10 August 2006

Bojinka II - The Atlantic Plot

In my Template of Terror posting I put forward the type and style of al Qaeda plot being derived from multiple sources including the WTC bombing and the NYC Landmarks plot, then added into after the failed Operation Bojinka plot which was the al Qaeda attempt to supplant Nation State coordination with home grown coordination. Bojinka failed because it was over-broad and the actors between multiple organizations were not used to working with each other and the complexity of the plot itself foiled them. al Qaeda hit upon the perfect plot template when Aum Shinrikyo performed their totally in-Nation, multi-actor, simultaneous release attack on the Tokyo Subways.

Still, al Qaeda has not given up its dreams of a much larger scale terrorist attack to go beyond the commuter train bombings in Madrid, the London Subway Bombings, and the recent Mumbai train bombings in India. The template type that al Qaeda uses, however, is one of long term development for effective payload delivery that is not easily detected. They examine target lists closely, determine the most effective method to attack them, and then carry out such attacks. Each of these functions is cell-based, so that the group doing targeting and attack methodology are hard to link up with the actual action groups, which are divided between supply and support functions and actual delivery functions. By using a distributed methodology the actual cross-linking of observation to procurement to delivery are 'compartmented' and discovery of a plot in any of its building stages is difficult to link up firmly to further activities. Indeed, one expects that al Qaeda will use surveillance on hundreds of possible targets before selecting a handful that have common weaknesses and can be effectively attacked in a coordinated manner.

The plan uncovered last night to go after approximately 6-10 jetliners crossing the Atlantic between the UK and US is an example of this being caught in the final stages of supply and preparation and 21 people are in custody. This type of planning, although it can be carried out by other groups, is one that is of broad characteristic type to Bojinka and looks to have a high level of coordination via intermediaries. Together these are typified by al Qaeda scope, plans and methodology and it is a prime suspect. It looks as if the perpetrators were to use a variant of 'mix in flight' protocol used for binary weapons in which two non-lethal components are mixed to produce a single, lethal component. To do this the two components could be carried openly via carry-on containers, innocuously mixed and the resultant mixture, be it toxic or explosive, used to bring down the airliner.

al Qaeda realized that the over-broad scale of Bojinka was a problem and scaled their attacks down to meet resources. That does not mean that they have given up on such large plans. It cannot be discounted that this is 'another' al Qaeda-like organization or a large scale State sponsored plot. After the initial actors are arrested and interrogated, if the evidence points to a supply and surveillance system which are separated and communicate at a higher level *only*, not via cell-to-cell contact which loses security, then al Qaeda nearly perfectly fits this bill: low cost surveillance, examination of good methodology to thwart security and then supply and final execution planning caught at the end stages.

This is a still developing operation at this point for the counter-terrorism folks in the UK and US and any other Nations involved. First analyses are almost always wrong, but the evidence for a higher level of coordination is present and now just awaits confirmation as to backers.

1 comment:

A Jacksonian said...

Welcome, Larwyn!

al Qaeda has proven incapable of that sort of true global staging or even large scale multi-continent staging. Bojinka fell apart because of this and now the UK/US airliner plot has suffered from this same problem. Also al Qaeda has passed most of the Australian work off to more localized Indonesian based groups, from all accounts. But that does not mean that it does not have agents and plans in work.

Basically, when al Qaeda has moved from the Template to do something larger, the size of the plot fouls them up. They have no good way to actually do such a mass coordination and keep it under wraps.

I am quite sure that they or an affiliate with al Qaeda help would be more than pleased to hit Australia like Madrid, London and Mumbai.