Al Qaeda operative talking
Al-Nashiri's help has already led to warnings
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Al Qaeda operative Abd Al-Rahim al-Nashiri, captured last month, is talking, sources say.
His interrogation has already led the FBI to warn about possible attacks on U.S. warships, ports, naval bases and cruise ship docks. Now the question is: How much does he have to offer?
Eric Margolis, author of "War at the Top of the World," says quite a bit.
"He, at a higher echelon, would know many of the subordinate cell members throughout the Mideast and southwest Asia," Margolis said.
Government officials say it's likely that al-Nashiri knows about terror plots now under way; the location of active cells; and perhaps the location of active cells, weapons factories and weapons caches.
Without elaborating, one U.S. official said, "He has been of some help in terms of information."
The key to getting the information is finding al-Nashiri's weak spot, according to Cindy Capps, with the Center for Counterintelligence Studies.
"Every person has a button that can be pushed," said Capps, a former FBI interrogator. "But you have to find the button."
Although terror experts rank al-Nashiri among the top 25 al Qaeda leaders, there is a limit to his value. Counterterrorism officials say any information he provides about al Qaeda is valuable for about six months.
Terrorism expert Kenneth Katzman says there's one piece of information that could disrupt the terrorist network.
"The only thing that's going to devastate al Qaeda would be to find the top leadership -- bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. They are, they are the charisma, they are the ethos behind the organization," Katzman said.
President vows to press hunt for terrorism suspects
President Bush hailed the capture of al-Nashiri on Friday, saying authorities had brought to justice a "killer."
U.S. officials announced Thursday that al-Nashiri was in U.S. custody and described him as al Qaeda's chief of operations in the Persian Gulf. He's the suspected mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000.
"We did bring to justice a killer," Bush told reporters in St. Petersburg, Russia. "And the message is, we're making progress on the war against terrorists, that we're going to hunt them down one at a time, that it doesn't matter where they hide; as we work with our friends, we will find them and bring them to justice."
Bush was in Russia for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Al-Nashiri is said to be of similar rank to two other captured al Qaeda operatives: operations chief Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh, believed to be a main organizer of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Few details were revealed about al-Nashiri's capture or where he is being held.
One U.S. official told CNN that he was captured "in the region for which he was responsible" but would not elaborate. Intelligence officials said al-Nashiri was running his reputed operations out of Yemen but they would not say if that was where he was caught.
U.S. government sources said Thursday that intelligence reports during the past several weeks had warned of possible maritime attacks in the Red Sea -- including plans to fly airplanes into U.S. and coalition warships in the region. Officials described the reports as "credible" but "uncorroborated," but said they were taking them all seriously. (Full story)
Seventeen sailors killed
An explosives expert, al-Nashiri made the bomb that was placed on a dinghy that rammed the USS Cole, according to U.S. officials. The attack, which investigators also say al-Nashiri funded, blew a hole in the side of the destroyer, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others.
Al-Nashiri was the mastermind behind a foiled plot this year to bomb U.S. and British warships in the Strait of Gibraltar, authorities say.
He also is believed to have been a main player in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded 4,500 others in August 1998.
His cousin, investigators said, carried out the suicide attack on the embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
Different names, different operations
Born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, al-Nashiri has operated under several aliases, according to officials, and it was under a fictitious name that he engineered the Cole assault.
It was after the embassy bombings that al-Nashiri -- calling himself Mohammed Omar al-Harazi at the time -- called conspirators in Yemen with a proposal to attack a U.S. warship, a U.S. investigator close to the case said.
U.S. and allied officials also have said that al-Nashiri has operated under the alias Abdul Rahman Hussein al-Nashari.
Like other top al Qaeda officials, including bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, he was one of the "Afghan Arabs" who fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, officials said.