Heightened terror threat in the US: An important analysis

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

19 September 2008: On Wednesday, the Northeast Intelligence Network published an article stating that terror operations within the U.S. and Europe could be imminent. This threat evaluation is a product of several factors that have formed a pattern disturbingly similar to the conditions preceding the 2005 attacks in the UK. On 7 July 2005, a number of Muslim terrorists launched a significant attack on the London transit system. Certain other elements of what we are seeing today have been noted to precede other attacks of notable significance, causing heightened concern among intelligence officials.

The factors referenced above are a valuable intelligence assessment tool as they represent patterns. In fact, we have seen these same patterns in the past, including the time immediately leading up to the July 7, 2005 bombings in London.

To effectively analyze the current threat environment, it is important to recognize historical patterns. It is also important to study and analyze seemingly random events that took place during the time leading up to terrorist attacks. By carefully identifying and documenting similarities, and by looking for numerous other factors that existed during those periods preceding attacks, it is possible to identify warning sings that only make sense in hindsight.

Dismissing individual events out of hand by attributing them to incompetence of the terrorists, for example, is adhering to the same myopic tendencies that contributed to the intelligence failures leading up to the attacks of 9/11.

Internet Forums: Current status of Arabic language sites used by terrorist sympathizers

Many Arabic language forums used and frequented by Muslim terrorists are currently offline. Those with multiple mirror sites that have the ability to maintain an Internet presence despite the best attempts to take them offline have indeed gone offline over the last several days. A similar scenario involving such Internet forums existed in the days prior to the 2005 London bombing.

Al Qaeda Commemorative 9/11 video release: “The Results of Seven Years of the Crusades”

Following the attacks against the United States in 2001, al Qaeda, through its propaganda arm As Sahab, has traditionally released celebratory video messages that commemorated the success of the 9/11 hijackers. These videos feature al Qaeda regulars such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and Abu Yahya al Libi, among others. Such videos routinely contained compilations of file footage from the 9/11 attacks, as well as motivational messages from al Qaeda leaders. Just like this year, Arabic language Internet communications portals and forums advertised the upcoming release of the video marking the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

This year, however, the release of the video was inexplicably delayed until earlier this week. When it was finally released, however, the password supplied to uncompress the file contents failed, and the film could not be opened. With regard to the delay, certain media outlets erroneously credited so-called Internet “jihadist hunters” with somehow managing to cause the delay. If the media fully understood the manner in which these messages were disseminated, they would realize the ridiculous nature of such an accusation.

With respect to the “password debacle” as it has been termed by at least one of those so-named “jihadist hunters,” the apparent hubris associated with that distinction appears to have adversely affected their ability to evaluate anything beyond the most obvious. This is further evident by their offensive use of a word that by definition, “characterizes a person lacking intelligence or common sense” to describe al Qaeda’s alleged blunder. Offensiveness aside, it is vital to look beyond the obvious and not underestimate the enemy.

Based on my conversations this week with analysts active in the intelligence community, it is very possible that the video delay and improper password are deliberate acts on the part of the al Qaeda hierarchy. According to one intelligence contact: “the password could have been corrected by satellite phone within minutes.” Indeed, there could be reasons that will perhaps only make sense in retrospect.

Now that an updated version of the video has been released that does not require a password to open, could it be possible that the the contents of the videos might differ slightly, even if they appear to be ostensibly the same? Perhaps the restricted file was restricted for a reason, accessible only to its target audience. The non-password protected file, meanwhile, satisfies the masses expecting the commemorative video.

Let’s not hinder ourselves by underestimating the insidiously cunning nature of our enemy.

Posted communications (from terrorists with established track records

As published in our article on Wednesday, a disturbing communication posted in a high level Arabic language forum suggests that some type of terrorist operation is currently underway, targeting sites within the United States and Europe. According to information developed within the last 24 hours by a deep-cover intelligence operative, Islamic terrorists have been dispatched to the U.S. and Europe and may be in place, preparing to execute unspecified terrorist attacks within the U.S. and Europe.

Of particular interest:

Islamic terrorist operatives reportedly dispatched, in place, and possibly ready to execute terrorist operation in U.S., Europe

“Pray for the successes of our brothers in America & Europe. Expect ‘good news’ soon.” Posted by Arabic speaking Islamic terrorist supporter

Additional indicators

There are more indicators that a heightened threat level exists, both domestically and abroad. For additional information, listen tonight as Doug Hagmann and Laurie Roth discuss these issues on The Roth Show.

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