U.S. Terror Alerts Sparked by Intercepted al Qaeda Conference Call

Ayman al-Zawahiri / AP

The closing of 22 U.S. Embassies across the world was prompted by an intercepted conference call between several al Qaeda senior leaders and officials from smaller affiliates of al Qaeda, the Daily Beast reports.

Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between [Ayman al-]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. […]

Al Qaeda leaders had assumed the conference calls, which give Zawahiri the ability to manage his organization from a remote location, were secure. But leaks about the original intercepts have likely exposed the operation that allowed the U.S. intelligence community to listen in on the al Qaeda board meetings. […]

[D]uring the meeting, the various al Qaeda leaders discussed in vague terms plans for a pending attack and mentioned that a team or teams were already in place for such an attack.  

Some leading members of Congress say the revelations unearthed in the conference call directly refute President Barack Obama’s assertion that the core leadership of al Qaeda has been decimated.

"This may punch a sizable hole in the theory that al Qaeda is on the run," Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) told the Daily Beast.