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Counterterrorism chief: no active plot by Al Qaeda on 1-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death

The president’s chief counterterrorism adviser said Sunday there is no indication Al Qaeda is planning a terrorist attack on the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden
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“On a day that marks the one-year anniversary of bin Laden being brought to justice, we are especially vigilant,’’ John Brennan said on ABC’s “This Week.’’ “At this time, we don’t see any active plot that is underway, but we are maintaining our guard. We are following every lead.’’

Last May 1, a team of Navy SEALs killed bin Laden during a nighttime raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Brennan argued Al Qaeda’s capability “has been degraded significantly’’ since the death of its leader.

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“I think it made a tremendous difference,’’ he said. “It’s taken away the founding leader of that organization who was a symbol of Al Qaeda’s sort of murderous agenda worldwide. That has had, I think, a profound impact on the organization. And Mr. [Ayman al-] Zawahiri, who is his successor, is somebody who doesn’t have the same sort of institutional support. He doesn’t have the same charisma.’’

Still, Brennan cautioned that “we can’t rest,’’ and said the Department of Homeland Security is particularly concerned about al Qaeda’s presence in Yemen.

“They have demonstrated both the intent, as well as the capability, to try to carry out an attack,’’ Brennan said, citing the unsuccessful underwear bomber of 2009. “They are continuing to try to, again, carry out an attack against US persons inside of Yemen, as well as against the homeland. We’re working very closely with our Yemeni partners to track down all these leads.’’

Reflecting on the raid that led to bin Laden’s death, Brennan admitted that he was worried about the many unknowns the SEALs would encounter on their mission.

“We had a certain perspective as far as what the special forces might encounter when they got to that compound, but we didn’t know whether or not there were going to be tunnels as far as bin Laden’s escape route, what type of explosives might have been rigged to that compound, what our special forces were going to confront, how they were going to get in there and out safely,’’ Brennan said. “So there were a number of the details of that operation that really left many of us very nervous and anxious about the ability to carry out the mission, get bin Laden, and then also get our forces out safely.’’

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Brennan refused to enter the political fray surrounding a new Obama campaign ad that questions whether likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney would have authorized the bin Laden raid. But he appeared to challenge the Romney campaign’s contention that any president in Obama’s position would have made the same call.

Brennan noted members of the administration disagreed about the appropriate course of action and called Obama’s decision “gutsy.’’

“We’re safer today as a result,’’ Brennan said.

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