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September 12th, 2012
08:41 AM ET

Fmr. House Speaker Gingrich: Egypt, Libya attacks likely had 'collusion & planning,' says Romney shouldn't backtrack on statement

This morning on "Starting Point," former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggests there may be a connection between the US compound attacks in Egypt and Libya.

"You don’t get, simultaneously, attacks in Benghazi and Cairo, in Libya and Egypt on a purely local basis," he says. "And you don’t get them on 9/11, a day we’re already honoring terrorist attacks against the United States, without a fair amount of collusion and a fair amount of planning. I think you have to look at this in a larger context…. There’s a substantial faction, particularly in Benghazi, which was sending people to Iraq to kill Americans. There’s a substantial faction in Egypt which wants to defeat the United States and destroy Israel. That faction looks for opportunities to do things to hurt the United States and yesterday was the example of an attack that’s part of a very long war that we’re going to be at for a very long time.”

CNN Anchor John Berman presses Gingrich if he has proof of a connection between demonstrations and attacks in Egypt and Libya. Gingrich admits that though he has not seen internal documents, he argues that anyone who studies terrorism would agree there had to be a connection.

"Anybody who’s ever studied terrorism will tell you, there’s almost certainly a link," he adds. "This is a lot like the Danish cartoon outrage a few years ago. We are faced with enemies who want to defeat the United States and impose their radical views. How can the US government apologize for a film no one has seen, which is what the Embassy in Cairo did yesterday. It’s not just about an event in Libya. It’s about a longer war, part of which we were being reminded of yesterday on 9/11.”

Gingrich also addresses GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s statement Tuesday that says President Obama sympathizes with attackers before condemning the events.

Filed under: Egypt • Libya • Politics • Terrorism
September 12th, 2012
08:31 AM ET

UPDATED: US Marine reinforcements headed to Tripoli, Libya – Barbara Starr reports

Barbara Starr reports on US Marine reinforcements moving to Tripoli after the US Ambassador to Libya was killed.

Filed under: Egypt • Libya • Terrorism
July 18th, 2012
04:20 PM ET

Flight schools training terrorists? Rep. Rogers weighs in

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) on a hearing looking into whether flight schools are unknowingly training terrorists.

Filed under: Terrorism
May 30th, 2012
11:20 AM ET

Reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad goes undercover in Yemen to illuminate 'new phase of Al Qaeda'

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Ghaith Abdul-Ahad was an Israeli reporter, when in fact he is a native Iraqi. Apologies to Mr. Abdul-Ahad.

Iraqi reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad traveled to Yemen to discover the Al Qaeda base firsthand and offers Soledad O'Brien a chilling glance into the terrorist regime on "Starting Point" this morning.

Al Qaeda has previously found strength in its guerilla tactics and unorganized domain, but Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a cohesive unit, well-known for terrorist acts such as the bombing of the USS Cole, the unsuccessful underwear bomber, and the 2010 cargo plane bomb plot. It's a move for independence, Abdul-Ahad says, and a move for the group to control their own state.

"This is the new phase of Al Qaeda," says Abdul-Ahad. "It's post-Osama Bin Laden, post-Pakistan, post-Afghanistan."

The documentary focuses on three cities in Yemen that have been overtaken and cultivated by Al-Qaeda, and the differences between the three show the diversity in the group's reign.

Abdul-Ahad says Jaar, for the most part, is life as usual - except the court systems and police force are completely run by Al Qaeda. Azzan, a mountain-town, is what he calls the "citadel" of Al Qaeda: isolated and confident. But the city of Lawder fights constantly to fend off the Al Qaeda rule.

"Al-Qaeda can take over a town, can take over a part of a population, but when the population turns against Al Qaeda, this is the end of Al Qaeda," Abdul-Ahad says.

The full half-hour PBS Frontline special "Al Quaeda in Yemen" aired last night and can be viewed on

Filed under: Al Qaeda • Terrorism
May 29th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

Are Iran's assassination plots against diplomats an act of war? CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend explains

U.S. investigators are trying to get to the bottom of what is a pretty intricate plan to try to take out American diplomats and their families by Iran. According to "The Washington Post," the plot involves snipers with silencer-equipped rifles and a car bomb.

Among the targets of the alleged plot: U.S. embassy staff and family members in Azerbaijan. That's Iran's neighbor to the north.

CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend talks with Soledad and the panel this morning about the report. She's also a member of the external advisory boards for the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security as well. She explains that Iran has discussed these types of plots in the past.

"Iran does not want a full-on military conflict with the United States," Townsend explains. "What they prefer are these small-scale one-off attacks. We saw it, frankly, the most egregious up to this report was the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador here. And so, we do see the Iranians using these sorts of tactics, these methods as provocation without going so far as to launch a military attack."

Townsend goes on to explain that these plots could have serious consequences for Iran.

"This debate really first came up where there was the announcement of the plot against the Saudi ambassador, an attack on a diplomat on U.S. soil," Townsend says. "This is just an extension, frankly, of that debate that started then. So any attack against an American official, whether it's in the U.S. or someplace around the world really does constitute an act of war. When all that really means is, what then? Which tools does the United States choose to use to retaliate against it? Does it use military force? Probably not, because it would be a single attack. But it could."

Filed under: Iran • Terrorism
May 23rd, 2012
10:35 AM ET

Rep. King: 'Body-bomb' passenger should have been screened more thoroughly

After a French woman handed a note declaring that she had a "device" implanted under her skin to a flight attendant on US Flight 787 yesterday, the plane made an emergency landing in Maine.

Passengers were told that the plane was landing to refuel after experiencing strong headwinds. In-flight, doctors searched the woman and found no recents scars that would indicate a "body-bomb."

Nevertheless, the 179 passengers and nine crew members aboard were greeted by law enforcement upon landing. The woman in question, who had been flying alone without luggage, was arrested and is reportedly undergoing psychological evaluation.

On Starting Point this morning, Rep. Peter King says he was "very concerned" about the situation because terrorists have been exploring the potential use of "body-bombs."

King insists that the fact that the woman was traveling alone for ten days without luggage should have raised suspicions, saying,  "I think she should have been taken aside and at least given what we call a secondary screening."

King also weighs in on an upcoming movie about Osama Bin Laden, saying that although he gives the Obama administration "tremendous credit" for killing the terrorist, he’s concerned about the degree of "cooperation and collaboration" between Hollywood and the administration.

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Filed under: Terrorism
May 18th, 2012
11:29 AM ET

Bergdahl negotiations the 'first time we’ve learned that the younger Taliban generation is more radical'

Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in June 2009 and he remains the only American soldier ever to be taken alive and held by the terrorist network.

Out of "frustration with how slowly the process has evolved," on May 9th the Bergdahls revealed that Bowe had been the subject of a failed deal involving the transfer of five Taliban prisoners from the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo.

In this week's issue, Time Magazine features an article with the inside details about these stalled negotiations.

Time international editor Jim Frederick discusses the most interesting revelations about Bergdahl's case on Starting Point today.

Frederick explains that the deal for the swap broke down within a couple of days of Bergdahl's release and revealed a deep generational divide between the older members of the Taliban and the younger leaders "who have been radicalized after years of war."

Frederick explains that the younger members of the Taliban refused to cooperate with the deal, acknowledging that Bergdahl is "one of [the organization's] most important bargaining chips."

Regarding the American policy not to negotiate with terrorists, Frederick emphasizes that this situation confirms that "the U.S.government has been negotiating with the Taliban for months, if not years," despite what the government has been saying publicly.

Filed under: Terrorism
May 18th, 2012
10:54 AM ET

Where are terrorist organizations receiving their funding? Rep. Meehan weighs in

Congress will be setting aside it's own budget woes this morning to take a look at the funding of another organization's finances – Al Qaeda.

The  Counterterrorism Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Patrick Meehan, is holding a hearing today to examine the funding of terrorist networks and to investigate how the U.S. can trace money to foil future plots.

Rep. Meehan joins Starting Point today to explain the purpose of the hearing, saying, "the schemes that are being used are what we need to be able to identify, as [terrorist organizations] have changed their tactics."

When asked about where the majority of terrorist funding comes from, Meehan responds that "the most critical organization is Iran and the support of their proxies like Hezbollah." However, Meehan acknowledges that sanctions are "making it difficult for Iran to have the excess cash to send around" to those networks.

Filed under: Terrorism
May 11th, 2012
09:54 AM ET

Challenges of negotiating for POW release – Michael Berg, dad of Nicholas Berg, on why the U.S. should be doing more

The parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier taken prisoner three years ago in Afghanistan, have gone public about the stalled secret negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban for their son.

Bob Bergdahl and his wife, Jani Bergdahl, said in interviews that they are concerned that the U.S. government hasn't done enough to secure the release of their 26 year-old son.

Michael Berg's son Nicholas was captured and beheaded by al Qaeda in 2004.

Berg sits down with Soledad O'Brien on Starting Point today to offer advice to the Bergdahl family about how to deal with their son's situation and to explain why he is opposed to the government's policies about not negotiating with terrorists.

Filed under: POW • Terrorism
May 9th, 2012
12:26 PM ET

What we learned from the foiled terror plot: Fmr. FBI agent says Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula is very dangerous

Fmr. FBI special agent Ali Soufan on how the failed bomb plot provides new information on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Filed under: Al Qaeda • AQAP • Terrorism
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