Al-Qaida's "Legion of Doom" Conference Call

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 7 2013 10:53 AM

Did a Conference Call Involving Al-Qaida's "Legion of Doom" Prompt All Those Embassy Closures?

In this undated photo, Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan

Photo by Visual News/Getty Images

As was widely reported yesterday, the previously unknown threat that prompted the widespread closure of American embassies in the Middle East and North Africa this week allegedly came when the United States managed to intercept some type of message from the leader of al-Qaida to the group's Yemen affiliate giving it the green light to carry out an unspecified attack. But in turns out, at least according to the Daily Beast's sources, that intercepted communication was a good deal more interesting that the initial reports suggested: It was, unnamed U.S. officials now say, actually an international conference call that included more than 20 high-ranking al-Qaida members who operate everywhere from Pakistan and Iraq to Nigeria and Uzbekistan.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"This was like a meeting of the Legion of Doom," was how one U.S. intelligence officer described it (presumably comparing those on the call to the group of supervillians led by Lex Luthor and not the Philadelphia Flyers' Eric Lindros-lead line from the mid-90s). "All you need to do is look at that list of places we shut down to get a sense of who was on the phone call." The Beast with more:

To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat ... for months. An earlier communication between [al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri] and [Nasser al-Wahishi, the head of the terror network's organization, based in Yemen] delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said. ...
Al Qaeda leaders had assumed the conference calls, which give Zawahiri the ability to manage his organization from a remote location, were secure. But leaks about the original intercepts have likely exposed the operation that allowed the U.S. intelligence community to listen in on the al Qaeda board meetings.

Go check out the full report here. It provides the latest look into the alleged inner workings of al-Qaida, which apparently has rather corporate-sounding job titles and requires its operatives to file monthly expense reports.

Update 2:30 p.m.: Something that I should have gone to greater lengths to point out above: The "Legion of Doom" story is coming from unnamed sources, so it's difficult if not impossible to verify. And, as the Associated Press' Adam Goldman reminds us, there's nothing preventing a CIA official, particularly one not speaking on the record, from twisting the truth or downright lying. For more on that, head on over to Gawker, which has a nice rundown of the doubts a host of national security reporters have expressed with the latest unofficial official version of events offered to the Beast.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?