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Yemen plot foiled: Could it have been an Al Qaeda ruse? (+video)

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This in turn was meant to trigger policymakers “fearful of being blamed for an attack on their watch preceded by such ‘chatter,’ ” Mr. Codevilla argues in a piece entitled “Manipulating the US Intelligence Community Shouldn’t Be This Easy” for the Library of Law and Liberty. “The lesson to be taken from all this,” he warns, is that the NSA is “at the mercy of any of its targets that wishes to feed it disinformation and then watch the US government’s self-discrediting reactions.”

In response to the overheard chatter, the US has launched four drone strikes in Yemen in the past 10 days, which US officials say have killed at least four Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives. These US strikes have been credited by terrorist leaders for helping to mobilize anti-American jihadist fighters in the region.

Many experts, however, question how much Al Qaeda would gain from such ruse.

Though there “certainly may be elements of the jihadist network that would create fake chatter,” the notion “that AQAP gave some kind of head fake to see how the US would respond to their move” is a stretch, says Thomas Sanderson, co-director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“They have much better things to do than potentially expose their members’ location through a fake operation that may not generate anything.” he adds. “I don’t think it was an effort by them to reveal how we would respond. We responded as we would in the past – but more forcefully.”

What’s more, as other Al Qaeda affiliates gain clout in Syria, AQAP has a vested interest in a big operation now to reassert its leadership within the movement, says Christopher Swift, adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

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