President Obama's Secret: Only 100 al Qaeda Now in Afghanistan

By Richard Esposito, Matthew Cole, Brian Ross

As he justified sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan at a cost of $30 billion a year, President Barack Obama's description Tuesday of the al Qaeda "cancer" in that country left out one key fact: U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told ABCNews.com the approximate estimate of 100 al Qaeda members left in Afghanistan reflects the conclusion of American intelligence agencies and the Defense Department. The relatively small number was part of the intelligence passed on to the White House as President Obama conducted his deliberations.

President Obama made only a vague reference to the size of the al Qaeda presence in his speech at West Point, when he said, "al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same number as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border."

A spokesperson at the White House's National Security Council, Chris Hensman, said he could not comment on intelligence matters.


Israeli firm blasted for letting would-be plane bomber slip through

By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

The Israeli firm ICTS International (not to be confused with ICTS Europe, which is a different company), and two of its subsidiaries are at the crux of an international investigation in recent days, as experts try to pinpoint the reasons for the security failure that enabled Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board Northwest flight 253 and attempt to set alight explosives hidden in his underwear.


The failure was a twin flop: An intelligence failure, which U.S. President Barack Obama has already stated, in the poor handling of information that arrived at the State Department and probably also the CIA from both the father of the would-be bomber and the British security service; and a failure within the security system, including that of the Israeli firm ICTS.

The ICTS daughter company, I-SEC, has another daughter company - called PI (Pro-Check International). The firms provide security services to airports: consultation, instruction, training, inspection and supervision.

Two decades ago, ICTS adopted the system used in Israel, namely of profiling and assessing the degree to which a passenger is a potential threat on the basis of a number indicators (including age, name, origin and behavior during questioning). At the same time, a decade ago, the company developed a technological system called APS (Advanced Passenger Screening).

This system is based on a computerized algorithm, and is fed passenger information from the airline company. The system was offered to the Israel Airports Authority and the Shin Bet in the past, but rejected. According to the company's Web site, most of the large airlines in the United States use the system.

However - in real time - the system of ICTS failed. Even if U.S. intelligence failed and the name of the Nigerian passenger was not pinpointed as a suspect for the airline, he should have stirred the suspicion of the security officers. His age, name, illogical travel route, high-priced ticket purchased at the last minute, his boarding without luggage (only a carry on) and many other signs should have been sufficient to alert the security officers and warrant further examination of the suspect.

However, the security supervisor representing I-SEC and PI allowed him to get on the flight.