“Legion of Doom” al-Qaida call allegedly closed embassies

Conference call between 20 al-Qaida operatives was intercepted, in case you were skeptical of NSA dragnets

Topics: legion of doom, Al-Qaida, NSA, Terrorism, embassy evacuations, Middle East,

While there remains a dose of healthy skepticism surrounding the shuttering of embassies in the Middle East and elevated terror alerts in light of revelations that the National Security Agency had been surveilling information on nearly every online and phone communication, the Daily Beast reports today that one intercepted phone call in particular prompted the embassy phone calls.

In ever-measured parlance, an anonymous intelligence official speaking to the Daily Beast said that the call intercepted included 20 top al-Qaida operatives: “This was like a meeting of the Legion of Doom,” he said.

Which would make the U.S. national security agencies … the Superfriends? It’s certainly one way to play out Chicago School-style neoliberalism.

The Daily Beast reported:

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The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al-Qaida’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.

Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.

To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi 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.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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