Thursday, 5 May 2011

CIA Assessing All Captured Osama Documents

U.S. intelligence agencies are racing to exploit a trove of documents and computer files that Navy SEALs collected from Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan before other al-Qaida groups or leaders can change communication methods or move to safe houses.

Many files are written in multiple languages, and some appear in code, U.S. officials said.

"At first blush, there appears to be some value," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who was briefed on the effort Wednesday.

The CIA has created a special task force in Afghanistan to analyze bin Laden's material for clues to terrorist plots, the location of other al-Qaida leaders, funding streams and other fresh intelligence.

The material also will probably lead to additional people being added to the government's no-fly and terrorist watch lists, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.

Holder, speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said a team of federal intelligence and law-enforcement agencies "will make appropriate decisions with regard to who might be added to the terrorist watch list, the no-fly list, all those things."

About 10,000 people are on the no-fly list, U.S. officials have said. The government's master terrorist watch list is one of roughly a dozen lists or databases used by counterterrorism officials.

Eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency also have stepped up efforts to pick up unusual "chatter" from al-Qaida leaders or sympathizers around the globe after the predawn raid Monday by Navy SEALs that killed bin Laden and four others.

U.S. counterterrorism officials worry al-Qaida cells or franchises may accelerate existing plots to make sure attacks are launched before U.S. intelligence can chase down new leads.

Attack timelines also could be moved up in order to avenge bin Laden's death quickly.

Experts say major terrorist operations, especially those involving attacks on multiple targets, usually take months or years of planning.

Any attempt to change or speed up those plans could create an opening for eavesdroppers to intercept a message or gain other intelligence to help foil a plot.