Expert Looks Behind Mohammed's Confessions

Rep. Curt Weldon wrote of the plot to destroy the Seabrook nuclear reactor that fell apart when Canadian police arrested Arabs in Ontario who were practicing flying maneuvers. Yet little attention arose in the press about this plot or even an al Qaeda plot to fly planes into nuclear reactors. The FBI and CIA have not released this information to the public and have kept it silent. Mohammed admits planning such attacks. Similarly, Mohammed's was the first confession to call attention to what has never been publicly disclosed -- that Richard Reid was only one shoe bomber of a wider plot aiming to involve at least one other.

Why is that significant to us, even if the plots were aborted?

Al Qaeda is a patient and optimizing enemy that tends to continue along similar modus operandi. Targeting of air travel will continue. So, too, will targeting of nuclear reactors for their maximum casualty capability. The significance of Canada as a launching point for airplanes as guided missiles no doubt must remain an important concern for the American public and our Canadian brethren who can inform law enforcement officials about any suspicious activity.

What is the al Qaeda operational strategy revealed through his testimony?

He characterizes a focus on targets on economic, military and political significance.

Does Mohammed's reference to political targets highlight the conflict through the eyes of Muslims, that this is a conflict over Western influence and Western support of Israel?

No. The list of targets he notes are visible symbols within the United States. The Empire State Building, one of the targets he claims to have plotted to destroy, has nothing to do with American cultural and economic influence in the Arab world. Nor are assassinations of former American presidents, who have no power to exert in foreign relations. Mohammed even noted a plot against former President Jimmy Carter, who has done more to delegitimize U.S. support of Israel than any American leader in recent memory. This demonstrates the agenda for al Qaeda to be one of aiming attacks for their sensation value, to attract news coverage that demoralizes the secular West into fearing the potency of Islam. High-media-exposure attacks such as 9/11 also affected the choice of other bombings, such as that of the London transportation system, in order to recruit the ideologically sympathetic with "successes." Yet to date, al Qaeda has not advanced beyond pronouncements and its capacity to destroy. Some say that it is a movement without a country. To the contrary, it is a movement in many countries, including the United States. But Mr. Mohammed's description and listing of targets and plots is very much consistent with al Qaeda's personality as a movement that has little substance to it beyond its sheer capacity to destroy.

Dr. Michael Welner is chairman of the the Forensic Panel, a national forensic science practice. Welner, an associate professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, is also researching an evidence-based measure, the Depravity Scale at http://www.depravityscale.org, which invites Americans to participate in surveys that are being used to help develop a legal standard of what represents the worst of crimes.

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