For the first time in history, a group of managers were able to sit down and prepare for a major project on a conference call. It's just that all the managers were al Qaeda managers, and the major project was a terrorist attack.
A bizarre story from The Daily Beast, based on clearly targeted leaks from U.S. officials, holds that the communications intercepted by the U.S. government wasn't just any old email or text—it was a full conference call between nearly two dozen representatives from various al Qaeda branches.
“This was like a meeting of the Legion of Doom,” one U.S. intelligence officer told The Daily Beast, referring to the coalition of villains featured in the Saturday morning cartoon Super Friends. 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.
Earlier today, Yemeni officials announced that they had foiled a plot to take over a major Yemeni port. It's unclear if that was the same planned attack discussed on the conference call.
It's also unclear why, exactly, Ayman al Zawahiri and his colleagues thought they could get away with convening a conference call that wouldn't be immediately intercepted by intelligence agencies—or why we should, as John McCain claims to The Daily Beast, treat this as evidence of al Qaeda's continuing strength.
More than anything, though, it's unclear why the U.S. government is intent on providing journalists with a leak that reveals specific intelligence-gathering methods and techniques while jailers prepare a cell for Edward Snowden for doing the exact same thing. (Not to mention! Wasn't the NSA claiming that al Qaeda would overhaul and strengthen its communications methods after the Snowden leaks?) And while we're on unclear things! Why did the U.S. issue a global terror alert and close all of its embassies in the Middle East and North Africa, again?
[image, of MMS sent to phones in 2000, via AP]