Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast:
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known by the acronym AQAP at the CIA, is about to release its first English-language magazine. It’s a Web-based journal of propaganda aimed at inciting violent acts among would-be terrorists living in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and other Western countries.
American officials are deeply concerned.
The magazine, which came to light in a slick banner advertisement on various jihadist websites in the past two days, is called Inspire—after a verse in the Koran urging faithful Muslims to “inspire the believers to overcome all fear of death” and “fight in Allah’s cause.”
The banner ad, over the caption “Soon,” features a slide show touting the magazine’s first issue: “A SPECIAL GIFT TO THE ISLAMIC NATION.” “The first magazine issued by Al-Qa’idah in the English language.” “INSPIRE… and inspire the believers.’” “An exclusive interview with Shayk Abu Basir [a top aide to Osama bin Laden] and with Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki as a guest writer.”
It’s apparently the project of New Mexico-born jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based former imam who is said to have “inspired” three of the 9/11 hijackers; the perpetrator of the Fort Hood massacre, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan; the Christmas Day underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab; and the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad. The 39-year-old Awlaki—dubbed “the bin Laden of the Internet”—is a prime target of U.S. counterterrorism operations.
It’s called “Inspire,” and you can read parts of it below. A U.S. official said early this morning that the magazine appears to be authentic.
“Inspire” includes a “message to the people of Yemen” directly transcribed from Ayman Al-Zawahari, Al Qaeda’s second in command, a message from Osama Bin Laden on “how to save the earth,” and the cover includes a quotation from Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American born cleric who is believed to be directly connected to the attempt to destroy an airplane over Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day. (The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter, made that disclosure at a security forum in Aspen, CO, Fox News reported.)
The table of contents teases an interview with the leader of AQAP who promises to “answer various questions pertaining to the jihad in the Arabian Peninsula.” It includes a feature about how to “make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.”
AQAP’s first effort to post the magazine to jihadist websites failed Wednesday, as many of the pages were contaminated with a virus. (I half seriously believe that U.S. cyber warriors might have had a hand in that little surprise.)
The U.S. is quite worried about Al Qaeda’s new publishing ambitions, which mark a more sophisticated effort to engage the English-language world and to recruit English-speaking Muslims to join the cause.
The copy was obtained from a private researcher. AQAP had advertised for days that the magazine would appear with the interviews specified in the table of contents. It is possible, although not likely, that the magazine is a fabrication, a production of a Western intelligence agency that wants to undermine Al Qaeda by eroding confidence in its production and distribution networks. The U.S. is engaged in direct net-based warfare with jihadis; this sort of operation would not be too difficult to pull off.
Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy:
Marc Ambinder gots his paws on a copy of the first issue, and it’s as ridiculous as you might imagine. One article, by someone named “the AQ chef,” is called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.” There’s an essay by Yahya Ibrahim, a radical Canadian-born preacher, entitled “The West Should Ban the Niqab Covering Its Real Face.” There’s a “message to the people of Yemen” from al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, a column by Yemeni-American sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki, an interview with the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abu Basir al Wahishi, and various practical lessons on such topics as sending encrypted messages and what you can expect when you join the jihad. It also has a page for “contact us,” which is intriguing — how does that work?
Granted, I’m not the target audience for this rag, and Brookings analyst Bruce Riedel makes a good point here: “From the standpoint of al Qaeda, it’s not intended to be a bestseller. They’re just looking for one guy who will be inspired by this to bomb Times Square, and this time maybe he will put together the bomb correctly.”
Still, I’d wager that the folks who are producing Inspire are going to get killed or captured before they inspire any such attacks. I also don’t think we’ll be seeing an al Qaeda iPad app anytime soon.
Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room at Wired:
Online and viral media is the most efficient distribution mechanism for the extremist message, which is why al-Qaida’s as-Sahab media unit is so prolific. And as-Sahab products run the gamut of information offerings, from high-production-value online films to cellphone videos, serving as both a recruitment tool and a rapid-response messaging shop for the numerous attacks from Muslim clerics on al-Qaida’s Islamic credentials. In its creation of a distributed virtual training camp for propaganda, recruitment and development of al-Qaida’s bench, as-Sahab is the literal version of Lifehacker.
Which makes Inspire look anomalous. It’s not, apparently, online yet. Ambinder reports that a virus corrupted an attempted upload on extremist websites on Wednesday. And it’s not apparently an as-Sahab product: It bears a banner of al-Malahem Media, the publishing arm of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a franchise of al-Qaida that trained Abdulmutallab on putting bombs in his underwear. And that’s even more fishy: Al-Jazeera’s Gregg Carlstrom tweets that it’s not al-Malahem’s typical logo.
“It is difficult at this point to confirm its authenticity,” says Marc Lynch, a George Washington University political science professor who specializes in Arabic-language media. For one thing, al-Qaida PDF uploads tend not to be corrupted by viruses. That’s not to say it couldn’t be a glitch — what magazine editor hasn’t experienced the pain of technical difficulties on launch day? — but for now, Lynch cautions, “We shouldn’t leap to any conclusions about what this means for al-Qaida strategy.”
Max Read at Gawker:
And they said the magazine industry was dead! Well, they must have meant only the decadent, Godless, Western magazine industry, because al-Qaeda’s bold new English-language venture, Inspire, hit the internet on Wednesday. (Sort of. Apparently, only the first three pages were available, and the other 64 “were just garbled computer code.” Good job, guys.)
So, what’s the al-Qaeda editorial strategy? Service journalism, of course (it’s 2010, for God’s sake; magazines don’t sell themselves). Inspire, published by the terrorist group’s Yemen franchise, offers up how-tos (“Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” which is “a detailed yet short, easy-to-read manual on how to make a bomb using ingredients found in a kitchen”), guides (“What to Expect in Jihad”) and listicles (“6 Calls of al-Anfal”). There is even an “exclusive interview,” with Shaykh Abu Basir, the leader of al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, and regular columns, including (excuse me while I LOL) something called “Open Source Jihad.” These guys should buy Newsweek!
Jon Bershad at Mediaite:
What, no Justin Bieber interview? Come on, Osama, you’re not going to sell jack without the Bieb!
So, are scary terrorists around the world now reading Inspire on their scary terrorist iPads? Well, not yet. It turns out the first versions of the magazine that were uploaded contained viruses that Ambinder proposes may have been put there by US operatives. I guess those operatives are just working overtime to make up for not shutting down that damn Rolling Stone article…
UPDATE: Christopher Beam at Slate