Bloomberg News on Zawahiri’s communications

On Aug. 9, Bloomberg News reported the following concerning the US government’s decision to close more than 20 diplomatic facilities [emphasis added]:

The [State] department’s Aug. 2 global travel alert and an order closing diplomatic posts in 22 nations followed intercepts of communications among Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as al-Qaeda chief in Pakistan; the head of AQAP, Nasir al-Wuhayshi; and other regional terrorist commanders, according to two U.S. officials who asked not to be identified discussing classified matters.

The officials said reports that the terrorists held a conference call are incorrect, acknowledging that Zawahiri has been trying to coordinate terrorist activities in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Africa, Egypt’s Sinai desert, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Bloomberg’s reporting accords with several other reports: the scoop by Eli Lake and Josh Rogin for the Daily Beast on Ayman al Zawahiri’s communications with more than 20 al Qaeda operatives, The Long War Journal’s confirmation, and CNN‘s reporting on al Qaeda’s “encrypted messaging system.” In addition, NBC News previously reported that a third terrorist, who wanted to become a suicide operative, was also a party to Zawahiri’s communications.

While the two US officials interviewed by Bloomberg disputed the idea that a “conference call” was held, they confirmed that more than two parties were involved in Ayman al Zawahiri’s communications. It appears to us that some are still pausing on the words “conference call,” which Lake and Rogin have made clear is a shorthand description for a more complicated communication system.

In fact, the two officials interviewed by Bloomberg said that Zawahiri “has been trying to coordinate terrorist activities” in all of the areas identified in the Daily Beast’s original report. And they stated that “other regional terrorist commanders” were also involved in the discussions.

Their statements provide still further confirmation that the communications that shut down America’s embassies and consulates involved more than just Ayman al Zawahiri and Nasir al Wuhayshi, who serves as both the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda’s overall general manager.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    Two reporters couldn’t come up with a better description of the communications than “conference call”? Stunning! How did this happen? Could it be that the reporters were so eager to act as the PR arm of the administration that they didn’t bother critiquing the statement? So, now the media says that it wasn’t a conference call. OK. The obvious question, then, is: What type of communication was it? Was it encrypted? Was it a different encryption than seen before? The enemy knows the answers. What will the enemy do now that it knows this type of communication can be intercepted and decrypted? One other question comes to mind: Who’s giving away national security secrets, now?


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