WASHINGTON -- Some of the Al Qaeda operatives whose activities led to a US security warning last month have been captured, while others remain at large, US counterterrorism authorities say.
"We have received a lot of good information from these detainees over the past several weeks and corroborated the fact there were active plans, ongoing, to conduct another attack in the United States," said William H. Parrish, a top intelligence official with the Homeland Security Department, during a recent interview.
The detainees indicated that there probably were "going to be multiple attacks, simultaneous," he said.
The Al Qaeda members include some lieutenants operating in Saudi Arabia. Their leader, Abu Bakr al-Azdi, surrendered in June; his deputy was killed in a shoot-out with Saudi forces recently.
Other suspects in these plots are still at large, Parrish said.
Parrish, the acting assistant secretary for information analysis at Homeland Security, said the threat posed by this group remains one of the top terrorism concerns domestically.
On Sept. 4, the department issued a warning to security personnel suggesting an Al Qaeda attack was in the works. It offered a number of potential threats; atop the list were concerns that terrorists would again hijack airplanes and use them as weapons.
But the precise nature of the threat remains unclear. Enter Parrish, whose charge is to turn vague intelligence into coherent warnings for police, emergency workers, and corporate security officials.
He now has about 60 intelligence analysts working for him, a tiny shop compared with the operations at the CIA and FBI. His group also must find a role distinct from the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the new operation designed to disseminate terrorism information among the FBI, CIA, and other agencies.
All that would seem to leave little room for Parrish's operation, which is part of the larger Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Office at Homeland Security. Many initially believed that Homeland Security would perform the function eventually given to the threat center.
Parrish has some authority to direct intelligence-gathering by the CIA and other agencies to suit his needs. Homeland Security is pushing for US interrogators to press Al Qaeda prisoners to find out whether the organization has the know-how to pull off the plots that members describe, he said.