FBI officials flew in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's mother and uncle from Nigeria last month to meet with the Christmas Day bombing suspect for 10 days, law enforcement sources said today.
The two were specifically picked because of their close ties to Abdulmutallab. They arrived in the United States Jan. 17, the sources said.
The terror suspect's family played a pivotal role in getting him to cooperate with federal authorities in sharing information about al Qaeda, according to senior administration officials. The suspect has talked to the FBI for hours in recent days, offering what sources say is valuable, sometimes chilling, intelligence.
Abdulmutallab has identified his handlers in Yemen, including the man who designed his underwear bomb, and given extensive details about his training. He also said that there are other recruits just like him and emphasized that more attacks against the United States are in the works, sources said.
Attorney General Eric Holder, in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., today said Abdulmutallab "has provided additional intelligence to the FBI that we are actively using to help protect our country."
National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair reaffirmed today what officials have learned from Abdulmutallab and warned that al Qaeda's pool of suicide bombers may include U.S. citizens and that the terror group may be targeting U.S. nationals overseas for attack.
Testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Blair said that while the United States has ramped up its efforts against al Qaeda, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify the group's immediate plans.
"The violent extremist threat is evolving. We've made complex, multi-team attacks very difficult for al Qaeda to pull off, but as we saw with the recent rash of attacks last year -- both successful and unsuccessful -- identifying individual terrorists -- small groups with short histories using simple attack methods, is a much more difficult task," Blair told House members today.
"We judge that al Qaeda maintains its intent to attack the homeland, preferably with a large-scale operation that would cause mass casualties, harm the U.S. economy or both," the intelligence chief wrote in his annual threat assessment for the committee.
Blair told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday that an al Qaeda attempt against the United States "is certain," when asked about the possibility of it happening in the next three to six months.
CIA Director Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller gave Senators a similarly stark assessment Tuesday, telling them that it is becoming more difficult to identify the threat posed by an evolving al Qaeda, which has become more reliant on its regional terror networks to conduct attacks.
Intelligence from the suspect and other sources indicates that there are other people like Abdulmutallab who were trained in Yemen and were not all killed by the U.S. raids there in December, ABC News consultant and former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke said.