Terrorism: February 18, 2003


: Israeli intelligence professionals warned the United States that the Al Qaeda network lacked sufficient resources to mount another September 11, 2001 type large-scale attack on American targets. Instead, they would use misinformation to keep intelligence agencies guessing just when and where the next attack would come. 

The CIA received a Mossad report concluding that American attacks against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, coupled with seizure of assets in banks around the world, had temporarily crippled the terrorists ability to mount any large-scale attacks. However, the Israelis warned the Al Qaeda would use misinformation (planted through CIA assets and captured operatives) to keep America guessing as to when and where attacks might come, thereby forcing the United States to waste time and resources. 

A highly placed source within the Israeli intelligence community noted that misinformation has always been a primary weapon of the terrorist.. When properly utilized, such misinformation can cause an enemy to forfeit important resources and energy. In military terms, this is known as a 'deception plan'.

The recent terror alerts were based on a fabrication that was mistakenly taken as a key piece of the information, according to two senior law enforcement officials in Washington and New York. These officials said that a captured al Qaeda member claiming that Washington, New York or Florida would be hit by a "dirty bomb" sometime during the week of 10-14 February had made up the story. It was only after the threat level was elevated to Orange, that the informant was subjected to a polygraph test by the FBI. 

So when will Al Qaeda strike? A group of CIA analysts made a prediction: By the end of the project, the analysts judged that under the stipulated scenario there is a 59 percent probability that an attack on the U.S. homeland involving WMD would occur before 31 March 2003, a 35 percent probability an attack would occur at a later date, and a 6 percent probability an attack would never occur.

What assets can Al Qaeda muster for these missions? FBI officials said that they have identified "less than a dozen" Islamic men residing in the U.S. who have been to Al Qaeda training camps and are currently in contact with Al Qaeda leaders. They are in New York, New Jersey and some cities in the western United States. Law-enforcement agents are monitoring these men with wiretaps, physical surveillance and other covert means; a handful of known Iraqi intelligence agents and 20 to 40 suspected Al Qaeda associates are receiving similar scrutiny. 

Militant Muslims are under surveillance in as many as 30 U.S. cities. Between 600-1,000 people with possible ties to terrorism or possible terrorist sympathizers, are under surveillance by the FBI. Several mosques in the country are also being watched. 

What will Al Qaeda target? While there has been a great deal of discussion about various "soft targets" in the United States, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the FBI and CIA suspect Al Qaeda terrorist cells may be planning assassinations of North American politicians. This would fit in with the "Military Assessment of the Al Qaeda Training Tapes." - Adam Geibel


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