THE WAR ON TERROR
INVESTIGATIONS & THREATS
United States Source Gave U.S. Details of New Plot The nation's recent Code Orange terror alert was triggered by a new U.S. intelligence source that, for the first time since the 9/11 attacks, allowed officials to get specifics about how al Qaeda was planning to use international flights for imminent attacks in the USA, four top government officials say. (USA Today)
Terror Threat Level Still "High" At Eight U.S. Airports The United States is keeping eight airports and other unspecified facilities on high alert for terrorist attack, after lowering the general threat level to "elevated" from "high." (AFP)
U.S. Launches Hunt for Al Qaeda's Bombmaker U.S. intelligence agencies have launched a worldwide manhunt for al Qaeda's master bombmaker, who, they contend, may be building a "dirty" bomb and other new devices for terror attacks inside the U.S., a media report has said. (Times of India)
U.S. to Push Airlines for Passenger Records Information will be fed into databases to assess security risk. Airlines and privacy advocates criticize proposal. (Washington Post)
Passenger's Bomb Threat Diverts Plane to Dulles An American Airlines commuter flight scheduled to land at Reagan National Airport yesterday was diverted to Washington Dulles International Airport after a passenger handed a flight attendant a threatening note in which he demanded to be flown to Australia, officials said. (Washington Post)
United Kingdom Report: U.K. Police Arrest Man in Suicide Bomb Plan British police arrested a man before Christmas who was suspected of preparing himself for a suicide bombing and who had links to al Qaeda, the Sunday Times newspaper said. (Reuters)
France Al Qaeda Terror Plot Foiled, Say French Police The French police are convinced that their country has escaped a planned chemical or biological attack by an Islamist cell linked to al Qaeda. (The Guardian)