Tuesday, November 2, 2010
At Wired, Spencer Ackerman has a nice little article about whether or not AQAP could have managed to detonate the bombs on the cargo planes- it is tech-y, as you would expect, and provides a cool window into the logistics of terrorism, something as important as the politics behind it, and something you won't really find here. I can hardly work my own cell phone, and it is one of those giant ones from the early 90s. But there is something in it that I found unsettling (above and beyond the unsettling nature of terrorism).
This only is true if you assume an unbroken continuity between the al-Qaeda that attacked on September 11th and AQAP, and you shouldn't assume that. While AQAP (and its previous names) didn't start from scratch in 2006, they also were not just an offshoot of the Af/Pak branch. They had to build up their organization, and have done so at a remarkable rate. And hijaking planes is no longer a viable option for terrorism- they have to find new ways to exploit vulnerabilities. They seem to be learning from every success and failure. While this was less of a success than the Christmas Day attempt- it was interdicted; the failure didn't come from bad luck- it still gave AQAP what they really want: attention and fear, which translate into a recruitment bonanza.
Initially I thought that this was kind of a weak-sauce terror plot, and had hoped that it might mean the leadership was losing some command and control as the organization got bigger. But subsequent revelations showed that the plot was mature, although far from perfect. This doesn't strike me as declining capabilities as much as an ability to adapt. We should be glad that terrorism might not have the spectacular potential it did 10 years ago, but it is troubling if that is cause for relaxation.
There is also this.