US: Info from detainees led to foiled terror plots

Tips from al-Qaida operatives in US custody stopped potential attacks, helping Bush administration regain its image as tough on terror.

George w bush 88 good (photo credit: )
George w bush 88 good
(photo credit: )
It began, in part, with information that al-Qaida commander Abu Zubaydah thought was so useless he revealed it to the CIA. Instead, the tip - the name of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - helped the government start unraveling al-Qaida's network through almost 100 detainees incarcerated over several years. With each new lead, investigators say they tracked plans for what the Bush administration described Wednesday as eight foiled attacks. Two of the disrupted attacks were said to have targeted the United States. And by connecting the dots from suspected terrorists, intelligence officials culled the names of 86 people considered suitable by al-Qaida for carrying out terror operations against Western targets. Many of them were unknown previously; half have since been captured or what the Bush administration described as "removed from the battlefield." Information culled from 14, in custody and considered among the greatest potential threats, was released Wednesday against the background of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. With it, the administration sought to restore its image as tough on terror in an election year marked by public doubt that al-Qaida's leader, Osama bin Laden, ever will be brought to justice. Behind bars, Mohammed or his loyalists revealed plots to attack London's Heathrow Airport and West Coast targets in the United States with hijacked airplanes, the summary said. Mohammed himself, captured in 2003, is said to have described to his interrogators how he directed his operatives to blow up US buildings too tall for victims to jump out of, ensuring they would die by smoke inhalation. Negroponte's summary repeatedly stressed that the Justice Department reviewed the interrogation techniques more than once and deemed them legal. Additionally, the CIA's inspector general investigated and audited the interrogation program, on which lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives and their top staffers also were briefed.