NYC subway threat: Obviously hindsight is always better and now, given a week and a half to interrogate the Iraqi individual who provided the information, the tentative assessment now is that he was a "hoaxster." An instant judgment had to be made eight days ago based on very limited intelligence, and the assessment was made to raise the subway alert. The new head of DNI, John Negroponte, and his office is supposed to make the assessment. But it's a difficult call, because they get raw intelligence. They get a transcript and somebody's report of an interrogation and saying that this guy passed certain parts of a polygraph and has made certain statements in the past that have proven true, and other parts have not proven true. But in the end, the mayor said correctly that if he's going to err, he's going to err on the side of caution. I think the only question right now is whether in fact there was enough due diligence done on the source itself at the time that he was arrested.
Earthquake: I have not heard whether the earthquake actually hit or impacted Osama bin Laden. It's probably going to be impossible to find out with any certainty whether it forced him or any of his comrades out. I suspect that he has plenty of contingency plans for any type of scenario that would force him out of his current hideout. Also, there were very few forces looking for him to begin with. Now with this destruction and the inability to traverse the area, there is almost no one who is going to be able to look for him and try to exploit the opportunity that might arise.
In previous situations where there have been calamities that hit - in the areas of the Middle East or Southeast Asia - where the governments have not rapidly responded, radical Islamic groups have been able to exploit it. They claim, somehow, that the catastrophes are driven or carried out secretly by the United States or Israel, believe it or not, as they claimed in the tsunami disaster. The radical groups are able to fill the void in the way of providing humanitarian rescue services. So it could adversely impact us there. Our rapid relief response certainly reflects well on us, but the question is how it is perceived. In the end, we can't control the way they portray us in the region.
We would hope that we would see Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other oil-producing regimes pick up a lot of the effort here in terms of providing the main bulk of money. Because this is in their back yard and this is a Muslim country that is in need. I would like to see them help out.
The al Qaeda internet advertising story is also an interesting story. Now, they are putting the ads out only for their video production and media center, which is different, obviously, than the operations center. But it suggests that they are not having the easiest time recruiting talented experts in their area and that they need to get new resumes. It's like any organization. The only question is whether this opens them up to some type of vulnerability, where U.S. and other intelligence agencies could manage to insert people into their organizations. There is an opportunity here.
Cross-posted at Counterterrorism Blog.