The Al Qaeda Factor - George Washington University Medical Center

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The Al Qaeda Factor - George Washington University Medical Center

The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West

• Tradebom Plot (World Trade Center, New York, 1993)

• Millennium Plot (Los Angeles, 1999)

• 9/11 Planes Plot (New York, Washington DC, Shanksville, PA 2001)

• Shoe Bombers’ Plot (Paris–Miami, 2001)

The Lackawanna Cluster (Lackawanna, NY 2002)

• Operation Rhyme (London, 2004)

• Operation Crevice (London, 2004)

• Madrid Train System (March 11, 2004)

• Hofstad Group Plots (Netherlands, 2004–5)

• Operation Theseus (London, July 7, 2005)

• Operation Vivace (London, July 21, 2005)

• Operation Pendennis (Australia, 2005)

• Operation Osage (Toronto, 2006)

• Operation Overt (United Kingdom–United States, 2006)

• Operation Dagger (Copenhagen, 2007)

• Operation Highrise (New York, 2009)


The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West

Unique Research Sources:

• Legal documents (discovery material; trial transcripts, government reports)

• Self reports (terrorist documents, interviews & testimony)

• Media reporting (comprehensive, cross-checked, chronological analysis)

• Consultation with law enforcement agencies & security services


Joining Al Qaeda

A local, organic, bottom-up process

The Scene

• Was there any al Qaeda role in

the formation of the scene?

The Cluster

• Did al Qaeda create or assign

roles in the cluster?

• Connecting to al Qaeda

• Did al Qaeda send emissaries to

the West to radicalize and

recruit?

• Overseas Travel

• Did al Qaeda find the Westerners

or did they find al Qaeda?

• Plot Conception

• Did al Qaeda suggest, endorse or

provide detailed instructions?

• Plot Launch

• Did al Qaeda’s Chief of External

Operations have a role in the

plot?


The Operational Cycle

Acts in Furtherance of the Plot

• Target Selection

• Did al Qaeda choose the

targets?

• Casing of Targets

• Did al Qaeda recon the targets?

• Communications

• Were the conspirators in contact

with al Qaeda?

• Logistics

• Did al Qaeda fund the

operation?

• Weaponization

• Did al Qaeda provide the

weapons or instructions?


Anatomy of an Al Qaeda Plot

LeT LeT

JeM

Al Qaeda

HuM

Politicization

of Beliefs

The Scene

The Cluster

Reactionary

Islam

Operational Cycle

• Communication

• Target Selection

• Casing

• Logistics

• Weaponization


Plot Origins


The Scene and Counterculture

Reactionary Islam

• Literal interpretation of Islam

• Democracy and Islam not compatible

• Believers vs. Unbelievers

• Return to the Caliphate (Utopia)

• Salafis and Tablighi

Politicization of Beliefs

• West at war with Islam (Af/Pak, Iraq…)

• Islamic lands invaded by US and allies

• Islamic political action: Hizb ut Tahrir,

Al Muhajiroun, Rev Muslim, ITS, MB

• Anti-war protests

certain mosques

The Scene

private locations

ideologue

universities

online community


Londonistan 2004-2006

Masjid-e-Umar

Muslim Education Centre

(Markaz u Dawa)

The Scene

Waltham Forest

College

Anti-war protests

London Metro University

Islamic Medical Association


From the Scene to the Cluster

• Action is necessary to remedy situation

• Protest activity and politics ineffective

• Spin-off from scene with trusted associates

Rejecting the Scene

• Private meetings (bookstore, apartments…)

• Guilt about living comfortably in West

• Desire to take action – train, fight overseas

The Scene

private locations

The Cluster


Lackawanna, New York 2001

• Action is necessary to remedy situation

• Protest activity and politics ineffective

• Spin-off from scene with trusted associates

Rejecting the Scene

• Private meetings (bookstore, apartments…)

• Guilt about living comfortably in West

• Desire to take action – train, fight overseas

The Scene

private locations

The Cluster


Travel Overseas to Southwest Asia

the fixer

• FIGHT JIHAD OVERSEAS

• PARAMILITARY TRAINING

• SKILL DEVELOPMENT

• PROVIDE SUPPLIES

• SANCTION/DIRECTION


July 7, 2005 Bombers

the fixer

Para-military

Training

2001

HuM

2003

Al Qaeda

2004/2005


Overseas Travel and Al Qaeda Link Up

LeT

JeM

Al Qaeda

Chief of al Qaeda External Operations

Para-military

Training

HuM

the “link man”

“do something for the

cause back in London”

“we have a specific

mission for you”

the fixer


Shoe Bombers and LAX Millennium Plot

LeT

JeM

Al Qaeda

Chief of al Qaeda External Operations

Para-military

Training

HuM

the “link man”

“do something for the

cause”

“we have a specific

mission for you”

the fixer


Al Qaeda Plot Typology

Command & Control

• Individuals met with

someone of rank within

al Qaeda, or their

representative in

Afghanistan or Pakistan

Suggested/Endorsed

• Individuals met with

someone of rank within

al Qaeda, or their

representative in

Afghanistan or Pakistan

Inspired

• Individuals did not

meet someone of

rank within al

Qaeda , or their

representative

• AQ assigned them a

specific mission

conceptualized by AQ

• AQ provided a

suggestion/endorsement

to do something

• AQ did not provide

direct suggestion or

endorsement

• Specific guidance

provided on means,

timing, and targets

• General guidance

provided on means,

timing, and targets

• No guidance on

means, timing, and

targets

• Ongoing communication

• Sporadic communication

• No communication


Al Qaeda Plot Typology

Command & Control

Suggested/Endorsed

Inspired

• 9/11 Planes Plot

• Shoe Bombers Plot

• Operation Overt

• Transatlantic Liquid

Bomb Plot

• Millennium Plot (LAX)

• Operative Rhyme (US/UK)

• Operation Crevice (UK)

• Operation Theseus (7/7)

• Tradebom Plot

• (1993)

• Madrid Train System

• Hofstad Plots

• (Netherlands)

• Operation Vivace (7/21)

• Operation Dagger

• Operation Highrise (NYC)

• Operation Pendennis

• (Australia)

• Operation Osage

• (Toronto 18)


Anatomy of a Cluster/Conspiracy

The Active Core

The Followers

The Periphery


The Toronto 18

ideologue

The Active Core

The Followers

The Periphery


Plot Progression

Operational Cycle

• Communication

• Target Selection

• Casing

• Logistics

• Weaponization

communication

Al Qaeda

“link man”


2009 Zazi NYC Subway Plot

Operational Cycle

• Communication

• Target Selection

• Casing

• Logistics

• Weaponization

communication

Al Qaeda

“link man”


Where is the Center of Gravity for the plots?

LeT LeT

JeM

Al Qaeda

HuM

Politicization

of Beliefs

The Scene

The Cluster

Reactionary

Islam

Operational Cycle

• Communication

• Target Selection

• Casing

• Logistics

• Weaponization


Al Qaeda Threat 2001-2004

2011

AQ Ideology

Abu Sayyaf

Al Qaeda

Jemaah

Islamiyah

AQI

AQ Ideology


Al Qaeda Threat 2004-2011

2001- 2004

2011

AQ Ideology

LeT

AQIM

TTP

AQI

Al Qaeda

AQAP

homegrown

JeM

Al Shabab


The Overall Threat Now

Al Qaeda

Core

Al Qaeda Affiliates

and Allies

Al Qaeda

Inspired

Al Qaeda

AQAP

LeT

homegrown

JeM

TTP

Al Shabab

AQIM

RADICALIZED IN THE WEST

North America, Western Europe, Australia


The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West

Key Judgments:

Al Qaeda Core’s actual role in plots against the West has been overstated.

• Much more of the “action of the conspiracies” has taken place in the West, by

Westerners, independent of Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda has not actively recruited in the West; rather the plots are underpinned

by a “bottom-up” process, driven by individuals in the West who radicalize and

then take the initiative to go overseas for training or to get into the fight.

Al Qaeda has been opportunistic, taking advantage of the Westerners who have

shown up on its doorstep to utilize them in plots against the West.

• Post Bin Laden, given the combination of Westerners who continue to

radicalize/mobilize plus the rise of other important nodes in al Qaeda’s

worldwide network of allies and affiliates, the threat from al Qaeda type

terrorism has not ended.

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