“Embassygate” or an Abundance of Caution? – TTG


(Reuters) – Intercepted communication between al Qaeda leaders was one component of a broader pool of intelligence that prompted a threat alert closing numerous U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Africa, U.S. sources said on Monday. The New York Times reported that the closure of the embassies was the result of intercepted electronic communications between Ayman al-Zawahri, who replaced Osama bin Laden as head of al Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of Yemen-based affiliate al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

U.S. sources said that while some type of message between Zawahri and AQAP was intercepted recently, there were also other streams of intelligence that contributed to the security alert, which was prompted by a threat from AQAP. "The threat picture is based on a broad range of reporting, there is no smoking gun in this threat picture," a U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. U.S. officials said there was still no information about a specific target or location of a potential attack, but the threat to Western interests had not diminished.


After the State Department announced the extended closure of twenty-two U.S. diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa over the weekend, due to intelligence suggesting the possibility of a planned terrorist attack, Limbaugh pondered the theory that this new threat could be an attempt by the administration to distract from other stories. Limbaugh listed incidents in which he believed the White House has not been truthful before declaring, "[A]ll of a sudden here comes this monstrous terror threat … It's just easy to not believe it anymore. It's just too easy to be cynical." Approximately ten minutes later, Limbaugh returned to the topic of the embassy closures. But, ironically, this time he complained that the strain of cynicism which doubts the veracity of the embassy terrorist threat — the same doubt Limbaugh himself had expressed minutes before — is "a really dangerous thing" (Media Matters)


That bombastic blowhard Limbaugh is not alone in thinking something stinks in this whole affair. Colonel Lang surmised that "Susan Rice et al have created a fire storm of hysteria at the possibility that there could be another attack that might make her look bad in her new job. The congressional war party (Peter King, Graham, Rogers at the HPSCI, etc) have fanned the flames based on opportunities presented by briefers who know what they must convey in order to survive in their jobs. Given that "bait" the 24/7 media have an issue with which to pursue rating for a few days. In other words I think the whole thing is BS." (I couldn't say it any better so I used our host's words.)

I offer another theory. The whole chatter thing and the ominous electronic communication between the al Qaeda number 1 and number 2 about something big happening at the end of Ramadan is part of an al Qaeda strategic deception operation. Surely al Zawahiri and al Wuhayshi knew NSA would monitor their electronic communications. Perhaps they sensed that our government had plenty of reasons to want to believe this threat of a massive terrorist attack and would react accordingly. This theory of mine is probably just the result of wishful thinking. I want to believe that someone is skillful enough to pull off an operation worthy of "Smiley's People"… even if it's al Qaeda.

The truth probably lies somewhere amongst all these explanations. What say you members of this committee of correspondence? 

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43 Responses to “Embassygate” or an Abundance of Caution? – TTG

  1. Jane says:

    If I were AQ, I’d certainly have been tempted to try it.

  2. WP says:

    Have they not already pulled off an operation worthy of “Smiley’s People” by merely inconveniencing a few electrons.
    After all, whoever “they” are, they have shut down a large swath of U.S. assets and made the U.S. look weak even if it’s all baloney. The interactions between Congress and the Executive have raised the cost of any failure to keep everybody 100% safe far beyond any reasonable risk analysis and have severely weakened the nation. All that is now necessary to disrupt U.S. foreign activities is just to spin some convincing “Chatter.”
    The whole nation is pathologically afraid of terrorism when the real risk is quite small. 91 times more people were injured by falling TV sets last year than by terrorists. Perhaps we should spend 91 trillion dollars to stop TVs from falling and suspend all of our constitutional rights in doing so. We could force people to cement all TVs to bedrock with reinforced concrete. That would save countless more lives than the war on terror.
    –OR, is the threat just cooked up to make us all very afraid so the Authoritarian Statists can grab more money and power?

  3. robt willmann says:

    Last Friday, 2 August, the New York Times newspaper in its role as a long-time promoter of the terrorism propaganda device, did feel as if it had to include–
    “Some analysts and Congressional officials suggested Friday that emphasizing a terrorist threat now was a good way to divert attention from the uproar over the N.S.A.’s data-collection programs, and that if it showed the intercepts had uncovered a possible plot, even better.” (Last paragraph on the first page.)

  4. ISL says:

    So assuming no threat materializes (and everything points to an belief that all their electronic comms are monitored), the admin looks like chicken little. My suspicion is that to avoid that, and hubris, will lead to a false flag op. I imagine such a plan would quickly unravel given the general way things have been happening over the last few years (or loonger)…

  5. The key to the story is that it was issued after Congress left town. What did they know and when did they know it?

  6. seydlitz89 says:

    In my opinion, it’s about distracting attention from the cascade of information coming out about NSA domestic surveillance. Use the old scare tactics to indicate to the rubes “how important these systems in fact are” . . . not really much thought behind it, more of a panicked reaction. Just another indication of how fragile the whole strategic narrative behind the war on terror in fact is . . .

  7. Brien J Miller says:

    I suspect that there is perceived need by our Orwellian Data Collectors to justify their vast and constitution defying efforts and defend against recent awakening moves to shut them down. I suspect that in their minds, just such a “coup” in data = threat detection would bolster their cause. I smell a electronic false flag operation in this one myself. In short, I agree. The BS flag is thrown.

  8. John Minnerath says:

    Sow fear and suspicion among the populace and they’ll more readily accept intrusions into their civil rights in the name of protection.

  9. jonst says:

    I rank NSA distraction # one theory. Two, 24/7 news cycle hunger in Aug as Congress goes on recess and Pres goes on vacation. Three, general tendency to hysteria in US these days.
    I would argue that outside of a carrier–and maybe not even then–there is no legitimate “strategically significant” target outside the borders of the US. We’ve been through all the rest, planes hijacked and blown up, embassies blown up, embassies taken over in the 60s 70s and 80s, basically without skipping a beat, after a week or so. There ARE no “strategic targets” IN Yemen. Nobody in America, but the Benghazi baiters, gives a rats ass about embassies or such the ME or most stuff in the ME…..other than the oil keep running and some crisis does not cost us money or blood there. However, there are those in the ME who WANT US TO CARE, A LOT, about what goes on there. For their own internal purposes.

  10. Fred says:

    I would like to know which of the people in Vermont who have had all their electronic communications monitored by the NSA are connected to these acts of terror; er – soon to be committed acts of terror. Why only yesterday I learned via Facebook that Burlington has a guy who delivers baguettes by bicycle. Surely that is not an ingenious matter of green marketing in a town known for eccentricities but a matter for the FBI. I can see the front of the NYT now: “Wonder bread Gate”. Better check on those pesky anti-pipeline people out west, too. No telling when they might do something dangerous (to the incumbents in office) like vote.

  11. NF says:

    Assume for a moment that the threats are/were real…does it make sense to announce, via every Western news outlet, that these embassies are closing? How does that counter the threat? Won’t AQ simply wait til the embassies reopen?

  12. The beaver says:

    I guess with the killing of OBL, the govt can’t use the bogus video or recordings of “paid FBI informant Rita Katz” of SITE “scarry Muslims threats”.
    With the emergence of her outfit from an institute to an intelligence after May 2011 ( when the money dried out I would assume) she may be selling her “stories’ again to whomever believes in her “prouesse” about AQ and in particular Yemen.
    Remember her story about the threat of the kidnapping of the US Ambassador in yemen back in 2012.

  13. Jay says:

    NSA propaganda. I saw an interview with Saxby Chambliss and Lindsay Graham, two enthusiastic NSA/military-industrial promoters, giving tantalizing clues about “disturbing chatter” just like the kind “before 9/11” that justifies all sorts of “precautions.”
    You could just tell by what they were saying and how they were saying it that they were stoking another “orange threat level” fearbubble a la 2004.
    The first rule of NSA club is you don’t talk about NSA or its work product. The second rule of NSA club is . . . .
    Unless you need to protect NSA club’s funding and mandate. If congress limits NSA’s scope, it doesn’t need $Trillions to gather everything. If there were a serious and credible threat, Saxby Chambliss wouldn’t be talking about it. He might not even be briefed on it. This is just TPTB blowing smoke up everyone’s ass to protect NSA. You don’t announce Japan’s intention to bomb Pearl Harbor on December 1 on the front page. We cannot rely on anything officially released to the public about this program. It’s just not credible, and never was.

  14. twv says:

    First, didn’t the boy king tell us , over and over, that “Al Qaeda is on the run”?
    Must have been a different Al Qaeda.
    Second, close these building for a week.
    What happens next week when they are re-opened?
    Benghazi showed gross incompetence followed by pervasive dishonesty and blustering weakness.
    This latest show of weakness (along with the leak of the sources and methods) is more of the same from a community organizer whose only skill is mirror-kissing.
    People get the government they deserve.

  15. FB Ali says:

    Does the Yemeni AQ need al Zawahiri to tell them to attack US targets? If he did in fact make that “open” call, it was obviously to have some fun.
    As happened with 9/11, AQ plots to get the US involved in senseless and self-defeating campaigns suit powerful interests in the US as they allow them to further their own agendas. It is the American people who lose both internationally and domestically.

  16. steve g says:

    People get the government they deserve.
    Absolutely. We got that gov in 2000
    to 2008 in spades. From Burning Bush
    to Boy King I cant see much of a dif-
    ernce especially the competence factor.
    BK is making a slow and half-hearted
    attempt for that change we can believe in.
    The lobbyists and coporatists, one in the
    same?, have taken us over on a permanent
    basis I am afraid. Can anything be done?

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The biggest losers have been not the American people but Muslims; I think AQ-like extremists have hurt Muslims internationally and domestically.

  18. dan bradburd says:

    I see this as the administration’s response to the beating they took over Benghazi. The politicization of that attack has created a situation where they have to (make a) show that they are tracking and responding to all threats. All risk becomes a political issue and so the response is based not on what will unfold on the ground there but in the media here.

  19. turcopolier says:

    The underlying phenomenon is undoubtedly the desire of the IC to push back against attempts to limit NSA surveillance programs. the method being to exaggerate the threat. there then followed the fuse lit by Susan Rice. pl

  20. Jay says:

    When is the FBI going to investigate the traitor(s) who leaked this sensitive national security information about sources and methods to NYT, WaPo, and McClatchy, the world wonders?
    Oh, no investigation?

  21. mbrenner says:

    There is now this embroidery. An unidentified senior intelligence official (likely John Brennan, narrator of the Shoot-out At the Abbottabad Corral tale) has told the NYT that Washington had evidence of AQAB’s development of an “ingeniously” diabolical explosive device – a shirt soaked in some highly combustible material that, upon drying, becomes a bomb. The ignition? perhaps lemon juice, perhaps a splash of airline coffee, perhaps a match. In the light of past experience, the perp may abort the whole mission by having it ironed before setting out.
    Quite an experience to have the great affairs of the nation in the hands of juju men.

  22. The Twisted Genius says:

    This technology has been around since the 70s. Back then it was called the polyester leisure suit. I’ve heard they’re often sighted in retirement communities in the Miami – Boca Raton region of Florida. Who said disco is dead?

  23. The Twisted Genius says:

    I was thinking the same thing. Talk about spilling the details of an ongoing, above top secret, technical collection operation. Where’s the outcry of the Snowden-Greenwald bashers?

  24. JLCampos says:

    The blood soaked tunic, Nesso’s, that burns on contact has been around since Hercules and Deianira.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Isn’t this the “cotton Gunpowder”?
    I first read about it in “From Earth to Moon” by Jules Verne.

  26. mbrenner says:

    I guess we are fortunate that there is no such thing as an experienced suicide bomber

  27. DH says:

    So al Qaeda playing games coincides with the NSA justifying itself. Convenient.
    “Zawahiri pressed Wihayshi to act. Johnsen says that it’s not uncommon for a distant leader to pressure his men on the ground to act, but before they’re ready. “It happened with bin Laden and now it is happening with Zawahiri.”
    But: “Wihayshi is a very patient man, single-minded and devoted. And he has, I believe, the standing to resist Zawahiri’s pressure until AQAP is ready to strike.” Check out Johnsen’s article on the botched American strategy in Yemen later this morning at FP.”

  28. optimax says:

    A lime-green leisure suit can blind a pilot from 5 miles away.
    I heard they were surgically implanting bombs into suicide-bombers’ bodies. The story is mutating.

  29. walrus says:

    The “nicest” construction one could put on this matter is that the IC does have reliable and accurate information on an operation and that they have deliberately protected its source by issuing a nebulous warning associated with a far too wide ranging action.
    The other extreme is as Col. Lang posited, its the IC pushing back against curbs on NSA.
    Take your pick. In any case we are stuck with the intelligence conundrum.

  30. Richard Armstrong says:

    Charles McCarry wrote about surgically implanted bombs in his 1979 novel “The Better Angels”.

  31. euclidcreek says:

    I’m taking no chances, any polyester wearing terrorist will have to pry the duct tape and plastic sheeting off my man cave to get at my precious bodily fluids

  32. Charles says:

    Prior to the weekend, I heard a State Department talking head on PBS Newshour state that the reason that 22-25 embassies were shut down was not due to threat specifics, but rather the closed shops were the ones with least improved security or protected status since a post Benghazi security audit, and all were simply closed out of an abundance of caution.

  33. The beaver says:

    According to Greenwald:
    “President Barack Obama had ordered 19 U.S. embassies in the Middle Easy closed not because of a legitimate terror threat, but to silence a debate on recently-revealed details of National Security Agency (NSA) data collection programs.”
    He is a bit off, four out of the 19 countries are not in the ME but sub-Saharan Africa and , intriguing, two of those four with quite a population of Muslims were NOT invited to the WH Iftar dinner on July 25th. They are not on the guest lists because, according to someone, their Muslim populations are in the minority ( yet they seem to be dangerous).
    BTW: Michael Oren didn’t attend this yr – I guess since he will be leaving his diplomatic soon.

  34. Stephanie says:

    Agree with this. No need for conspiracy theories, the Administration is just spooked by Fox News and the House GOP. Meanwhile, we look chicken and the terrorists are probably laughing their heads off.

  35. turcopolier says:

    “Conspiracy theories?” what are you talking about, the idea that the various parts of the idiot US media/government complex couldn’t or wouldn’t do what I said? Of course they would. that’s how the US government works. pl

  36. turcopolier says:

    1 [ahy-ruh-nee, ahy-er-] Show IPA
    noun, plural i·ro·nies.
    the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.
    a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.
    (especially in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., especially as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion. ” pl

  37. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Are you wondering if someone is monitoring what you think are your secure channels?
    Float something that cannot be ignored and look for clues that it was intercepted.
    That’s what I was thinking on the way home yesterday.

  38. Stephanie says:

    Sorry. Meant no offense. It’s very possible that they would and it could be a partial motivation here. But my hunch is without the Benghazi noise machine they don’t take this dramatic a step.

  39. turcopolier says:

    As i said, Rice is terrified of another such humiliation. pl

  40. Ingolf says:

    Wishful thinking though it may be, I like TTG’s “other” theory.

  41. optimax says:

    Cold War Zoomie
    You’re not the only one that thinks NSA has wormed its way into so-called secure channels. Various techies believe HSA creates malware to infect the browers, like the one this man suspects uses a Firefox vulnerability to monitor the Tor Browser Bundle. These s.o.b.s want to know everything about everybody and nothing about themselves.

  42. optimax says:

    Here is more proof that there is no such thing as a secure server. Snowden reportedly used Lavabits for email because it was secure but the company closed, saying they were unwilling to spy on the American people. Lavabits must have received a security letter that criminalizes full disclosure of the governments request to monitor their customers.
    Obama was on Jay Leno saying “we don’t spy on American citizens.”

  43. elkern says:

    Would the “abundance of caution” displayed in the embassy closings be related to the indictment of the suspects in the Benghazi attack? It still seems over-the-top, but it would fit my pop-psych version of the kind of people I suspect surround Obama: Democratic lawyers = people who imagine that everybody thinks legalistic steps (like indictments) are Important.
    The logic would then be that the AQ-in-Mahgreb group(s) related to the Benghazi attack might react to the charges by trying to blow something else up. Not such a crazy theory, really, if you forget that they probably consider US law to be a joke at best. Mix in some traditional Democratic fear, and shake with the fury of the Benghazi hearings, and closing a bunch of embassies might seem like a reasonable precaution.
    Actually, bringing charges is a big deal – the USG is treating the attack as a crime rather than a war! But I doubt that the perpetrators see it this way…

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