We’ve noted here before the possibility that Al Qaeda’s current “chatter” is disinformation, or a deliberate manipulation of our current terror protocols. Whatever happened to, “If we do ‘X,’ the terrorists win”? Well, we’re cowering around the world right now.
The National Journal‘s security correspondent Sara Sorcher takes note of this today, in “Al Qaeda’s Won This Round–So Far“:
Not only is it very unusual that a senior, Pakistan-based Qaida leader would discuss operational matters—including the timing for an attack—with affiliates, but U.S. officials were “stunned” the group spoke knowing the conversation would be picked up by intercepts, as ABC News reports.
[Comment: You're only "stunned" if you're asleep to the possibility of deliberate manipulation, as Angelo Codevilla argued.]
Perhaps Zawahiri has learned a little too much. Now more than ever, with the recent National Security Agency online and phone surveillance disclosures published and debated widely, terrorists can know for sure that the U.S. is tracking their electronic communications. They used them anyway — to their advantage. Of course, it’s impossible to tell from outside government whether operatives using communications lines was actually a sign of a top-down directive or simply a head fake; U.S. officials clearly believe they intercepted what they believe is a credible threat and are working to prevent it from happening.
Even so, al-Qaida is winning the information war. Despite foreboding reports, there has been no large-scale attack, yet al-Qaida is reaping the benefits of a free public-relations boost as news reports swirl about an impending “strategically significant” plot, possibly through surgically implanted devices.
Let me modify the post-9/11 cliche: when a country elects an unserious government, the terrorists win.