Al-Qaeda prefers media frenzy to no coverage

On one hand President Obama said that the government is not overreacting in locking down diplomatic posts on the other hand he is claiming that the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident. We also saw the report on how clothes may be dipped into the liquid explosives, and become explosive themselves once the liquid dries.

1. From what we know, how real and serious or unreal is the current threat in your opinion and what do you think about the government reaction?

2. Would you say that Al-Qaeda is somehow satisfied with the media frenzy (I am part of it, of course) surrounding the possible plot?

Daveed Gartenstein-RossDirector, Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the author of Bin Laden’s Legacy 

1. It’s too early to say. Each new data point that comes to light in the media moves the dial somewhat in terms of what we know about this plot, which is indicative of the paucity of information we’re dealing with. The U.S. government clearly perceives a real threat, and other governments who looked at the underlying intelligence (e.g., Britain and Canada) have also closed diplomatic posts in response.

As to what al-Qaeda is actually up to, and what the group’s capabilities are to execute it, there simply isn’t enough open-source information to evaluate.

2. Yes. The media frenzy scares people (to a greater or lesser degree), establishes al-Qaeda’s continuing relevance, and further drives Western countries to expend resources in response to the perceived threat. This is not to say that they intended to produce this media frenzy (my working hypothesis is that they wanted information concerning the plot to go undetected), but once the plot became known, a media frenzy is preferable to none.

William McCantsFounder and Co-editor of Jihadica, Research Analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies, Center for Naval Analyses

Tomorrow’s disclosures, if true, could mean a very serious threat. On the other hand, AQ had to have known the US would be listening in in light of Snowden leaks. Regardless, AQ will certainly consider the media attention a major coup and Zawahiri will be pleased he’s in the public eye again as AQ’s amir.

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