US al-Qaeda Panic Focused on Intercepted ‘Code Words’

Words Led US Spies to Believe Attack Was Imminent

The scrambling around a potential al-Qaeda plot that led to the closure of dozens of US embassies worldwide came from the use of certain “code words” in intercepted al-Qaeda communication, according to officials familiar with the situation.

The code words convinced US spies that the attack was likely imminent, but gave no information about where the attack was liable to actually take place, leading to the global travel warning from the State Department.

No major attack ever happened, but since officials never really knew what was going to be attacked its impossible to say if it was actually “foiled,” as claimed by the Yemeni government, or if the US assumptions were simply incorrect.

Either way, the intelligence, such as it was, appears to have been extremely limited, which would probably explain why the administration’s go-to reaction was a series of seemingly random drone strikes against Yemen that blew up a school, a medical clinic, and a lot of other civilian targets.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of