UndieBomb 2.0: Defying the Trend

In his story describing the lowered standards for drone strikes the other day, Greg Miller described multiple officials admitting that we’re increasing the number of drone strikes in Yemen even though there’s no evidence more people are “migrat[ing]” to join AQAP.

U.S. officials said the pace has accelerated [in the last five months] even though there has not been a proliferation in the number of plots, or evidence of a significantly expanded migration of militants to join AQAP.

That may conflict with John Brennan’s claims that AQAP has tripled in size since the UndieBomber 1.0. It may suggest that that growth all took place before the last year. Or it may suggest–particularly given the use of the word “migration”–that these officials are distinguishing between non-Yemenis and local insurgents allying with AQAP.

Whichever it is, the NCTC just reported, last year attacks from AQAP didn’t go up either–in fact, they went down slightly.

Attacks by AQ and its affiliates increased by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011. A significant increase in attacks by al-Shabaab, from 401 in 2010 to 544 in 2011, offset a sharp decline in attacks by al-Qa‘ida in Iraq (AQI) and a smaller decline in attacks by al-Qa‘ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa‘ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Everyone but John Brennan–who has a history of lying about drone strikes–seems to be saying that the risk from terrorism, while still real, is going down in Yemen, not up.

UndieBomb Plot 2.0, to the limited degree that it was a general plan of Ibrahim al-Asiri and not a plot from Mohammed bin Nayef, appears to defy the trend.

Which brings me to something that’s been gnawing at me about the public claims about UndieBomb 2.0.

Imagine you’re Ibrahim al-Asiri. A Saudi-Brit shows up, trains, impresses the trainers. He offers to do a suicide mission and–while you don’t meet with him personally–the trainers decide to send him off on UndieBomb Plot 2.0. He leaves and you wait, and wait, and wait. And … nothing. That is, according to all the people complaining that the AP reported the government had thwarted a plot, what the government had intended.

If you’re AQAP, wouldn’t it be more suspicious hearing nothing about the guy who just walked off with your UndieBomb than hearing John Brennan boasting that he had thwarted the UndieBomb. Not bragging that the Saudis had infiltrated AQAP, which is what Brennan ended up bragging about. Just a big dog-and-pony about thwarting an attack, as the Administration did when it intercepted the toner cartridge plot.

Probably, the AP’s version of the story is correct and the Administration planned a dog-and-pony show, which would have left Asiri with the impression that the Saudi-Brit was what he appeared to be, an aspiring suicide bomber that got caught.

One alternative is that UndieBomber 2.0 actually absconded with an UndieBomb, but intended to go back into AQAP and continue to collect information. I wonder, though: Giving the increasing number of targets in Yemen, you’d think it’d be at least as important to collect information about AQAP plans in Yemen as to obtain the latest UndieBomb in the guise of an attack on the US.

But I’m puzzled by the claim that the Administration wasn’t going to announce they had thwarted the plot. That doesn’t make sense.

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6 Responses to UndieBomb 2.0: Defying the Trend

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @ncweaver I was off-grid, but weren't some people at least feigning surprise when Tsipras announced the referendum?
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JimWhiteGNV It sounds like John Galt is trying to kill Tennessee.
8mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @ncweaver And how much would NSA/GCHQ share w/Euro countries, given past evidence of some aggression v Eurozone?
11mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV Wait. We've had so many shootings that now we are actually repeating shooting sites? Sad. Hoping for safety at #NavyYard.
17mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel .@digby56 asks who was benefitting from UK's spying on Amnesty. http://t.co/t3IK7WyZwr
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emptywheel @ncweaver Yes. And NSA was using auto searches until they got busted for it in 2009 (they were illegally treating the data as 12333 data)
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emptywheel @ncweaver Auto searches got approved in 2012, but NSA never pulled it off "technically," gave up when O decided to outsource to telecoms
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emptywheel @ncweaver One thing I'm trying to figure out is how much the automated queries of phone dragnet data that never got implemented was this.
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emptywheel @ncweaver They're otherwise focused at the moment. But they're capable of circling back.
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emptywheel @ncweaver Oh. Right. Well, third least surprising thing then?
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emptywheel @Atrios Don't playground thugs routinely give conflicting orders to the smallest kid on the playground?
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