Northeast Intelligence Network

Daily Threat Analysis

14 February 2004-- 

Today is February 14, a day that is celebrated throughout much of the Western world as Valentine's Day.  It's a day that has become synonymous with expressions of love and romance. 
The Islamic world takes a dimmer view of what they call the Lover's Holiday, seeing instead as representative of the moral decay of the western world, and a symptom of rampant sexual immorality. 
In fact, this year Saudi Arabia has gone so far as to completely ban the celebration of Valentine's Day by Muslims.  "It is a pagan Christian holiday and Muslims who believe in God and Judgment Day should not celebrate or acknowledge it or congratulate (people on it). It is a duty to shun it to avoid God's anger and punishment," said an edict issued by Saudi Arabia's fatwa committee published in the Arabic-language daily newspaper, Al-Riyadh.
As we reported here yesterday, threats have been found on Arabic language forums targeting the "Building of Valentine Lovers" in New York City, which our analysts believe to be a reference to the Empire State Building.  (This has been reported to the appropriate authorities.)
In the meantime, while the Saudi authorities are banning holidays like Valentine's Day, they are dealing with more ominous threats in their country.  Yesterday authorities within the Kingdom sounded a terror alert for a car packed with explosives in the Riyadh area, that was believed to pose an imminent threat to the area.  As of 7 am ET, the car had not been located.  If you are among our readers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, authorities have asked you to be on the lookout for a burgundy 1991 GMC Suburban with the license plate number 034.  It was last seen in the Al-Rabwa neighborhood, east of the capital of Riyadh, according to Saudi newspapers.
13 February 2004-- Today, February 13, is that day that the superstitious dread:  Friday the 13th.  In the western world, Friday the 13th evokes feelings of fear and trepidation among many.  There's even a term for it - "triskadekaphobia."  This year it seems like the fears and concerns are building as the calendar approaches the end of the Islamic year 1424 on February 21.
Last year around this time, Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden issued a statement, promising to martyr himself in the belly of  the Eagle before the end of the year.  That has not happened.  There have been no crushing blows to America.  The world is considerably different than it was one year ago.
Several times a week, new threats emerge, and an evaluation of the matrix shows that some of these threats, at least, must be taken seriously, even though none of the threats issued against the United States homeland within the past year have come to fruition.  In the opinion of this analyst, the safety of our homeland over the past year is not due to lack of effort by Al Qaeda to harm us, but instead reflects the continuing dedication, cooperation, and vigilance of law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and private individuals and their focus on safeguarding Americans at home.
During the Islamic year 1424, the theater of operations has not been the United States Homeland.  Instead, it has been the battlefields of Afganistan and Iraq, and the cities of Israel and Saudi Arabia, and more recently the subway of Moscow.  Part of the reason for this is the presence of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda has thrown their efforts into the field of operations in those countries, trying to defeat what they see as an invader Crusader army.  Without a doubt, this has kept a considerable portion of the Al Qaeda resources diverted into those areas, resources that Al Qaeda would probably rather use in attacks against our Homeland.  It is certainly reasonable to conclude that the presence of US troops in those countries is therefore keeping the US safe here at home in more ways than one.
During the final week of the Islamic, the threat levels appear to be rising again.  This can be seen in the increased level of chatter within the Arabic language forums that are frequented by known Al Qaeda militants.  Among the items of interest that we at Northeast Intelligence Network are following closely are:
  • Specific threats against the "Building of Valentine Lovers", which we suspect may be the Empire State Building in New York City.  As is always the case, we have forwarded the intelligence behind this threat to the proper authorities, and we have every reason to believe that they will handle this appropriately.  Extra vigilance would be prudent should you be in that area this weekend, however, and please report anything out of the ordinary to law enforcement.
  • The release of the Badr al Riyadh videos by Cloud Enterprises (the Media Relations Department of Al Qaeda) was followed in rapid succession by a series of attacks, including one on the Moscow subway and several mass casualy vehicle bombings in Iraq.  We believe that the 6 part video contains other operational instructions for attacks, possibly as many as 6 different attacks with one for each section of the video. 
  • Cancellation once again by British Airways of several flights indicates a continued concern for airline safety.  We believe there is still a risk that Al Qaeda may attempt to use airplanes for terror.  Please see our alert regarding Al Qaeda operatives assembling explosive devices in flight
  • Although the furor over the discovery of ricin in the US Capitol offices has died down, the potential for Al Qaeda to use the mail and other means of dispersing biological, chemical, and other toxic substances continues. 
  • There is increased concern over attempts to ratchet up the level of tension in Iraq by Al Qaeda.  A letter intercepted this week by the military demonstrates this.  In addition, there is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that Al Qaeda is attempting to incite a civil war within Iraq.
  • Various Arabic message board postings refer to a new operation called "The Volcano".  Although our analysts are inclined to believe this refers to the attempts to incite civil war in Iraq, there are suggestions within the message boards that "The Volcano" may actually refer to a more organized resistance by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or a coup attempt in Saudi Arabia.  Although the Haj is over, Saudi Arabia remains, and will remain for the near future, at imminent risk of a coup attempt by Al Qaeda
  • Threats to use nuclear weapons against a US city.  Once again, the threat level is rising on the Arabic message boards regarding this.  The cities most commonly mentioned are New York City, Washington DC, and Los Angeles.  Warnings are now being posted warning Muslims in America to avoid mosques after the attack, which has been described as "coming soon" in order to avoid reprisals by enraged American civilians.
Again, it must be stressed that although Al Qaeda would like to carry out attacks by specific dates, they are not bound by any dates they set forth.  Every threat they make is qualified with the statement "If Allah is Willing".  Therefore, if an attack is postponed because of increased security, or if the perpetrators are arrested, Al Qaeda interprets this not as a failure but as a sign that Allah was not willing for the attack to happen at that point in time.  This makes predicting anything by dates extremely difficult.
Since September 11, 2001 (and many would argue that the date is actually much earlier), we have been in a new era.  This new era is one where our personal safety does not just depend on law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and government in general taking care of us.  It requires that we accept a greater degree of personal responsibility.  It means that we must have our homes prepared for "shelter in place", emergency packs in our cars, and must live at a higher degree of alertness. 
This does not mean we should be afraid.  It means that we need to learn to keep our eyes open and notice what is normal, and what isn't.  When something seems strange, have it checked out. 
Think about it this way.  In many large cities, you probably have adjusted your habits to keep yourself safe.  You may shop during the day time, you may make sure your car is locked, you check the back seat before you get in at night, you have your cell phone with you, and so on.  You don't walk around afraid - but you adapt and create new habits to increase your safety.  We'll have more about this in a future article.

Copyright 2004 Northeast Intelligence Network Laura Mansfield, Network Analyst All Rights Reserved