The core of the report is here:
He said authorities in the first week of January intercepted an urgent communication between the leadership of al Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda's leadership in the tribal region of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan. The communication suggested that an area sealed to prevent leakage of a biological or chemical substance had been breached, according to the official.Thus, we have The Sun saying it was bubonic plague (and updating that report here), but a US intelligence official--an anonymous source--saying not so. This might lead folks to believe the US "leak" was more about knocking down the bubonic plague rumor and not so much about confirming the initial report of the problem with al Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb. With leaks out of DC one needs to be very careful.
"We don't know if this is biological or chemical," the official said.
The story was first reported by the British tabloid the Sun, which said the al Qaeda operatives died after being infected with a strain of bubonic plague, the disease that killed a third of Europe's population in the 14th century. But the intelligence official dismissed that claim.
But, what is the plan that al Qaeda has in mind? Is it to strike terror, bringing down governments (a la Spain on 11 March 2004) or to have a major impact on Western economic or military capabilities, or both? Since the widespread use of biological or chemical weapons has never been decisive in the past, there is the question of if mass casualties can be created with such weapons. For sure, there are plenty who will tell us that biological or chemical weapons are a potent force. Only in the event will we know for sure.
But, back to al Qaeda, do they have to kill several hundred thousand people to have an impact or is it enough to have a few cases in each of several different locations to create chaos?
One commenter has asked:
Can Islamism disrupt Western civilization, to the point where many of the joints and linkages that we currently take for granted are broken or attenuated?I am voting that we can come together as a People and overcome such a challenge. That said, we have to be careful of the way we go about it. As someone else commented on the thread from which I lifted the above quote, Athens lost its democracy in fighting a foe over a long period. We are lucky in that we have Athens as an example.
..., can Islamism engender sufficient threat so as to compel Western civilization to change in ways that we would find unappealing (at best), appalling, or even fundamentally antithetical?
Regards -- Cliff