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December 31, 2012

The Role of the FBI in Keeping America Safe from Terrorism

Examples of intelligence gained by the FBI that could be lost if cut out of counterterrorism operations.

  • Telephone numbers and email addresses used by al Qaeda

    • A subject arrested in 2002 provided the FBI with phone numbers and email addresses he used to contact Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), and identified KSM and others he considered “important” in al Qaeda.
  • Al Qaeda recruiting techniques, finances, and geographical reach

    • In 1996, Jamal al Fadl told the FBI about Osama bin Laden’s pre-al Qaeda intention to recruit Americans, and identified specific individuals who would help within the United States. He also explained his own fundraising methods within the U.S., identified specific sources, and how the money raised was used to send fighters from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
    • In 2000, L’Houssaine Kherchtou provided the FBI with information on al Qaeda’s recruiting techniques and finances.
    • Iyman Faris told the FBI about a delivery system for funds to be delivered to KSM, and a specific delivery in which he took part.
    • The subject arrested in 2002 explained to the FBI how he became involved with al Qaeda, thereby providing insight into how al Qaeda identifies and recruits Western operatives, and how he provided funding through KSM for attacks in the Philippines.
    • Mohammed Abdullah Warsame, a Canadian, under questioning admitted he was given funds to leave Afghanistan and traveled to London to update his passport and make contact with other operatives there.
  • Terrorist tradecraft used to avoid detection in the West

    • Al Fadl described Osama bin Laden’s pre-al Qaeda system of forging travel documents, along with two key individuals responsible for forging travel documents.
    • Kherchtou provided the FBI information about al Qaeda’s use of NGOs and false passports.
  • Al Qaeda weapons programs and training

    • Kherchtou described to the FBI how al Qaeda developed targets, conducted surveillance and training, and identified the weapons used and vehicles driven by al Qaeda.
    • A subject captured by the Northern Alliance in 2001 described in detail the training he had received from al Qaeda as well as the facilitators who aided his entry into the training camps, and the camp instructors.
    • The subject arrested in 2002 detailed the training he received at al Farooq, a training camp near Kandahar, and described the trainers and other attendees.
    • Faris informed the FBI that he believed al Qaeda was attempting to develop a chemical weapon, after witnessing a man suffering from gas poisoning from experiments conducted at a high-level al Qaeda associate’s house.
    • Warsame told the FBI about the training at “the camp of Osama bin Laden,” which included specialized training in the use of anti-aircraft guns, explosives, suicide missions, and poisons. He heard from others that the trainees in the poison camp were learning to attack locations by poisoning the air or atmosphere.
  • Locations of al Qaeda safehouses and training camps (including maps)

    • An al Qaeda associate detained in connection to the East African Embassy bombings told the FBI after 9/11 information about the locations of several al Qaeda camps in the area of Khost, Afghanistan.
    • Faris described his travel to an al Qaeda safehouse and a training camp in Afghanistan, described having lunch with Osama bin Laden at the camp, and identified the locations of the safehouse and camp on a map of Kandahar at the request of FBI agents.
    • Ahmed Ressam (the so-called “Millenium Bomber”) provided significant information about al Qaeda’s Khalden training camp in Afghanistan.
    • The subject captured by the Northern Alliance told the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service about meeting with Osama bin Laden personally at an al Qaeda poisons training facility near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
  • Al Qaeda communications methods and security protocols

    • Faris provided the FBI details about the countersurveillance techniques KSM would employ,and about the communication habits of a high-level al Qaeda affiliate, including that he used multiple cell phones.
    • The subject captured by the Northern Alliance described how bin Laden and his bodyguards, after 9/11, would move every four hours to avoid capture, and described the vehicles in bin Laden’s convoy.
  • Identification of operatives involved in past and planned attacks

    • Al Fadl identified al Qaeda operatives sent to Somalia to provoke various Somali factions against the U.S. presence there, and an operative close to Osama bin Laden who was sent to the Philippines to set up training camps and carry out an operation there. He also identified that operative’s associates in the Philippines. Al Fadl also identified Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (aka “The Blind Sheikh”), who was unknown to the FBI at the time, along with Sudanese and Saudi operatives, individuals who started a front company for bin Laden, and an operative bin Laden sent to Bosnia. 
    • Faris identified al Qaeda operatives’ relatives and connections in the U.S., allowing the FBI to investigate other domestic threats. He also provided information about his contacts with Majid Khan, which allowed the FBI to ensure that all domestic links with Khan were exhausted.
    • The subject arrested in 2002 provided evidence that KSM had foreknowledge of 9/11, and identified multiple lower-level operatives with whom he had worked, and descriptions of other operatives.
  • Information about plots to attack U.S. targets

    • Faris admitted to conducting research into the possibilities of attacks in New York, and scouting the Brooklyn Bridge and other structures in New York as potential targets for attack. He also told the FBI that KSM had asked him for information about bringing operatives into the United States.
    • The subject captured by the Northern Alliance told the FBI that bin Laden had plans for additional attacks after 9/11, and might have already dispatched sleeper cells to attack the United States.
    • The subject arrested in 2002 provided information about a plot to bomb U.S. targets that KSM and Hambali were directing. Although the plot had already been disrupted at that time, this information was the most complete at that time regarding KSM’s role in directing multiple plots against the U.S. before and after 9/11.
    • A subject interrogated overseas by the FBI in 2008 provided specific information about a possible terrorist target inside the U.S.