Federal authorities said Friday that intelligence they obtained about a possible threat to the U.S. homeland from Pakistan was based on a source who had lied to them the whole time. The development comes one day after Fox News reported that the U.S. government had obtained information indicating the group that orchestrated the failed Times Square bombing may be looking to strike again.
The FBI said Friday it was charging Syed Omair Ali with “knowingly and willfully” making false statements to federal investigators.
Since May, Ali has been providing information to the FBI concerning “several individuals” who “were planning to commit a terrorist attack in the United States,” including an individual he said “has ties with the tribal guys back in Karachi-Pakistan” and “has been planning on hurting our motherland,” according to FBI documents.
He said the individuals had decided to attack Times Square because it would likely inflict the most casualties, according to the documents.
The information provided to Fox News is not identical to the information cited in the Ali case, but it is very similar.
As reported Thursday, sources told Fox News that recent intelligence indicated the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, was looking to launch another Times Square-style attack in the United States and may have successfully placed another operative inside the United States. A senior intelligence official said the operative would have come from Pakistan’s tribal regions. But sources also said authorities were concerned because they knew little about the potential operative or any possible plot, including a location for a possible strike.
While sources had described that information as “credible but not specific,” Fox News quoted a source on Thursday saying, "In many cases, intelligence we get ends up washing out."
Fox News was unable to determine how or when the intelligence was obtained.
Ali was interviewed most recently by the FBI on Thursday, the same day Fox News reported on the new intelligence obtained by the U.S. government.
“During the interview, Ali admitted that all of the information he had previously provided to the FBI regarding a terrorist plot had been false, and that he had deliberately misled the FBI,” said the FBI documents.
Ali said he provided false information, in part, “to get [one of the suspects] in trouble due to a personal conflict,” the FBI said.
It’s unclear what would have led Ali to make such admissions to the FBI on Thursday, the day of the Fox News report.
FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said Friday that lies like those allegedly made by Ali “take valuable time away from investigators” when they “could be following real information.”
A counterterrorism official agreed, adding that it is “wholly appropriate, responsible and required for law enforcement to run down every lead even if the vast majority of them end up being non-threats.”
“At the end of the day, you want the kind of result where you’ve appropriately reviewed the material and come to a conclusion that there [is not] a credible threat,” the official said.
Ali “will now have to answer to [his actions] in court,” Kolko said.
Faisal Shahzad, the man who tried to detonate a bomb-packed SUV in Times Square on May 1, has been sentenced to life in prison.