Nov. 22, 2010 -- From the airport pat downs in this country to a search for two suicide bombers believed to be at large in Germany, this is a tense time for U.S. and European security officials, who privately admit they are scrambling to stop an expected terror attack of some kind, somewhere.
After first playing down the threat, officials in Germany are now at full alert. In Berlin, police were told to look for two suspected suicide bombers trained by Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and all weekend, German television provided a range of precise details.
At the same time over the weekend, al Qaeda gloated over the disruptions being caused by its failed plot to blow up two cargo planes.
In an on-line magazine, al Qaeda in Yemen said for an expenditure of just $4,200 it had forced the U.S. to spend hundreds of millions on extra security, measures, including the intrusive pat downs.
"Two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200," one article said. "That is all that Operation Hemorrhage cost us. In terms of time, it took us three months to plan and execute the operation from beginning to end."
The magazine also revealed the attack was not meant to kill more than the plane's pilot and co-pilot, and was meant to force the U.S. government to spend huge sums to defend itself. Success, it said was measured by economic harm, by "the spread of fear that would cause the West to invest billions of dollars in new security procedures."
The strategy, the magazine said, was "of attacking the enemy with smaller, but more frequent operations is what some may refer to as the strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death."
AQAP also took credit for the September crash of a UPS cargo flight in Dubai. However, U.S. and U.A.E. officials have concluded that the crash was not an act of terrorism.
Level of Detail From AQAP Unusual
The publication was unusual for the level of detail and candor with which AQAP revealed its attempt and threatened future attacks.
"The al Qaeda magazine is essentially correct," said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official and now an ABC News consultant, "that for a few hundred dollars on their part and very little effort they get this enormous reaction from us and that is the basis of asymmetrical guerilla warfare, asymmetrical terrorism. A small effort on their part requires a huge effort on our part."
Said Clarke, "Terrorist are always trying to drain the resources and the morale of the other side and I think they are being very successful in draining our resources."
The magazine also mocked preventive measures taken by Western governments after the attempted attack: "The British government said that if a toner weighs more than 500 grams it won't be allowed on board a plane. Who is the genius who came up with this suggestion? Do you think that we have nothing to send but printers?"
U.S. law enforcement officials say the ingenuity of the al Qaeda bomb makers is a good part of the reason U.S. passengers are now getting pat downs, that they are using materials in their bombs that cannot be detected by all the expensive screening machines currently in place.
AQAP is largely based in Yemen, where the printer bomb plot was hatched. The group mailed the two printers from Yemen, addressing them to Jewish institutions in Chicago.
Shortly after they were sent, Saudi intelligence was able to learn the tracking numbers and passed the information to U.S. counterparts. The packages were intercepted and disabled in Dubai and England.