Newsday: Analysts see spike in cyberthreats

May 4, 2011

NYPD cyberanalysts have noticed a spike in threatening Internet postings since the killing of Osama bin Laden, a law-enforcement official said Tuesday.

"There is fair amount of anger, a fair amount of disbelief, some say they will retaliate," said the official, who works in counterterrorism operations and asked not to be identified.
"People are definitely talking about it," the official said.

None of the threatening Internet messages indicate specific plots and the NYPD reiterated Tuesday there were no known threats to New York City.

"We are looking to make sure mere language doesn't start some action against the city," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Tuesday of the around-the-clock computer monitoring.

On a day of fast-moving developments worldwide in the wake of the death of the 9/11 mastermind:

Congressional pressure mounted on Pakistan to explain how bin Laden could have hidden unnoticed deep inside the country.

U.S. officials revealed that bin Laden had been unarmed when special forces burst in on him.

The White House continued to put off calls for release of photos of a slain bin Laden, calling them potentially "inflammatory."

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the waterboarding of a top al-Qaida member had produced key information that led to finding bin Laden.

The NYPD's Browne said another spike since bin Laden's death occurred in calls about suspicious packages — 64 on Monday, compared with 18 in the prior week.

Since the police beefed up their counterterrorism operations in recent years, analysts and linguists have monitored websites and chat rooms for potential leads to terror plots.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Jay Carney provided a revised version of events during the 40-minute raid on bin Laden's compound.

"In the room with bin Laden," Carney said, "bin Laden's wife rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg, but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed."

Asked how bin Laden resisted, Carney said, "Resistance does not require a firearm."

Earlier, King, an outspoken defender of the use of torture in interrogating terrorists, said the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed had led investigators to the nom de guerre of the courier who led the United States to discover bin Laden.

But when asked if the results of harsh interrogation led to the discovery, Carney said, "That's just not the case," adding "no single piece of information led to the successful mission."

Carney also said White House officials continue to weigh whether it is appropriate to release of photos of bin Laden. "It's fair to say that it is a gruesome photograph," he said. "It could be inflammatory."

King said the photo should be released to prevent conspiracy theories from developing. He said that from what he had been told of the photo, "It's not ghoulish. It's a dead person with a bullet over the eye."

On Capitol Hill, members in Congress from both parties raised questions about continuing the estimated $1.3 billion a year in U.S. aid to Pakistan.

Lawmakers are pressing Pakistan for answers to two questions: What did its army and intelligence agents know of bin Laden's whereabouts and when did they know it?

Bin Laden lived in a large fortified compound built in 2005 on the outskirts of Abbottabad, near the capital of Islamabad and a half-mile from the Pakistan's Kakul Military Academy.

King said he met for about 35 minutes Tuesday with the chief of the Pakistani mission here to explain that "the burden is now shifting to Pakistan to explain what happened."

John Brennan, White House counterterrorism adviser, said the administration is "not accusing anybody at this point, but we want to make sure we get to the bottom of this."

But Carney and Republican House Speaker John Boehner insisted the United States should maintain close ties with the sometimes reluctant ally in fighting terror.

"I think we need more engagement, not less," Boehner said. "Having a robust partnership with Pakistan is critical to breaking the back of al-Qaida."

But the discovery of bin Laden and the U.S. raid that followed has frayed relations.

CIA Director Leon Panetta said the United States avoided working with Pakistan on the raid. "It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission: They might alert the targets," he told Time magazine.

A frustrated Pakistan Tuesday called the U.S. raid to get bin Laden an "unauthorized unilateral action" that "cannot be taken as a rule."