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August 08, 2004

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS:

The capture, in Pakistan, of al Qaeda communications specialist Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, has apparently unleashed another flood of arrests and alerts about planned al Qaeda operations. Kahn was caught with a laptop computer containing emails and other al Qaeda documents. Kahn is also said to be freely answering questions and cooperating.

Kahn was captured on July 13th. His capture was kept quiet initially. This was apparently so that information captured with Kahn could be used to round up other al Qaeda leaders and operatives. Once these arrests were made, al Qaeda members began to suspect that their guy Kahn was working for the other side. . . .

For the last two years, al Qaeda has been trying to reconstitute itself. This has not been easy, as no nation will openly offer sanctuary to al Qaeda, and most are actively looking for al Qaeda members. Using email, the Internet and a system of couriers, al Qaeda has established contact with operatives, supporters and financial backers. The key leadership of al Qaeda has found places to hide in Pakistan. But the rural refuges in the tribal areas (along the Afghan border) are under attack by the Pakistani army. In the past few months, the al Qaeda people have been detected moving into Pakistan's cities, where many supporters of Islamic radicalism provide some cover, but not as good as in the tribal areas.

This, on the other hand, isn't so good:

COLOMBIA: Drug War Kills People, Not Cocaine Supply

The successful operation against drug manufacturing and smuggling in the past year has not led to a reduction in the cocaine supply in the United States. It is thought that this is because supplies in the pipeline are still being drawn upon, and that the drug gangs have shifted production to neighboring countries. This shift has been going on for several years.

Kind of suggests where our priorities ought to be, doesn't it?

UPDATE: More here:

A Pakistani man whose arrest provided information about the reconnaissance of financial institutions in New York, Newark and Washington was also communicating with Qaeda operatives who the authorities say are plotting to carry out an attack intended to disrupt the fall elections, a senior intelligence official said Saturday. . . .

The arrest last month of the Pakistani, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, had already prompted a search in the United States, Britain and other countries to locate the people behind the surveillance, which took place three or four years ago. Now the authorities say Mr. Khan's arrest is also helping them unravel a threat to carry out an attack this year inside the United States.

It is not clear whether Mr. Khan represents the second channel of intelligence that officials have alluded to in recent days that, they say, convinced them that the reconnaissance of financial institutions was related to current threats.

But he is emerging as a central figure in an expanding web of connections that, the authorities say, indicates that they may have penetrated an operational Qaeda group whose intentions were previously unknown.

And there's this fascinating tidbit:

American officials contacted on Saturday would not confirm whether Mr. Khan was a mole or double agent.

Hmm. Obviously there's a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Read this, too.

UPDATE: Cori Dauber interviews a homeland security expert and concludes that the press is blowing the story on antiterrorism.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on the double-agent bit: "The New York Times obtained Khan's name independently, and US officials confirmed it when it appeared in the paper the next morning."

Why confirm it? Perhaps because they figured the game was about up, anyway, and wanted to get Al Qaeda worried about other moles. Perhaps to cover up the existence of other moles. Perhaps because things are approaching some sort of endgame and they wanted to sow confusion. Perhaps through idiocy. There's no way to tell with stuff like this. All we can be sure of is that we probably don't know the whole story.

More here, including a hint that federal officials favor going public because of "pack not a herd" considerations.

MORE: This post by Michael Young on the "double agent" story seems uncharacteristically unthought-out, but there's interesting discussion in the comments. Biggest point: We really have no idea what's going on here. But let's be clear -- this guy, based on the reports we have, was only a "double agent" in the sense that -- after he was captured -- we let him send emails to people who thought he was still free and operational. There's no way that was going to last very long, regardless, as someone would have noticed. And, again, the whole thing could be a way of messing with their minds.