As I promised, here's more information related to my recent article Al Qaeda Video is 'Green Light' for Attack, Analyst Warns -for those who really like to dig into the details and track threats.
I had requested input on this from Yossef Bodansky and Gregory Copley of the International Security Studies Institute (ISSA) in Alexandria. Copley got back to me via email with a response from Seffy (Bodansky's nickname.) I needed further clarification, which unfortunately I didn't get by press time. Also, Brown's analysis is more complicated than the length contraint of the aticle allowed to go into, and I think phone conversation would've been better than email on this.
Copley wrote: "He said that the theory is interesting, but the premise is flawed by the fact that, in fact, Al-Jazeera has not broadcast all the tapes it has been sent by al-Zawahiri. And Zawahiri has complained about this. So the two-two groupings are not necessarily representative of the situation. Moreover, Seffy notes, the attacks have all been preceded by lengthy philosophical arguments justifying the necessity and rationale for the forthcoming attacks. So the broadcasts do not necessarily always reflect this."
I had heard that the Zawahiri letter published by Negroponte's office (which I reported on here: Zawahiri 'Letter' Draws Increasing Skepticism) indicated this information, but didn't recall having read that myself. When I re-read it, what I found was Zawahiri saying he didn't know if Al-Jazeera had broadcasted all of his last video- namely a part that praises Zarqawi. I wrote this to Copley and asked for further clarification. Copley wrote back: "Seffy Bodansky told me that, and I gather it was from a monitoring of material from his sources, possibly discreet. I don't know, but will ask." Unfortunately I didn't get any response back.
Also weighing in after publishing time was former French secret service agent Jean-Charles Brisard, the chief investigator for the lawsuit involving families of 9/11 victims. He's also the author of the fascinating and recent book: Zawqawi: The New Face of Al Qaeda.
Brisard wrote me: "I don't believe in such a theory. It is pure speculation. AQ has taken credit for around 25 major attacks since 911, or one attack every two months. Zawahiri communicates a lot and everyone can easily draw a time theory which will work in most cases, due simply to the average of attacks carried out by the terrorist network, not to speak about the foiled attacks (which will double the number of actual AQ plots). "
Brown responded by contending he does not claim to be able to predict all terrorist attacks, or all al Qaeda attacks, just those he believes are related to and triggered by Zawahiri videos. For this reason, he believes that neither of the two responders above clearly understood what his premise was.
Regarding Abu Atiya:
In my article I reference information gleaned from an interrogation of al Qaeda member Abu Atiya, in relation to threats made of an imminent attack on Italy (which has received many warnings in recent months) using missiles and unidentified poisons: Brown remarks, "It is even more interesting to note that Western intelligence officials believe that al Qaeda has had some of the most advanced Russian man-portable surface-to-air missile systems (the SA-18) within Europe for at least one year."On Oct. 29, 2005, the London Telegraph reported that Abu Atiya, an al Qaeda operative close to al-Zawahiri, revealed to French authorities that a group called the "Chechen network" entered France with the missiles and chemical and biological agents such as botulin, ricin and cyanide. The missiles were reportedly purchased in 2002 and eventually smuggled through Georgia and Turkey to be used in a planned attack against French airliners in 2004."
Further in the article, I wrote: "The missiles reportedly obtained from Chechnya have not been located and Brown believes it is possible that some of the weapons have been smuggled into North America since individuals involved in the "Chechen network" who procured the missiles were allegedly involved in the 1999 conspiracy to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. "
Brisard wrote to me about Abu Atiya and the missile info: "Regarding Abu Atiya, the information about the Sam-18 missiles have been downplayed by French officials. Abu Atiya indeed testified that 'he had heard' during a phone conversation that took place five years ago 'that someone had the intention' of sending such missiles in Europe. He also said he didn't know what happened with that plan."
Brown remarked "As for Abu Atiya I knew the French were downplaying the threat but other than that nothing else, it was a secondary concern for me after I looked more in the issue of Operation Smoking Dragon, and was more offered as a way to show the one of the connections between Zarqawi and the ABHAMB because of the connection that Powell laid out at the UN between Zarqawi's role over the Chechnya and Turkish forces of Al-Qaeda. "
Now, Oliver Guitta recently posted more on this issue on the Counter-terrorism blog:
Jihadis are indeed targeting French planes
Back in October, the French press leaked that Islamists had acquired missiles to shoot down planes at French airports. This information was just confirmed. It is included in the file prepared by anti terror French judges regarding the Chechen terror networks. In fact, according to Jordanian/ Palestinian Islamist Abu Atiya (a close associate of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi) arrested in 2003, a terrorist group headed by Algerian Islamist Taqi Al Din purchased in mid 2000 two Russian SAM 18 Igla missiles from Chechen rebel Ruslan Gulaiev. Al Din told Abu Atiya that he wanted to use the missiles to down civilian planes in France with the help of two Algerians holders of European passports. Al Din was able to smuggle the missiles to Turkey but from that point on authorities were not able to trace them. So far, the missiles have not been recovered.Finally, Abu Itya acknowledged that he convinced Al Din to target the US rather than France. But at this point, Al Din did not confirm.
Posted by Olivier Guitta at 07:23 PM Permalink TrackBack (6)
When I sent this entry to Brown he noted that he could not find a date of when Abu Atiya was most recently arrested or where but it seems that he has been in Jordanian custody which made him wonder how anyone has access to his testimony or for that matter how could he hear about a plan on the phone 5 years ago when the missiles were not even smuggled in until 2002 that means he was talking about a plan 2 years before the missiles came in. "Something doesn't track with the dismissal of this threat."
Abu Atiya, who was arrested in Azerbaijan in September 2003, has returned to action. 
See: Terror cell 'smuggled missiles into Europe', filed 29/10/2005
Excerpt: "French anti-terrorism investigators learned of the missile terror plan while interrogating a Jordanian al-Qa'eda operative close to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of the Islamic terror group in Iraq. Adnan Muhammad Sadik, alias Abu Atiya, is now being held by the Jordanian authorities. "
I had also asked Brisard to weigh in on the Abu-Hafs al-Masri brigade, which I term an al Qaeda front, but which some American analysts have suggested may not exist at all. Brisard wrote: "The Abu Hafs Al Masri brigade is a label used by AQ networks, especially in Europe, and the name of a terrorist group in Iraq. It illustrates the culture of martyrology of the AQ network (the name refers to Mohammed Atef, the former military chief of AQ). "
The Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI) had previously posted a dismissal of the brigades (click here to read.)
Brown noted that the analysis was written in 2004 when the brigades were being used as mostly a rhetorical vehicle, although some had tied it even then to the attacks in Madrid and Turkey which is mentioned but discounted in this item, other have held it in higher regard.
He also believes that although MEMRI is good at translating the materials they sometimes miss the boat on some of their analysis, although the author of this item did work with Israeli military intelligence "that doesn't hold as much weight with me on this as with some because military intelligence often is dealing with tactical not strategic issues, and front organizations and information campaigns are normally in the strategic arena.
Although they, the AHAMB have made false claims anyone looking at the Arab world knows that a claim's truthfulness has little impact on whether it is believed or not on the street, in fact rumors, lies, and conspiracy theories have more power than truth in the region, hence making a false claim can serve their purposes as much if not more than a true claim. Also it is interesting to note that even in this analysis item it states: "Today it published a new statement claiming responsibility for this morning's bombing in Istanbul, and announcing that this is the first of a series of upcoming attacks in Europe." when one considers the information I present in relation to the London attack and that I have done previously on the ties between Zarqawi and the brigade, which ties it as an organization to previous successful and failed attacks. Ultimately the AHAMB is just one albeit a primary one of the name plates that Al-Qaeda uses for it's operations in Europe and America. In Egypt they use the "Abdullah Azzam Martyr's Brigade" It is a strategy that they learned from the Iranians/Hezbullah (which initially used the front name Islamic Jihad) back in the early 1990's as a means to make ones organization both look bigger and if necessary provide some deniability for their operations. "