August 07, 2013

Confirmed: US Listening in on al Qaeda "Conference Calls" / UPDATE: AQ Plot Foiled in Yemen?

Did I call it or did I call it? Today the Daily Beast confirmed that the leak which revealed that the US was intercepting communications between al Qaeda's #1, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, was in fact an intercepted "conference call" between a number of top al Qaeda affiliate leaders.

So, now Ayman al-Zawahiri knows we've been able to geolocate him. Wonderful!

This leak was either the biggest intelligence eff up since Bradley Manning screwed his own country, or it's the most blatant bird dogging expedition since .... ever. (That's where you let the bad guy think you know where they are in an effort to flush them out and get them moving in the hopes spotting them)

Since I have to assume that the Daily Beast report is true then I'm left with the former explanation. In which case we are so screwed and someone needs to be prosecuted:

The crucial intercept that prompted the U.S. government to close embassies in 22 countries was a conference call between al Qaeda’s senior leaders and representatives of several of the group’s affiliates throughout the region....

The official said Zawahiri announced to the broader organization during the meeting that Wuhayshi had been promoted to “Ma’sul al-Amm,” an Arabic term that roughly translates as “general manager.” The promotion effectively gave the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen operational control of al Qaeda’s many affiliates throughout the Muslim world, the official said, a key factor that led the State Department to close embassies, missions, and consulates throughout the region. “All you need to do is look at that list of places we shut down to get a sense of who was on the phone call,” the official said.

Also during the meeting, the various al Qaeda leaders discussed in vague terms plans for a pending attack and mentioned that a team or teams were already in place for such an attack.

So, there you have it. Expect this to be the last of such conference calls. Yes, al Qaeda really does read the Western press.

Whatever edge we had on them that led to this intercept just went away. So, thank you leakers and thank you Daily Beast for letting our enemies know we are on to them!

Bastards. And I'm not alone in that sentiment. Ed links to this:

“We just showed our hand, so now they’re obviously going to change their position on when and where” to attack, said Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst who was part of the team that hunted Osama bin Laden for years.
But the damage is much more than that. It's not just a tactical showing of our hand, it's showing our methods. I wouldn't care quite so much if al Qaeda just picked a new target. But Zawahiri just got a heads up on throwing his mobile phone away and ditching whatever compound he was holed up in.

Update: Hmmm, are the two related? It was reported that Zawahiri asked AQAP to step up attacks. And that the attacks mentioned were rather vague. So, could the foiled plot by AQAP to take over a couple of cities in Yemen be the one that Zawahiri was referring to? That seems to be what Drudge is inferring in his headline:

Authorities foiled plots by al-Qaida to take over key cities in southern Yemen and attack strategic ports and gas facilities, a government spokesman said Wednesday amid a heightened alert that has seen Western embassies evacuated and a new suspected U.S. drone strike that killed seven alleged militants from the terrorist group.

Al-Qaida planned to target the cities of Mukalla and Bawzeer, then send militants disguised as Yemeni troops to attack two strategic oil ports in the impoverished country on the Arabian Peninsula, government spokesman Rageh Badi said.

Other al-Qaida militants would also try to sabotage pipelines to "create panic among Yemeni army and Yemeni security services," Badi told The Associated Press, adding that authorities managed to foil the plots in the past 48 hours.

Here's the problem: this is Yemen. Do you know how to tell when the Yemeni authorities are lying? There lips are moving.

So, this could just be a face saving measure by the Yemenis who aren't too happy that we've pulled all personnel from their country. Round up a few of the usual suspects. Put them in front of a camera. Let them escape from jail a few months later.

The problem with a place like Yemen is that they really do have an al Qaeda problem and al Qaeda taking over entire cities and regions is something that really happens. It's the boy that cried wolf story over and over again. There really is a wolf, but the lies are piled so high and deep it's pretty difficult to tell what's real and what isn't.

So either the Yemenis just foiled the plot that closed US embassies all over the world or it didn't. Welcome to the world of news that doesn't enlighten.

UPDATE II: You can see that I'm not the only one thinking it:

However, a U.S. intelligence official cast doubt on the country's statement, telling Fox News that the claim was premature and that there is still fear in the intelligence community about “soft targets” in the Middle East and elsewhere.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 04:11 PM | Comments |