Nov 26 2008
Some interesting news out today about an intercepted discussion amongst al-Qaeda regarding a Madrid-like coordinated attack on the train system in or around NY City:
An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press says the FBI has received a “plausible but unsubstantiated” report that al-Qaida terrorists in late September may have discussed attacking the subway system.Â
The internal bulletin says al-Qaida terrorists “in late September may have discussed targeting transit systems in and around New York City. These discussions reportedly involved the use of suicide bombers or explosives placed on subway/passenger rail systems,” according to the document.Â
Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said authorities “have very real specifics as to who it is and where the conversation took place and who conducted it.”Â
“It certainly involves suicide bombing attacks on the mass transit system in and around New York and it’s plausible, but there’s no evidence yet that it’s in the process of being carried out,” King said.Â
You might find my use of the the word ‘interesting’ a bit odd, but my reading of the reports on this is there conversation that was intercepted in September was at a level (and maybe a distance) that indicated this discussion was at the very early stages of strategizing, not yet at the execution phase.
Let me sprinkle some more dots out to see if there is a larger picture here. It was back in September and early November General Hayden, head of the CIA, and others were making some interesting claims:
Terrorist chieftainÂ Osama bin LadenÂ is thought to be hiding in one of the world’s most remote areasâ€”theÂ tribal territoriesbetween Pakistan and Afghanistanâ€”but tracking him down remains a priority for theÂ CIA, seven years after the 9/11 attacks. At the moment, bin Laden “appears to be largely isolated from the day-to-day operations of the organization he leads,” CIA DirectorÂ Michael HaydenÂ told a group in Washington.
The tribal border region is at the center of international terrorism against the West. “All the threats we have to the West have a thread that takes it back to the [Afghanistan-Pakistan] border,” Hayden said. “If there is a major strike on this country, it will bear the fingerprints ofÂ al Qaeda.”
A coordinated madrid-like bombing of the NY rail systems would obviously be one such ‘major strike’ on the USA, of course. It is also interesting that just this week we saw the US take out a host of top al-Qaeda targets in that very tribal region. One of them was the mastermind behind the UK Airline Bomb Plot which changed the rules about liquids on airlines across the globe. He would be just the kind of person who would think up something like a coordinated attack on US transit systems. And there were others killed as well.Â
But one little noticed or reported item was the method by which these targets were located:
Rashid Rauf, a close relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), was killed along with al-Qaeda leaders Abu Nasr Al-Misri and Abu Zubair Al-Masri after their rented hideout was spotted due to frequent use of a mobile phone.
Emphasis mine. We know the US monitors all known terrorists overseas, and that they will listen in on any calls between these terrorists and anyone here in the US (thanks again Â President Bush!). My feeling here is that we may have just figured out why the US stopped monitoring the content of the calls and sent some missiles to the source of the calls. There comes a time in this kind of situation where the risk of not acting outweighs the potential to gain new intel.
The timing fits in nicely. Masri and/or Rauf start discussing strategies, possibly how to sue assets on the way to America or in place. ThIs raises red flags and 3 weeks later they are taken out. The alert goes out just in case.
The problem we have here in the US is that the next round of attacks will be executed by Westerners or folks with Western citizenship. These deep sleeper cells are the ones hardest to detect and monitor. If a US citizen does go Benedict Arnold they have special protections foreigners just don’t have any more since 9-11, as I noted when had his huge win on FISA-NSA back in June:
The legislation mandates that the administration obtain a court-approved, individual warrant for any spying activity directed at a U.S. citizen â€” whether that citizen is on U.S. soil or abroad â€” and that the administration prove it has â€œprobable causeâ€ to believe that the person is engaged in espionage. The procedures used for surveillance of non-U.S. citizens on foreign soil must be approved by the FISA court and reviewed annually.
Subtly worded. But what is clear is there are now two sets of rules: one for American Citizens (which is the old set of rules requiring a FIS Court surveillance warrant) and now lesser stringent rules for non-citizens in country. No more treating Bin Laden or Mohamed Atta as an equal to President Bush or any other American citizen.
Personally, I am all for keeping skeptical and constantly vigilant eyes and ears on these nut jobs. Because if we miss just one attack, the result would be devastating. I always glad to see security erring on the side of caution.