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The Status of Ayman al Zawahiri - Questions & Skepticism

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

1 August 2008: That we might have successfully hit al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri in a July 28, 2008 US air strike on a Pakistani madrasa near the Afghan border indeed comes as welcome news. In a report today, CBS News announced their interception of correspondence bearing the seal and signature of an al Qaeda leader in Pakistan that al Zawahiri was critically wounded. But is it true?

Time will undoubtedly tell - hopefully.

Presently, most professional and self-appointed counter-terrorism analysts currently populating the Internet differ in their opinions over the legitimacy of the news of al Zawahiri's current physical state. The reliability of the ISI, for example, or that of STRATFOR, or [insert name of source here]. In terms of terror analysis, the authority of just about every source seems to be publicly challenged by a cottage industry of self-styled counter-terrorism experts whose only verifiable abilities appear to be the use a keyboard and the propensity to hide behind stylish Internet pseudonyms.

But there remains an even larger elephant in the room. An issue that no one seems to want to address or discuss. What about the legitimacy of what is being sourced to our own intelligence agencies?

Those with direct access to legitimate US intelligence sources will tell you of a deep operational and analytical divide, and ideological differences within the US government and intelligence community that has been growing of late. That internal schism of opposing factions seems to be playing a significant role in a variety of matters, including, but not limited to what news reaches the public. This includes, of course, the current reports pertaining to the status of Ayman al Zawahiri.

Accordingly, I would urge everyone to view such reports with skepticism. The type of skepticism that causes you to question all aspects of reports such as this, not just the myopic skepticism parroted by the numerous analysts and pundits of questionable credentials and dubious contacts littering cyberspace.