"Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is probably in touch with all the cells, through other lieutenants," he said. "[Binalshibh] will know where he is — or at least, where he was."
Al-Nashiri is more of a mystery. A Saudi who is also known as Umar Mohammed al-Harazi and Abu Bilal al-Makki, he is considered a step below Mohammed in al Qaeda's hierarchy.
He seems to have a particular hatred for the U.S. Navy, and is suspected of links to plots on four naval targets during the last three years.
Most recently, he has been tied to a failed al Qaeda plot to bomb U.S. and British warships crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, U.S. officials have said. Three Saudis were arrested in Morocco in June in connection with that plot.
He is also suspected of being behind plans to bomb the 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain, a plot revealed in January by a former al Qaeda training camp commander captured by Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan.
The 5th Fleet has responsibility for the Persian Gulf and provides ships for the operations of U.S. Central Command, which is running the war effort in Afghanistan. It also supports the enforcement of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, the U.N. economic embargo against Iraq and the monitoring of sea traffic from the Arabian Sea to the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
The fleet headquarters went on high alert this week in response to new threats tied to the Sept. 11 anniversary. It's unclear whether al-Nashiri is linked to the alert.
Al-Nashiri is believed to be a mastermind of the October 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole, which was hit by a small boat full of explosives at the port in Aden, Yemen.
He is similarly thought to be behind the attempt to bomb the USS The Sullivans nine months earlier at Aden, which failed when the suicide boat, overloaded with explosives, sank. U.S. counterterrorism officials also suspect he is tied to the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Officials have said al-Nashiri gave telephone orders to the bombers from the United Arab Emirates.
U.S. officials believe he was in Ghazni, Afghanistan, around the time the war began last October. He is thought to have moved to Pakistan when the Taliban fell.
A third top bin Laden lieutenant, Abu Zubaydah, remained active in plotting terrorist attacks after Sept. 11, but he was captured in March in a joint U.S.-Pakistani raid in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
One of Zubaydah's associates, Omar al-Farouq, was al Qaeda's chief of operations in Southeast Asia before he was captured and turned over to U.S. authorities. His warnings led in part to the Sept. 10 worldwide terrorism alert.
—The Associated Press
Terror Hearings to Mention Pre-9/11 Clues
W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 17 — U.S. intelligence agencies had picked up reports of threats about attacks planned for inside the United States and of using airplanes as weapons during the summer before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but had been more focused on the possibility of an attack overseas, a congressional source said today.
But there was no information that specified date, time, place and method of attack that would have pointed to the attacks on New York and Washington, the source familiar with a congressional inquiry into intelligence failures told reporters.
"What you're going to find is that there was reporting on domestic attacks in the U.S. even though a lot of people were much more focused on overseas," the source said.