Saudi intelligence sharing ‘has saved American lives,’ former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend tells Arab News

File Photo showing former US Homeland Security Adviser to President Georges W Bush, Frances Townsend speaking at Concordia University. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2018
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Saudi intelligence sharing ‘has saved American lives,’ former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend tells Arab News

WASHINGTON: The strength of the US counterterrorism relationship with Saudi Arabia “rivals” that with its historic ally the UK — although this has yet to register with the American public, a former homeland security adviser told Arab News.

Information provided by the Kingdom has prevented several terror attacks and helped save American lives, said Frances Townsend, who worked in the administration of former US President George W. Bush.

Saudi Arabia has stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the Americans in combating terrorism, Townsend said.

“This relationship has developed in terms of counterterrorism — in particular, information sharing and intelligence sharing — which from the United States’ point of view rivals (what we share with) Britain, our longest historic ally,” she said.

“We have a critical information and intelligence-sharing relationship that is almost unparalleled with any of our other partners

She cited two terror plots that were prevented specifically due to intelligence from Saudi Arabia.

“The intelligence exchange between Saudi and American officials has saved American lives,” Townsend said.

“It is a very important ... partnership. It is critical to protecting the American homeland.”

Yet this is not something recognized by many Americans, who are still acutely aware that 15 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 terror attacks were Saudi citizens, Townsend said.

“That ... single fact is what has stuck in people’s minds,” she said, adding that the attacks sought to “drive a wedge” between the Kingdom and the U

“We had to work very hard during the Bush administration, when I was in the White House, to repair that relationship,” she said.

Townsend, speaking to Arab News during the visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Washington, said that the royal visit could help address some of these concerns.

“What you would hope is that people see this longstanding historic relationship is not just about oil, it is not just about money. But this is about economics, it is about security, it is ... a bigger, broader, stronger relationship,” she said.

The White House said earlier this week that the US, Saudi Arabia and UAE were planning a tripartite security forum that would meet regularly to address issues such as the alleged threat posed by Iran.

This agreement would help to strengthen intelligence ties, Townsend said

“That sort of a dialogue, at a strategic level, can be very productive,” she said.

“Our partners in the region — the Emiratis, the Saudis — have suffered from Iranian aggression, whether that is in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Bahrain.

“I think the (Saudi) crown prince, in particular, has shown real leadership in terms of confronting and addressing that threat. And so I think that it is beneficial to all three parties to share intelligence, both tactical and strategic,” she said.


EU and US police cripple Daesh media mouthpieces

Updated 26 min 29 sec ago
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EU and US police cripple Daesh media mouthpieces

THE HAGUE: EU and US police forces have crippled the main mouthpieces of the Daesh militant group in a coordinated transatlantic takedown across several countries, the European police agency said Friday.
“With this ground-breaking operation we have punched a big hole in the capability of Daesh to spread propaganda online and radicalize young people in Europe,” the head of Europol Rob Wainwright said.
The two-day operation on Wednesday and Thursday was the latest stage of a campaign first launched in 2015, and targeted in particular the Amaq news agency used by Daesh to broadcast claims of attacks and spread its message of jihad.
“With this takedown action, targeting major Daesh-branded media outlets like Amaq, but also Al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nashir news, Daesh’s capability to broadcast and publicize terrorist material has been compromised,” Europol said in a statement.
The “simultaneous multinational takedown” was coordinated via Europol’s headquarters in The Hague with the support of Eurojust, the EU agency for judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
It was led by the Belgian federal prosecutor, while national police forces seized servers in the Netherlands, Canada and the United States as well as digital material in Bulgaria, France and Romania.
Britain’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit was also involved in identifying “top-level domain registrars abused by IS,” Europol said.
Europol began warning about the rise of Amaq in late 2015, stressing “the technical resilience of the terrorist online infrastructure.”
“Since then law enforcement agencies have, in a continuous joint effort, taken down the web assets of the media outlet,” it said.
Daesh used Amaq in 2016 to claim attacks all over the world and the Middle East, including the deadly assaults in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and Berlin.
It also used Amaq to claim the March supermarket siege in Trebes, France where a 25-year-old gunman killed four people, including a policeman who took the place of a hostage.