Various media outlets have reported, based on an ABC News report last night, that al Qaeda will release a video today advocating the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against the West. But terrorism experts say the video is nothing more than a crude attempt at al Qaeda propaganda by jihadi enthusiasts.
According to terrorism consultant Evan Kohlman, over at the Counterterrorism Blog, this is one more example of the U.S. intelligence community failing to properly analyze open source media reports:
For the record: there is no indication whatsoever that Al-Qaida's As-Sahab Media Foundation is preparing to release anything in the next 24 hours. There has been no notification posted on the usual channels, there are no glitzy advertisements, and there is no credible electronic chatter, period. Rather, the intel community appears to have (once again) fallen victim to poorly researched open source news reporting. In recent days, several fringe media organizations have published stories about a video recording posted by anonymous Al-Qaida miscreants on extremist Internet chat forums. The video consisted of a remarkably amateurish mash-up of Discovery Channel documentaries, widely published sermons by radical clerics, and stolen propaganda footage. While it is perhaps true that the video offered subtle encouragement for nuclear attacks on the United States, it featured no original content and could have been clumsily strung together with little more than two VCRs. The video was meandering, boring, and difficult to follow--and it certainly was not the product of Al-Qaida.
Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter, a firm that monitors online terrorist communications, told ABC News that the video is nothing more than "a jihadi supporter video," "comprised of old video footage that is edited together to make a new video" made by people "who may not have ever had any contact with a real terrorist."
In an e-mail to ABC News, FBI spokesman Richard Kolko wrote "There have been several reports that al Qaeda will release a new message calling for the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against civilians."
In response to the threat, the FBI alerted 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide "out of an abundance of caution," said Kolko.
Even if the video was indeed al Qaeda, an intelligence source told Reuters that there is no evidence that the terrorist organization has obtained WMD or the knowledge necessary to manufacture such weapons. Nevertheless, the intelligence source said al Qaeda desires such weaponry and that the United States needs to take that intent seriously.