Today, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, along with Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan, held a Press Conference regarding the intelligence review occasioned by the Christmas Day airplane bombing attempt. The whole transcript is here, but I’d like to consider just one Q&A:
Q What was the most shocking, stunning thing that you found out of the review? And, Secretary, to you, as well.
MR. BRENNAN: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is an extension of al Qaeda core coming out of Pakistan. And, in my view, it is one of the most lethal and one of the most concerning of it. The fact that they had moved forward to try to execute this attack against the homeland I think demonstrated to us — and this is what the review sort of uncovered — that we had a strategic sense of sort of where they were going, but we didn’t know they had progressed to the point of actually launching individuals here. And we have taken that lesson, and so now we’re full on top of it.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: I think, following up on that, not just the determination of al Qaeda and al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula, but the tactic of using an individual to foment an attack, as opposed to a large conspiracy or a multi-person conspiracy such as we saw in 9/11, that is something that affects intelligence. It really emphasizes now the renewed importance on how different intelligence is integrated and analyzed, and threat streams are followed through. And, again, it will impact how we continue to review the need to improve airport security around the world.
These are the most shocking things Janet Napolitano is able to name: That al-Qaeda is active in the Arabian Peninsula, and that an individual executed the attack.
Madame Secretary, here are some examples of jihadist attacks launched from Yemen along with some US actions attacking al Qaeda in Yemen. You should not have been surprised at al-Qaeda’s activity in the Arabian Peninsula.
- USS Cole attacked – Oct-12 2000
- Head of the group al-Qaeda in Yemen killed by a Predator drone – Nov-3 2002
- U.S. Embassy attacked apparently on a direct order from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 19 dead – Sept-17 2008
- The Yemeni and Saudi Arabian branches of al-Qaeda merge – Jan 2009
- Obama Orders Cruise Missile attack on al-Qaeda sites in Yemen – Dec-17 2009
Madame Secretary, regarding your theory that an individual attacker is a novel tactic: What was shoe-bomber Richard Reid, a hive mind? How about Army Major Nidal Hassan at Fort Hood, did he have accomplices you’re not telling us about? What about José Padilla, the “dirty bomb” plotter? What about the many dozens of Palestinian suicide bombers?
I guess if you think of all these as “isolated individuals,” as the President described the Detroit bomber 3 days after Christmas, it is hard to even think about them as dots, much less connect anything.