Al Qaeda’s Yemen offshoot could bring down a transatlantic passenger plane at any time, a new book by a former CIA leader has warned.
The book also sheds light on the chaos in the immediate hours after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US.
Despite the threat of Islamic State, it is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that poses the biggest threat, according to Michael Morell, the former deputy chief of the CIA.
“To put it bluntly, I would not be surprised if al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) tomorrow brought down a US airliner travelling from London to New York or from New York to Los Angeles or anywhere else in the United States,” he writes in The Great War of Our Time.
He said AQAP and its number one bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, still pose the biggest threat to the US.
“He may well be the most dangerous terrorist alive today. He is a master at his craft and he is evil.”
Morell recounts being aboard Air Force One hours after the September 11 attacks. President George W Bush was advised to try and negotiate with the Taliban to get the terror group to hand over Osama bin Laden.
“Fuck diplomacy. We are going to war,” Bush replied, according to Morell.
He also said the CIA briefly considered accessing sewage pipes near bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound to extract DNA samples to see if the terror leader was residing there.
Meanwhile, the White House is dismissing as untrue an article alleging that President Barack Obama misled the public about how the US killed bin Laden.
Spokesman Josh Earnest says journalist Seymour Hersh’s piece in the London Review of Books is “riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods.”
Earnest noted Morell’s reaction to the article — that he stopped reading because every sentence was wrong.
Hersh attributes his information to a retired general of the Pakistani intelligence service and several unidentified sources in the US and Pakistan. He says bin Laden was secretly kept as a prisoner by the Pakistanis and they helped the US stage the raid on his compound.
The Obama administration says the Pakistanis did not know about the raid in advance.
Morell’s book has been accused of seeking to “justify the CIA’s failings” with inaccurate criticisms of the Senate intelligence committee’s investigation into the agency’s use of torture, the key senator behind the investigation said.
Morell defends the CIA’s use of harsh interrogations and denounces the committee’s 6,770-page report as “deeply flawed,” and a disservice to the nation. Morell says waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other brutal techniques used on al Qaeda detainees by the CIA produced reams of crucially important intelligence, disputing the Senate report’s conclusion that they didn’t.
Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a statement challenging Morell, who is a consultant for CBS News and a senior counsellor at Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm that includes close aides to Hillary Clinton.
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