Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday afternoon terror

By Peter Henne

It's been a busy week for the counter-terror community.

First came the announcement on Wednesday of a failed plot to bomb Metro stations in northern Virginia, the populous suburban area of Washington, DC. Such an attack would of course be catastrophic. That being said, the incident involved a sting operation in which the FBI convinced a man that he was working with al-Qaida. The government has used this tactic before, such as the 2006 plot against targets in Chicago.

It is good when would-be terrorists are apprehended. It's unclear, however, whether such individuals would have succeeded in contacting AQ and pulling off the attack on their own, and thus questionable how effective a use of counter-terrorism resources such operations are.

The other plot revealed this week, however, is more disturbing. Details are still emerging as I write, but apparently air cargo screeners in London detected an explosive in a package from Yemen. This prompted a search of other cargo shipments from that country. Several were intercepted -- including an Emirates Air passenger jet escorted by fighter jets to JFK airport -- and additional explosives were discovered in
a package in Dubai. The suspicious packages were addressed to US religious institutions, including a Chicago-area synagogue.

It is difficult to tell what this constitutes. Some suggest it may have been a dry run to test US security. It would be unclear, though, why actual explosives were involved. I am tempted to think this was an attempted attack, given the US reaction and the connection to Yemen (home of AQ in the Arabian Peninsula and originator of other threats against the United States). The multiple attack vectors fits with the usual AQ method, although the use of cargo planes seems to be an innovation.

If this was a real attack, it tells us a bit about the current state of the terrorist threat to the United States. After 9/11, many of us envisioned AQ as a worldwide insurgency, with cells in numerous countries connected by loose networks and able to attack targets with little warning. Instead, as I have said before, AQ has evolved into a shadowy movement that exploits potential safe havens, allies with local militant groups, recruits and transports fighters, and maintains a global propaganda machine.

In terms of what this means to the United States, the hopefully foiled attack may typify the threat we face: a persistent low-level threat that is composed of both constantly changing means of attack and ever-present possibilities for over-reaction or misplaced resources.

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  • Are people really believing these stories?

    A bomb of this nature would only kill the person standing next to the printer.
    Why on earth would someone plot to bomb a random person on the other side of the planet,
    by shipping the device with fed ex?
    Does the super-secret ALCIADA buy the components for their evil underground bombs on amazon?

    Great Intel False Flag Operation to scare the hell out of naive people.

    By Anonymous Mosche Greenberg, at 1:13 PM  

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