The Obama administration continued Monday, Aug. 5, to try and impress Americans and the world that its far-reaching still ongoing terror alert across a host of Muslim countries was serious and credible. Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees – Democrats and Republicans alike – fully backing the White House, said the chatter picked up over the past two weeks exceeds anything in the past decade.
US officials are beginning to release nuggets of information about the nature of the threat.
According to one high placed US official, concern focuses on the possibility of terrorists carrying explosive devices implanted inside their bodies. debkafile’s counterterrorism sources add that plastic explosives in the body of a would-be suicide bomber without metal components are undetectable by standard screening devices such as those used at most international airports.
It has been suspected for some years that doctors and surgeons in Yemen in the service of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were experimenting with implanting of plastic explosive devices inside the bodies of suicide bombers or even animals. According to Western counterterrorism sources, the surgeon would open the abdominal cavity and implant the explosive device amongst the bomber’s internal organs.
Some US sources are calling the current threat the most serious since 9/11. They are alarmed by the degree of confidence AQAP leaders show in openly using electronic communications to boast about the unstoppable attack they are plotting.
A senior US official described the terrorists as saying the planned attack is “going to be big” and “strategically significant.”
Britain, Germany and France closed their embassies in Yemen Sunday and Monday. British authorities said some embassy staff in Yemen had been withdrawn. Canada also closed its embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh
US sources explain the exceptionally broad geographic area covered by the terrorist alert – from Mauritania to Bangladesh including the Middle East, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent and homeland America. We don’t know the exact target of the planned attack, according to one US official. “We do not know whether they mean an embassy, an airbase, an aircraft, trains.”
US agencies are concerned that just three or five suicide bombers with undetectable implanted devices would not be caught in time to prevent them form detonating their devices in a coordinated attack on three or more continents. This might set off the signal for a large wave of bombing attacks in many more countries.
debkafile reported earlier on the extention of the terror threat to the American homeland.
Saturday night Aug. 3, the global warnings issued last week by the US State Department and Interpol against terrorist attacks covering almost the entire Muslim world, suddenly reached the American homeland. Sunday morning, Aug. 4, as US missions closed in 22 countries, including Egypt and Israel, the New York Police Department went on high alert. Security was beefed up in high-profile areas outside houses of worship and transportation hubs, although Police Commissioner Ray Kelly complained that “a lack of specific information was cause for concern.”
Friday, Aug. 2 the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert warning to Americans overseas of potential al Qaeda attacks in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
Saturday night, National Security Adviser Susan Rice convened security officials on the situation. The White House stated: “Given the nature of the potential threat through the week, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and counter-terrorism Lisa Monaco has held regular meetings with relevant members of the inter-agency to ensure the US government is taking those appropriate steps.”
Nothing in this statement specified the nature of the “potential threat.”
Sunday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told the ABC that the threat was "more specific than previous ones" and “the intent is to attack Western, not just US interests.” He reported that the diplomatic facilities closed “range from Mauritania in northwest Africa to Afghanistan.”
Western and Middle East terrorism and intelligence experts say that in additional to the lack of information, at least six elements don’t add up in the various global warnings released since Thursday Aug. 1:
1. Thursday, US President Barack Obama ordered that "all appropriate steps" be taken to protect Americans in response to a threat of an al-Qaeda attack. What does this mean? The experts comment that even if all US agencies were pressed into service worldwide, there is no way they could protect all Americans in the vast area marked out in the warnings.
2. If the threat is specific why does the warning extend to so many countries? Al Qaeda is not even active in all them. If the danger is so immediate, why haven’t any governments in North Africa and as far east as Bangladesh declared their own terror alerts?
3. US officials reported that some of the intelligence came from terrorist communications intercepted by the National Security Agency over the past days. This too raises questions, considering that al Qaeda leaders are wont to avoid electronic media and satellite phones for their communications on operations, preferring couriers who are not susceptible to electronic interception or eavesdropping. The Internet serves them for propaganda and planting red herrings.
4. In the past week, US drones conducted three attacks against al Qaeda targets in Yemen, where the organization is defined by US officials as al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate and capable of attacking the US embassy in Sanaa.
The last drone attack Aug. 1 killed five low-profile al Qaeda operatives, who were driving in a vehicle in the Qatan Valley of Hadramouth province (Osama bin Laden’s place of birth).
All 12 US drone attacks in Yemen of the last eight months targeted Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Although its deputy chief Said al Shiri, a former inmate of the Guantanamo Bay facility, was eliminated, AQAP’s entire high command has remained intact and fully functional. In other words, US intelligence counter-terror agencies have not discovered their whereabouts.
5. Neither have they run down the location of al Qaeda’s top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Tuesday, he released a communiqué accusing US agents of engineering the coup which deposed the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood president by penetrating the Egyptian army. He called for more attacks on America.
6. Saturday, the international police agency, Interpol, published a global security alert following "the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals" in the past month, including jailbreaks in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. Interpol feared that the escapees would team up with al Qaeda to hit Western targets. Yet none of its 190 member states have declared terror alerts on this score either.
7. Finally, the sweeping warnnings from the Obama administration dramatically refute its own oft-heard claims that al Qaeda is no longer a force to be reckoned with, because it has lost its compact central command and control of its component branches, which have split up into regional franchises operating autonomously. Al Qaeda, they have been saying, is no longer capable of large-scale terrorist attacks on a global scale.