Obama spy's chief appears ignorant of British plot

22nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama's top aide on intelligence appeared to be completely unaware of the arrests this week of 12 men accused of plotting an Al-Qaeda-inspired attack, in a television interview broadcast Tuesday.

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked about the attacks, with ABC News interviewer Diane Sawyer posing the questions: "First of all, London. How serious is it? Any implication that it was coming here?"

After a long pause, Clapper replied, "London?"

Earlier excerpts of the interview with Obama's national security team including Clapper, chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had focused on the trio insisting the plots were no threat to the United States.

The 12 men were arrested Monday in a sweep in the Welsh capital Cardiff, the central English town of Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham and in London.

Sawyer brought up Clapper's apparent ignorance of the developments later in the interview.

"I was a little surprised you didn't know about London," she said.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't," Clapper replied.

Between the interview's filming Monday and airing a day later, the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a statement, insisting the "question about this specific news development was ambiguous."

"The DNI's knowledge of the threat streams in Europe is profound and multi-dimensional, and any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate," said the department.

Clapper is tasked with giving Obama daily briefings on timely intelligence assessments.

Meanwhile Tuesday the US leader and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke by telephone and discussed the arrests in Britain of the 12 men.

The arrests of the men aged between 17 and 28 came amid heightened tensions following last week's Stockholm suicide bombing, which was conducted by a man who lived and was allegedly radicalized in Britain.

© 2010 AFP

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