April 3, 2012 | New York Daily News

Al Qaeda Graphic Hinting at More New York Attacks Likely Bluster and Not a Real Threat

Phantom threats can keep Western countries on their toes
April 3, 2012 | New York Daily News

Al Qaeda Graphic Hinting at More New York Attacks Likely Bluster and Not a Real Threat

Phantom threats can keep Western countries on their toes

An image posted on jihadi forums Monday caught the NYPD’s interest as a possible threat. In it, the city’s famous skyline at sunset is overlaid with the text: “Al Qaeda: Coming Soon Again in New York.”

The chances are that this is mere braggadocio, not something that should scare New Yorkers. And it is virtually certain that this does not presage a large-scale attack, à la 9/11.

Plots connected to the core leadership in a command and control capacity are our greatest terrorism concern because the leadership, at its strongest, can muster the kind of resources and pair the kind of skill sets that could pose a risk of a catastrophic strike.

Many 9/11 hijackers did not even know their mission until the day of those attacks. With the recent disruption of large-scale plots, Al Qaeda’s need for secrecy will only grow. The chance of some low-level figure knowing enough about an upcoming plot connected to Al Qaeda’s core to post a Photoshopped graphic boasting of it in advance is infinitesimally small.

There are, however, other possibilities. One is homegrown or lone wolf terrorists unconnected to Al Qaeda’s core.

The second, and far likelier, possibility is that this is bluster. Even a lone wolf may get caught if he shows his hand too early. And jihadists, along with their supporters, realize that bluster may actually serve a strategic purpose: phantom threats can keep Western countries on their toes, making them pour more resources into playing defense against the threat of terrorism.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the author of “Bin Laden’s Legacy.”

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Al Qaeda