Pakistansk politi arresterte amerikanske Bryan Neal Vinas (26) i novemer 2008 i Peshawar. Vinas var konvertitt fra katolisismen til islam, og snakket arabisk, urdu og dari. Han var del av det internasjonale jihadist-nettverket.

I stedet for Bagram eller Guantanamo ble Vinas utlevert til FBI og fløyet tilbake til USA. I avhør har han gradvis tødd opp og i løpet av 100 avhør gitt FBI uvurderlig informasjon.

Hans arrest må ha vært et stort tap for Al Qaida, ikke bare har han avslørt deres modus operandi, men han kan si noe om hvordan medlemmene tenker og oppfører seg, på et språk som amerikanere forstår. Den kulturelle komponenten spiller nok en stor rolle: Pinas har peruansk far og argentinsk mor.

Den virkeligheten han beskriver er som hentet fra en annen verden. Like fullt er den høyst reell: Flere steder på kloden går mennesker rundt og lærer hverandre hvordan de kan sprenge andre i luften: de lærer å lage selvmordsvester, og leker med ideer, som å sprenge fotballstadioner i lufta. En eller annen dag er det noen som er gal nok og dyktig nok til å gjennomføre planene.

Det alvorlige er at det nå er europeere i disse leirene, folk som kjenner de kulturelle kodene i Europa, og har europeiske pass.

Another law enforcement official said that under questioning, the 26-year-old Vinas gradually provided a «treasure trove» of information, allowing U.S. counterterrorism officials to peer deep inside the inner workings of al-Qaida.

The FBI first learned about Vinas after Pakistani police arrested him in November 2008 in Peshawar, a city teeming with Taliban militants and al-Qaida operatives along Pakistan’s northwest border with Afghanistan.

Vinas, born in Queens and raised as a Roman Catholic on Long Island, was turned over to the FBI. Authorities have long been concerned about al-Qaida’s interest in recruiting outsiders who can blend in easily. It was not the first time an American had gone to Pakistan for Jihad. Others had preceded him such as the imprisoned «American Taliban,» John Walker Lindh and convicted terrorist Jose Padilla.

At first after his capture, Vinas appeared scared and dejected. When he was brought back to the United States, an official said, he «started to turn the corner» and trust them, little by little.

One of the first leads he gave investigators was admitting to his own role in helping al-Qaida plan an attack on U.S. soil.

«I consulted with a senior al-Qaida leader and provided detailed information about the operation of the Long Island Rail Road system which I knew because I had ridden the railroad on many occasions,» Vinas later told a judge in a secret guilty plea to terrorism charges. Vinas said the terrorists wanted to launch a bomb attack on the train system.

It was Vinas’ information about those conversations, officials said, that led authorities to issue a security warning last year around the Thanksgiving holidays about a possible plot against New York City-area transit systems.

Once Vinas was placed in U.S. custody, FBI agents spent a period of months conducting approximately 100 interviews with the man, a Muslim convert who spoke Arabic, Dari and Urdu.

Vinas, whose father hails from Peru and his mother from Argentina, told officials he left for Pakistan in September 2007, arriving in Lahore. He made his way to Peshawar.

Intelligence experts say that his terror bosses first sent him on a mission to fire missiles at a U.S. base in Afghanistan, most likely a way for them to test his loyalty. The first attack was not launched because of radio problems and the second failed to hit the base, according to Vinas.

After the botched mission, he agreed to become a suicide bomber and returned to Peshawar for more religious training.

In March 2008, Vinas later told his FBI interrogators, he turned up in Waziristan, a mountainous border region in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden and other terror leaders are suspected of hiding out.

There, he met a former Belgian taxi driver of Moroccan origin who «spouted off ideas about the possibility of attacking soccer stadiums in Europe, but didn’t give a plan or details,» according to a sworn statement Vinas later gave to Belgian prosecutors. The man also had been giving «speeches during Friday prayers at his local mosque where he served as the imam.»

In Waziristan, the Belgian had taken training in constructing electric circuits used in combat operations such as improvised explosive devices and suicide jackets. Vinas told authorities he also took terror training in Waziristan, taught to handle weapons and plastic explosives, including C-3, C-4 and Semtex.

Vinas learned about voltage meters and battery tests and bomb circuits — the ingredients for a remote-detonated bomb — and how to rig an explosives-laden jacket for suicide bombers.

«The students familiarized themselves with seeing, sensing and touching different explosives,» he told investigators.

Vinas described all this to the FBI, pinpointing the locations with photographs and maps and aiding bureau sketch artists. He answered every question FBI agents posed to him, one official said, and the information was shared with the intelligence community.

If it was «worthwhile and worth sharing, we put it out immediately,» the official said.

New direction in terror fight may stem from case