May 7th, 2012
From Pam Benson
Washington (CNN) -- U.S. and other intelligence agencies recently broke up a plot to bomb an airliner and have seized an explosive device that is similar to ones previously used by al Qaeda, officials said Monday.
The plot was discovered before it threatened any Americans, and no airliners were at risk, one U.S. counterterrorism official said. A nonmetallic explosive device like the one used in the failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound jet in 2009 was recovered, the official said, adding that it was meant for use by a suicide bomber.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said authorities have "no specific, credible information regarding an active terrorist plot against the U.S. at this time," although they continue to monitor efforts to carry out such attacks.
President Barack Obama was told about the plot in April, and the attempt "underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad," the White House said.
The threat was foiled around the same time as the anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, although a second U.S. counterterrorism official said the attempted attack was not timed to coincide with the death of the al Qaeda leader.
"What this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country. And we will do everything necessary to keep America safe," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta soon after news of the plot broke.
The FBI said it is conducting technical and forensic analysis on the improvised explosive device that was seized abroad.
The device is similar to others previously used by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Western officials describe as al Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate, the FBI said.
The device was meant to be put on a U.S.-bound airline, U.S. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
The New York Republican said discovery of the bomb plot is just one part of an ongoing operation.
"It's not over as far as the operation itself, which is why you're seeing very few details being given out," he said.
Both King and a senior administration official said the intended user of the bomb is no longer a threat.
The recovered device, which never made it near an airport or airplane, was not built to be a so-called body bomb, the official said.
"AQAP is the responsible group here," said a different senior U.S. official.
"While similar, a preliminary review of this device shows that it has some significant differences from the device used in the Christmas Day attack. It is clear that AQAP is revamping its bomb techniques to try to avoid the causes of the failure of the 2009 device," the official said, referring to the Detroit incident.
U.S. officials believe AQAP has more than 1,000 members in Yemen and connections to al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
The Yemen affiliate has been behind two of the most audacious attempts to target the United States in recent years: the attempted 2009 bombing and the printer bombs loaded onto cargo planes in 2010 and destined for an address in Chicago.
In both cases, U.S. authorities believe the bombs were built by Ibrahim al-Asiri. Both devices contained a main charge of PETN, a white powdery explosive that conventional "single beam" X-ray machines are rarely able to detect.
In 2009, al-Asiri fitted out his own brother, Abdullah al-Asiri, with a PETN-based underwear bomb to kill Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a top Saudi security official. The device killed his brother instantly but failed to kill its target.
The government of Yemen has been fighting AQAP for years, with mixed results.
On Sunday, a senior AQAP operative wanted for his role in the USS Cole bombing was killed by an airstrike in Yemen, officials said.
Fahd al Quso, 37, was killed while riding in a vehicle in the Rafdh district in Shabwa province. He was hit by a CIA drone strike, U.S. officials told CNN.
The weekend attack plus the foiled airline plot delivered a "one-two punch" against AQAP, said the senior administration official.
"This was a key victory for us. It also reminds us, though, that this war is not going to end in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has metastasized and morphed. And they are constantly attempting to find new ways to get at us," said King.
CNN's National Security Contributor Fran Townsend, Elise Labott and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.
May 7th, 2012
After months on the sidelines, major liberal donors including the financier George Soros are preparing to inject up to $100 million into independent groups to aid Democrats’ chances this fall. But instead of going head to head with the conservative “super PACs” and outside groups that have flooded the presidential and Congressional campaigns with negative advertising, the donors are focusing on grass-roots organizing, voter registration and Democratic turnout.
The departure from the conservatives’ approach, which helped Republicans wrest control of the House in 2010, partly reflects liberal donors’ objections to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which paved the way for super PACs and unbridled campaign spending.
But in interviews, donors and strategists involved in the effort said they also did not believe they could match advertising spending by leading conservative groups like American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity, and instead wanted to exploit what they see as the Democrats’ advantage in grass-roots organizing.
“Super PACs are critically important,” said Rob Stein, the founder of the Democracy Alliance, a group of liberal donors who will convene near Miami this week to discuss where to steer their money this year. But the liberal groups, he said, believe that local efforts and outreach through social media “can have an enormous impact in battleground states in 2012.”
In a move likely to draw in other major donors, Mr. Soros will contribute $1 million each to America Votes, a group that coordinates political activity for left-leaning environmental, abortion rights and civil rights groups, and American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC that focuses on election-oriented research. The donations will be Mr. Soros’s first major contributions of the 2012 election cycle.
“George Soros believes the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to special interests’ paying for political ads,” said Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Mr. Soros. “There is no way those concerned with the public interest can compete with them. Soros has always focused his political giving on grass-roots organizing and holding conservatives accountable for the flawed policies they promote. His support of these groups is consistent with those views.”
On Monday, in an indication that he does not expect significant advertising spending from Democratic-leaning outside groups at this stage, President Obama unveiled a $25 million ad campaign against Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee.
A super PAC founded by two former Obama aides, Priorities USA Action, has struggled to raise money against better-financed conservative groups like American Crossroads, which expects to spend $300 million on the presidential, House and Senate elections.
Those difficulties stem in part from Mr. Obama’s past opposition to spending by outside groups, which has dampened donor enthusiasm despite his about-face this year. But it also reflects how major liberal donors and independent groups have focused since 2004 on creating a permanent infrastructure of liberal research and voter-outreach groups. That year, liberal groups spent more than $200 million on advertising and grass-roots activity in a failed bid to deprive President George W. Bush of a second term.
Conservative independent groups, including super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on election ads, dominated the advertising wars in 2010, helping Republicans make major gains in Congress, and their money has had a similar impact so far in this cycle.
“The idea that we’re going to engage in an arms race on advertising with the Republicans is not appealing to many liberal donors,” said David Brock, the founder of American Bridge 21st Century.
The advertising-oriented Democratic super PACs, including Priorities USA and two groups founded to back Democrats in Congress, remain on the list of organizations that the Democracy Alliance recommends to its members. Robert McKay, who is the chairman of the Democracy Alliance and sits on the board of Priorities USA, said the $100 million expected to be spent this year by alliance members would include some money for election ads, but would most likely favor grass-roots organizing and research groups.
“There is a bias towards funding infrastructure as it relates to the elections,” Mr. McKay said. “That means get-out-the-vote efforts” directed toward young voters, single women, black voters and Latinos, he said.
Organizations likely to be a part of the effort include Catalist, which creates voter lists for allied liberal groups; ProgressNow, a network of state-based Web sites for liberal opinion and activism; and the Latino Engagement Fund, a new group that works to register and turn out Latino voters for Democrats. Conservative independent groups are financing similar outreach to Latino voters: the American Action Network, which spent $26 million against Democratic candidates in 2010, last year unveiled the Hispanic Leadership Network, which will seek to mobilize center-right Latino voters.
Liberals outside the Democracy Alliance are also likely to make significant contributions, as are labor unions, which plan to spend up to $400 million on state, local and federal races, and advocacy groups like the Sierra Club.
Some groups will pay for both advertising and organizing. PAC+, a super PAC founded by the San Francisco philanthropist Steve Phillips, a member of the Democracy Alliance, expects to spend about $10 million on Latino voters in six states, with a heavy emphasis on Arizona, which the Obama campaign is seeking to turn into a battleground. Half of PAC+ spending will go to enrollment and half to advertising.
“You can dump 10 or 20 million in TV ads in Ohio and try to reach the persuadable swing voters there, or you can up voter turnout among Latinos in Colorado and Arizona and win that way,” Mr. Phillips said. “It’s much cheaper.”
Recommended from the NY Times
May 7th, 2012
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has seized thousands of smuggled drug capsules filled with powdered flesh from dead babies, which some people believe can cure disease, officials said Monday.
The capsules were made in northeastern China from babies whose bodies were chopped into small pieces and dried on stoves before being turned into powder, the Korea Customs Service said.
Customs officials refused to say where the dead babies came from or who made the capsules, citing possible diplomatic friction with Beijing. Chinese officials ordered an investigation into the production of drugs made from dead fetuses or newborns last year.
The customs office has discovered 35 smuggling attempts since August of about 17,450 capsules disguised as stamina boosters, and some people believe them to be a panacea for disease, the customs service said in a statement. The capsules of human flesh, however, contained bacteria and other harmful ingredients.
The smugglers told customs officials they believed the capsules were ordinary stamina boosters and did not know the ingredients or manufacturing process.
Ethnic Koreans from northeastern China who now live in South Korea were intending to use the capsules themselves or share them with other Korean-Chinese, a customs official said. They were carried in luggage or sent by international mail.
The capsules were all confiscated but no one has been punished because the amount was deemed small and they weren't intended for sale, said the customs official, who requested anonymity, citing department rules.
China's State Food and Drug Administration and its Health Ministry did not immediately respond to questions faxed to them Monday. Chinese media identify northeastern China as the source of such products, especially Jilin province which abuts North Korea.
The Jilin food and drug safety agency is responsible for investigating the trade of such remains there. Calls to the agency and to the information office of Jilin's Communist Party were not answered Monday.
The South Korean customs agency began investigating after receiving a tip a year ago. No sicknesses have been reported from ingesting the capsules.
Associated Press researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.
Most Popular on CBS News
May 7th, 2012
CNN International / By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) -- The wife of a U.S. Army captain in Afghanistan watched a live link for two hours of her husband slumped over a computer keyboard with a bullet hole in a closet behind him as she tried to summon help for him, she said.
The account by Susan Orellana-Clark offers new details about what she saw happen some 7,500 miles away, while raising fresh questions as to how he died and why, according to her, it took two hours for anyone to come to his aid.
Orellana-Clark, in a statement released Sunday, recounted the details surrounding the death of her husband, Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark, who died April 30 at Tarin Kowt, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) north of Kandahar.
She said the two were chatting on Skype, and there was no sign that he was in any discomfort, "nor did he indicate any alarm."
"Then CPT Clark was suddenly knocked forward," the statement said. "The closet behind him had a bullet hole in it."
Orellana-Clark said several other people -- one of them a member of the military -- who rushed to her home after she called for help saw the hole in the closet and agreed it was a bullet hole.
"After two hours and many frantic phone calls by Mrs. Clark, two military personnel arrived in the room (in Afghanistan) and appeared to check (Clark's) pulse, but provided no details about his condition to his wife," the statement said.
Orellana-Clark was releasing details "to honor my husband and dispel the inaccurate information and supposition promulgated by other parties."
Two U.S. military officials with knowledge of the investigation conducted in Afghanistan confirmed that it took two hours from the time Clark collapsed while on Skype with his wife to when military personnel responded.
They explained part of the issue was that the wife's request was routed through several commands in the United States before it was relayed to Afghanistan.
Clark was assigned to the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, but deployed with a medical unit from Fort Hood.
No wounds were found on Clark's body, according to one of the officials, who said the death has been determined to be "non-combat" and suicide has been ruled out as a cause.
An official determination of cause of death is pending autopsy and toxicology results, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation.
The official could not reconcile Orellana-Clark's account with the ongoing investigation.
Clarence Davis, a spokesman for the Beaumont Army Medical, said Friday that it had not been determined how Clark died. A call to the medical center Sunday was not immediately returned.
In addition to his wife, Clark is survived by two daughters.
Known by many as Kevin, Clark was a chief nurse in the Army who amassed many honors in his military career, according to his family. Those include an Army Commendation Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and an Army Service Medal.
The longtime resident of Spencerport, New York, joined the Army in September 2006 and served, among other places, at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, according to a Beaumont Army Medical Center statement. More recently, he was based at that medical facility in southwest Texas and assigned to the Army's A Company, Troop Command.
"He loved being in the military," his sister-in-law Mariana Barry told CNN affiliate WHAM in upstate New York. "He was absolutely willing to make any sacrifice, and it's just horrible that this is the sacrifice he ended up making."
His commander described Clark, 43, as "awesome," "professional" and "a great asset, leader and friend," the family said.
After his death, special operations troops from the United States and Australia lined up to give him his final send-off from Afghanistan.
On Thursday, his casket was wrapped in an American flag as it was transported off a military plane onto the tarmac of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to the U.S. Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation.
While no dates have been given, the family said that Clark's funeral will be in Spencerport and a memorial service will be held in Addison, Michigan.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all flags at state government buildings be flown at half-staff Monday in Clark's honor, as he's done with other troops from the state who have died in combat zones.