December 24, 2003


Alarming Terror Talk on Web Surfaces (Fox News, December 24, 2003)

Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, said her organization has recently found and translated statements on Al Qaeda Web site Al-Lewa - Arabic for "The Banner" - that are promising new attacks on U.S. soil in the coming weeks.

Katz said a posting two weeks ago quoted an Al Qaeda spokesman identified as Abu Issam al-Yamani as saying, "The next Al Qaeda attacks will be most violent and will target the U.S." and urged Muslims "to leave the country if they don't wish to die as a result of a Jihadist operation."

A second message was posted on the same Web site last Thursday, from a group calling itself the Islamic Bayan Movement.

"Our Muslim brothers in America, this is our final warning. We ask you, as fast as you can, to leave the following cities immediately: Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles," the message said.

Katz said she noticed Al Qaeda's stepped-up cyber propaganda began Nov. 15 after the terror bombings in Istanbul, Turkey when a known Al Qaeda group warned in a communiqué that the "death cars will not stop."

Katz said the electronic vitriol has continued almost daily, and just last night a message was published in which Al Qaeda's mouthpiece, the Global Islamic Media Society, took delight that Americans are now "living in a state of anxiety and constant fear."

It's strange that they haven't used car bombings on U.S. soil yet.

France halts six U.S.-bound flights (UPI, 12/24/03)

French officials, responding to an urgent appeal by the United States, cancelled six U.S.-bound flights Wednesday because of fears of terrorism.

One of the flights, a Paris-to-Los Angeles route, had been scheduled to leave Wednesday, the BBC reported.

The U.S. request, conveyed by the U.S. embassy in Paris, followed "specific information" that al-Qaida was planning to use one of the French flights to attack U.S. targets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2003 4:17 PM

Car bombings, or even suicide belt bombers, would require a greater domestic connection/network than simply hijacking a plane from a foreign nation or infiltrating the aircraft crew would. The need to go through what the 1993 WTC bombers did with the vehicle rentral, acquision of explosives and setting up the plot would call far more into question the community surrounding them where the action would be conceived and executed.

Assuming we're talking Muslim fundamentalists originally from a Middle Eastern country now living in the U.S., and that they are living in an area where similar people lived while hatching their plan, such as with the Lackawanna 6, that would put that entire Muslim community in danger of serious post-attack reprisals, which with very few exceptions did not occur following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The loyalty of the people in those areas, and their saefty in general, would be brought into question even if they had no connection to the attacks. So I would assume that anyone living there since 9/11 has recognized this problem and those people have been in far closer contact with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that the public has been told, and have been giving agents information if unusual activity has been noticed in those communities.

Posted by: John at December 24, 2003 6:55 PM

You assume an awful lot. I assume just the opposite.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 24, 2003 7:51 PM

I'm with Harry--we should anticipate more successful attacks in the future. We'll never have better internal security nor a more alert populace than Israel after all, and they got bombed all the time.

Posted by: oj at December 24, 2003 7:58 PM

My assumption is just that the Palestinians have their own little islands to protect them when they set out on similar terror attacks from the West Bank or Gaza because they are in the majority there. Any attempt to begin a series of car bombings or suicide bus/train/mall/whatever bombings would be operating out of a community from within the U.S. where they would be a sparce minority compared with the population as a whole.

The bombers themselves wouldn't give a damn about that. But the people within the community who would be in fear for their lives and those of their families from retaliation by ordinary U.S. citizens would be more likely to cooperated with law enforcement due to those fears.

That doesn't mean I think those attacks are impossible, just that the support network won't be there, because other than the Muslim Arab communities around Buffalo or Detroit hightailing it to Canada just before an attack, there's no quick way to hide out in the U.S., the way terrorist targeting Israelis or those in Iraq targeting Americans can blend into the crowd.

Posted by: John at December 24, 2003 8:32 PM

While I agree with Harry overall, apparently in the Detroit case, there was a lot of communication betweent the community and the authorities along the lines of what John said.

One of the differences between Israel and the US is that if we chose to suddenly up the ante in terms of targeting and violence (in reprisal or retribution), the other side could not strike back quickly, nor could they know where we would go (domestically, or in the Bekaa, Damascus, even Cairo).

And I think we would have an easier time picking out terrorists than the Israelis do, just because of the cultural differences. Of course, if home-grown fundy terrorists start setting off bombs, then that changes. But the tolerance here for what has happened in Israel since late 2000 is nil. If 50 Americans were killed in a car bombing, 70% of America would expect that thousands of Muslims would be jailed, deported, and the guilty ones executed. And with each attack, the percentages would go up. Even the Ninth Circuit would not stand in the way.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 24, 2003 9:28 PM

A key difference is that the US doesn't have UN supported terrorist organizing / training centers that are effectively invulnerable to reprisals next door.

One of OJ's points is that with an independent Palestinian state, Israel will be able to conduct real reprisals against the camps that support terrorist operations against Israel. I don't expect Israel will actually do that, but we would.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 24, 2003 9:52 PM

Isn't it part of the terrorists' plan to cause the US to react against Muslim communities in the country?

Posted by: David Cohen at December 24, 2003 10:07 PM


If so, they can accomplish it at will.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at December 24, 2003 10:54 PM

It's not as though Al Qaida is unthoughtful toward the American Moslem community.

The organization has recently warned them, for their own welfare, to leave the US.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 25, 2003 1:49 AM

The first car-bomb that went off in the US would have the B-52 fleet warming up its engines.
The 2nd would see them taxiing out to the flightline.
The 3rd would have the B-2 and B-52 fleet going wheels up.

There is no way that Americans would have the same toleration that the Israelis have. And we have the means to back up our disapproval.

Posted by: ray at December 25, 2003 2:55 PM


To bomb what?

Posted by: oj at December 25, 2003 3:09 PM

Unfortunately, whatever appears tempting at the time.

A better response would be to have car bombs ready to deploy in Tehran, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Cairo, Damascus, and lots of other cities. We should already know where the best targets are (to get any suspected cells and to minimize innocent death). But the primary response should be a simple warning to Hezbollah: any car bombs here, and you cease to exist. Period.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 25, 2003 3:29 PM

Reprisal? I vote for A-10s converted to crop sprayers putting down a layer of pig's blood on Mecca.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 25, 2003 8:02 PM

A capital idea, but dropping live pigs might be more persuasive.

Posted by: ratbert at December 25, 2003 9:48 PM

Jeff's idea is similar to the one I floated about reviving Ranch Hand with pig's blood, though my proposal (which I published before the invasion of Afghanistan and as an alternative to it) was to publish a list of the 100 most important mosques or holy sites and announce that they would be systematically desecrated, one a day, defying Allah to protect his people or his places.

That would not merely have caused the Muslim masses to turn on and turn in its terrorists but would have destroyed the religion itself, which is the only real long-term security.

I do not for one moment believe that another big attack within our borders will result in wholesale roundups of Arabs living here.

I do think that a sufficiently horrible attack, close to home, would perhaps shake a fraction of Muslims in the U.S. to rethink their priorities and start cooperating in exposing local terrorists.

There's been very little of that so far. The significance of Lackawanna and Portland was that they were exceptional.

It is inconceivable to me, given the talky nature of Arabs, that the community does not know exactly who the troublemakers are. And they've kept their counsel pretty much, so far.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 26, 2003 3:32 PM

As I typed it, I had a sneaking feeling I hadn't thought of it on my own...

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 27, 2003 7:56 PM