Al-Qaeda, the bureaucratic organization with a central authority (Ayman al-Zawahiri), is a myth which needs to be dispelled.
December 14th, 1999. A Chrysler 300 drives off a ferry, the M/V Coho from Victoria, British Columbia to Port Angeles, Washington. Rolling towards a stop at the customs checkpoint, its driver appears tense, nervous, sweating. He’s sweating in the middle of December? He’s obviously anxious. Border guard Diana Dean approaches him. Step out of the car, sir, is how it usually unfolds. He gives his name: Benni Norris. Proper documentation, it seems. But something’s off. First, there’s this odd driver’s license made out to a Mario Roig. A person who doesn’t seem to exist, at least according to the RCMP. But a look in the trunk explains what Mario Roig cannot. Instead of a spare tire, there are 118 pounds of urea crystals, 14 pounds of aluminum sulfate powder, 2.6 pounds of ethylene glycol dinitrate (EGDN), two bottles of hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD) and cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX, a Research Department Explosive), and four timing devices.
His identity and plot were discovered in short order. His real name was Ahmed Ressam. He was an Algerian who had made his way to Canada. And he had planned to blow up the Los Angeles International Airport as part of the Millennium plot. Weeks earlier, on November 30th, Jordanian police and paramilitary forces raided several houses in and around Amman. They arrested sixteen people. Plans indicated they had hoped to machine-gun tourists at biblical sites and bomb a huge hotel in the city. On January 3rd, in the new millennium, Aden, Yemen, an attempt on the USS The Sullivans failed when the operatives overloaded the speedboat they were using with so many explosives that it sank. All would-be attackers had initiated the plots themselves. None of them were apparently aware of the others. Ressam had connections to al-Qaeda, but he was not a member. Lawrence Wright called him a “freelance terrorist sailing under al-Qaeda colors”. A directionless and disillusioned young man who was caught up in the increasing wave of global jihad.
In the late 1980s, the tenuous grasp of the Algerian regime on its citizenry was beginning to crumble. Massive economic problems, distress at crippling unemployment, particularly among the new generation of graduates, anger at corruption and inadequate urban development, etc., transformed itself into large-scale street protests across the country. The Front Islamique du Salut (Islamic Salvation Front), a united front of various Islamic groups, assumed the leadership position. The government exacerbated a bad situation when they arrested the senior leadership of the FIS in the wake of their sweeping victory at the polls. A vacuum was now open for the more extreme elements of the Islamist movement to move into, while other moderates became convinced that the entire electoral process was a fraud.
Ahmed Ressam had largely avoided the politics. Drifting into France, and then, with a fake passport, journeyed across the ocean to Canada. He was a thief, more or less. Theft, credit card fraud, welfare payments kept him afloat. But he also got in touch with elements of Algeria’s expatriate community, particularly two men: Fateh Kamel and Abderraouf Hannachi. They were both patrons of the Assuna Annabawiyah mosque in Montreal. They both had connections to the Groupe Islamique Armé (Armed Islamic Group). Islamists who wanted to establish an Islamic state in Algeria. The pair also knew Abu Zubaydah.
The duo spoke of American infidels, the bankruptcy of their culture, how they needed to be stopped; they talked of training in one of bin Laden’s camps – Khaldan – learning how to fire handguns, AK47s, RPGs. Hannachi claimed that, as a warrior, his life had been given meaning. Ressam, a drifter disillusioned, needed “little persuasion”. Like many thousands, he went to receive training in Afghanistan. One of maybe thirty other Algerians in the Khaldan camp at the time. It seems he also met Abu Zubaydah. But it was he and his cohorts who concocted the LAX bomb plot. It was not handed down from on high. All they requested were funds. And the use of the name al-Qaeda. He wondered, just before commencing the plot, if bin Laden would like to take credit for the attack; he never heard back.
Ressam was, in a sense, typical of a pre-9/11 freelance terrorist. He was directionless. A drifter. He was not a member of al-Qaeda. But like so many others he had filtered through one of their many camps, no longer simply a conduit to redirect fighters to the Afghan fronts, but not yet completely destroyed. He had been influenced by older role models. He had minimal contact with the core members. His cell operated independently. Yet he attempted to secure support, funds, and backing from bin Laden. He was handed no explicit mission orders from the ‘top’. He cavorted with his cohorts to concoct his own plot. But now even this idea of a terrorist cell has been transformed into a far more independent and self-contained one; one which continues to give lip-service to the global jihad as espoused by bin Laden and his cadre.
Think of a stereotypical organization. Preferably a centralized one. There is a tendency to think of it as top-down. Hierarchical. There’s a head honcho, or a bunch of them, a board, perhaps. The real power is supposed to be vested nearer the top. Move down farther along the chain and the capacity for steering the organization gradually erodes. The underlings are mere foot soldiers, workers, drones. Taking orders is their business. Not making them. No, it’s the bin Ladens and Zawahiris which are the problem. Rid the organization of men like them and you essentially decapitate an unruly leviathan.
There’s a huge problem with this line of thinking, however, a line of thinking which has persisted. Al-Qaeda is not an organization, per se. A network might be closer. Jason Burke argues it is more of an ideology. Not a power structure at all. A guiding force. A brand name. There is no head to be effectively decapitated. But it is also less of a many-headed hydra. The word cell (as in a terrorist cell) is actually quite apt in this regard. Although, perhaps, virus is a better word. The word itself is critical. Al-Qaeda can mean a base, a foundation, and even a model. They provide approval and funds for others. Amorphous, defying conventional labels, al-Qaeda is almost functioning, perhaps barely, as a shadowy mix of criminalistic venture corporation financiers of terror. In fact, as Burke points out, it was the FBI, a law-enforcing bureaucratic institution, that first attempted to use the al-Qaeda label as a way of categorizing “an adversary that was in no sense a traditional terrorist or criminal organization”. But with the central core of al-Qaeda now gone, it has metamorphosed sharply towards a model. Their ideology is what inspires. They allow the use of their name as a kind of destitute trademark for independent jihadis.
Killing bin Laden was a symbolic victory, a propaganda coup. Ridding the earth of Zawahiri would accomplish more-or-less the same thing. But in the real scheme of things, it mattered little. The tendency for many to still think of al-Qaeda along the lines of a centralized power structure is not only wrong, but it has proved disastrous, especially in fighting them. There was but a core cadre of actual bona fide al-Qaeda members, including bin Laden and Zawahiri. With the exception of Zawahiri, most of the core members have either been killed or imprisoned. Or, as in the rarer case of Saif al-Adel, forced into hiding. Yet, al-Qaeda persists. An expanding corporation, it has franchised into various regions. Beyond this, however, are those singular, splintered cells which arise independently, and borrow the trademark liberally. Al-Qaeda even suffers from, believe it or not, marketing and image, human resource and personnel problems.
So why is anyone surprised when Zawahiri no longer – if he ever even did – has any sense of control over the various franchisees, branches, subsidiaries, affiliates, what have you? Displeased to see prominent mainstream news outlets and magazines, in this case Foreign Affairs, acting like al-Qaeda was a “once-unified”, but “sprawling organization”. Such language evokes imageries of a once-glorious centralized organization, now falling apart. It severely mishandles both the idea of al-Qaeda and the widespread acceptance of a violent jihad. It gives the impression to impressionable readers that now the final threat is Zawahiri, the man who apparently has trouble governing his own “organization”.
William McCants is, at best, misguided or, at worst, completely wrong. Some of his facts are undoubtedly correct. However, the conclusions which he reaches are less than agreeable. McCants’ – and his ilk’s – view is tainted by the mere fact that this is not even a ‘new’ development. If the argument is that there is a “lack of order” that Zawahiri is to blame for, it falls apart when you consider precedents. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, once one of the most wanted men in the world, was considered a rival of bin Laden’s, even after the so-called pledge of allegiance in October of 2004. In 2000, he rejected bin Laden’s offer to join al-Qaeda. Fast forward to 2005. They still seemed to have trouble reining him in. A letter, purportedly addressed by Zawahiri, implores Zarqawi to cease the indiscriminate bombings against Shia. All those indiscriminate attacks, supposedly they were eroding support for al-Qaeda. Or how about Mokhtar Belmokhtar, supposedly al-Qaeda’s commander in their Magreb subsidiary? A management problem if there ever was one.
“Moktar Belmoktar, an ambitious regional commander in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb who bridled under the group’s strict structure and, after AQIM sent him a letter detailing his shortcomings, split off to form his own organization. That scolding letter, which sounds remarkably like a corporate communique rebuking an out-of-line middle manager, was Belmoktar’s last straw.”
To be fair, McCants does claim that the “sprawling organization… has seen its fair share of bureaucratic infighting”. However, the article gives the impression that this is something that Zawahiri did not intend. After all, to blame oneself for something is to suggest that something went wrong.
“If Zawahiri wants to assign blame for the lack of order, he should look no further than himself: the squabbling is largely a result of his decision to expand al Qaeda too broadly.”
The truth is, Zawahiri (or bin Laden, for that matter) was never going to reign over these individuals and splinter groups with an iron first. Zawahiri is no longer – if he ever even was – the be-all and end-all of Islamic terrorism. A leader, he is as much the ‘head of state’ of his ‘organization’ as Elizabeth II is of, say, Canada. It is symbolic. Zawahiri exercises control in a very nominal fashion. To suggest that all of the affiliates are, or ought to be, beholden to his word is to grossly misjudge the idea of al-Qaeda.
Issuing their 1998 fatwa, bin Laden, Zawahiri, et al., declared global war against the Americans and its infidel allies. Kafir. A general declaration of jihad. A religious authorization of an indiscriminate, wide-reaching holy war. Language that evoked the desire of the rise of independent cells, splinter groups, freelancers. There was not much to suggest that it be merely an al-Qaeda vs. America war. This late-date fatwa was merely the latest incarnation of the aims of al-Qaeda. If you considered them an ‘organization’, then anyone with the means, capacities and motivations to conduct an operation was a member, regardless of their affiliation. That’s a bit formless for an ‘organization’, is it not?
The declaration of a global war was also an evolution of who was targeted. Bin Laden had originally envisioned that the men who went through his camps would eventually return to their native lands to conduct their own operations. This idea had not changed. But with ‘authorization’ now to attack Americans, Jews, whomever. Al-Qaeda is also allied or affiliated with a myriad number of groups which they had no responsibility in organizing or creating. To suggest that al-Qaeda was ever the sole face of the increasing widespread rise of Islamic terrorism is farfetched. Even a cursory look at their affiliates suggests otherwise: the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, al-Shabaab, the al-Nusra Front, etc, etc. There have also been groups in the past which al-Qaeda attempted to court, but got nowhere.
An excerpt from Jason Burke’s book:
“[F]ormer GIA [Armed Islamic Group of Algeria] fighters… say that the GIA leadership asked bin Laden if financial assistance would be possible in 1994 but were unhappy with the degree of ideological and operational control that the Saudi demanded as a condition for any aid. One activist in Khartoum at the time says that bin Laden dispatched an emissary to talk to groups within the GIA about a possible alliance at the time. He got a very hostile reception and barely escaped with his life. The activist subsequently witnessed a GIA deputation, led by a Libyan called Abu Basir, arriving at bin Laden’s house and threatening to kill the Saudi if he contacted any of their cadres again. However, it is certainly possible that individual activists within individual GIA groups made their own contacts with bin Laden himself or his associates. Tracts published and videos circulated by the GIA or their mouthpieces in London show the similarity of their language and ideas.”
It seems that unlearning certain ideas is difficult. As far back as 2004, antiterrorist in Brussels were warning that al-Qaeda had not been “broken”. Al-Qaeda’s core group had been decimated, its camps in Afghanistan destroyed. But its sped-up decentralization, the “real danger”, was “their persistent capacity to incite and collaborate with local groups” to act in their own countries. Their estimate: around forty of them.
“As a result, the inadvertent emergence of decentralized leadership has now empowered regional groups to initiate operations and visions that remain hinged to al-Qaeda’s novel ideological and dialectical purists. The core blueprint that is pursued, moreover, remains rooted in the political radicalism of Sunni Islam – a variant of the religion that has become poisoned by frustration, compromised interpretation, and the quest for a manifested utopian vision lost to history.”
McCants points to a specific example – al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – as an aberration, of sorts. That because Zawahiri had meddled less, he had mismanaged less. This is true to an extent. But AQAP is also the most prominent example of a direct affiliate which arose chiefly due to the decentralized nature of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch had been utterly decimated in the wake of September 11th, 2001. Mass arrests had crippled the affiliate’s operational capabilities. The first successful drone attack (outside Afghanistan), November of 2002, which killed Abu Ali al-Harithi (and an American citizen, Kamal Derwish, the first to be killed in the ‘war on terror’), the branch’s leader, didn’t help matters much.
In January of 2009, shortly after Barack Obama’s inauguration, a video appeared which seemed to confirm some of the intelligence community’s worst fears. Four men – Qasim al-Raymi, Said al-Shihri, Mohamed al-Awfi, and Nasir al-Wuhayshi – Yemeni prison escapees and former Guantanamo inmates, they announced the formation of a resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A merger between the Saudi and Yemeni branches. Although at least one – Wuhayshi – had personally known bin Laden (a former aide of his), and they owed some loyalty to the central cadre, these men’s allegiance was less personal fealty and more adherence to the ideology that al-Qaeda espoused. Neither bin Laden nor Zawahiri had much control over these men.
As aforementioned, McCants’ facts are not under dispute here. However, his premises and assumptions are under scrutiny, as are some of the conclusions he reaches. He severely underplays the environmental differences involved in the myriad of conflicts. Yemen has long been a country with a weak central leadership, much more emphasis on localized and tribal ties. That Ali Abdullah Saleh, dancing on the heads of snakes, managed to survive so long is more a testament to his shrewd, perhaps shortsighted, political plays, than the power of the central authority. Yemen is also a very fragmented country, with the Houthi rebellion in the North, a secessionist movement in the South. It is an easy situation to exploit. Syria, on the other hand, is a full-blown civil war, with disparate rebel elements pitted against a more powerful central authority. Even against each other. The chaos in Iraq helps little. So McCants might be correct when he says there is infighting, but to attribute that to Zawahiri’s lack of leadership skills seems to be a bit misguided.
Jacob N. Shapiro’s article a few months ago takes the idea of the media’s obsession with al-Qaeda as some corporate bureaucracy to its extremism. First of all, he is right to say that terrorist organizations have many fundamental weaknesses that can be exploited. Paperwork and paper trails, phone calls, emails, etc. are undoubtedly useful when it comes to intelligence collection and attack prevention. However, his article still carries that implicit assumption that al-Qaeda is a global terrorist organization. It is, but it also isn’t. Its brand name, trademark, is global, but its predisposition to act through various local chapters is far more important than trying to decimate some sort of international leadership cabal (of which, supposedly, Zawahiri is head).
“Terrorist leaders also face a stubborn human resources problem: Their talent pool is inherently unstable… So someone in Zawahiri’s position has his hands full: To pull off a major attack, he needs to coordinate among multiple terrorists, track what his operatives are doing regardless of their intentions, and motivate them to follow orders against their own maverick instincts… That is good news, of course, for potential terror targets: As long as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies remain vigilant, there is no way terrorist organizations will ever rise above the level of the tolerable nuisance…”
There is no central bureaucracy to fold these people into. They run amok with or without him. If they are captured, Zawahiri remains insulated, since most of these people, presumably, have no idea where he is, or isn’t. And what is meant by “major attack”? There is another fundamental truth missing from Shapiro’s analysis: al-Qaeda does not need to go looking for disaffected or violent individuals. The disaffected will find them. They neither need to know Zawahiri nor join a centralized organization. They join local affiliates now. Or they form independent cells. If his premises are correct, then law enforcement and intelligence agencies can surely thwart terror plots. If his premises are incorrect, it does not necessarily mean that attacks will surely happen. It just means that they might not be able to stop them.
“Al-Qaeda’s core no longer has the ability to mount sophisticated terror attacks on the scale of 9/11. Small cells of Americans like Zazi, however, represent a persistent concern.”
It’s September 2009. Aurora, Colorado. A young Afghan-American mixes hydrogen peroxide and acetone, just as he was taught in Waziristan. He begins adding his acid-of-choice: muriatic. Clumps of white crystals appear in the mixture. Unstable. Explosive. TATP (triacetone triperoxide). Even the tiniest bit of friction and it will set off an explosion. He transfers the finished product into a glass jar. Together with three detonators, one per backpack, filled with a flammable mixture, ball bearings, he will light up New York City’s subway in a powerful fireball.
Or, at least, he would have done had he not been caught. Then twenty-four year old Najibullah Zazi was arrested, along with his two friends, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, his father, Muhammad Wali Zazi, and a New York imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, for varying roles, in a plot to bomb the New York City subway. The Zazis had fled Afghanistan to Peshawar in 1992, before immigrating to the United States in 1999. They joined the Afghan expatriate community in New York City. The Zazis frequented a mosque in Flushing, Queens: Hazrati Abu Bakr Siddique. The mosque was also the home of an imam, Saifur Rahman Halimi, a pro-global-jihad representative of Islamist Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
His life changed abruptly in the wake of September 11th, 2001. Muhammad Zazi had sided with Halimi, a pro-Taliban, in a split at the mosque. Further, Zazi had dropped out of Flushing High. He began pushing a coffee cart in Lower Manhattan. He appeared to be getting far more withdrawn. His friend Adis Medunjanin had already undergone a sort of spiritual awakening. It was Medunjanin who encouraged Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay to pledge their lives to Allah. They began growing beards. They were especially taken in by the fiery Yemeni ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki. In spring and summer of 2008, the three of them made the momentous decision to travel to Afghanistan so they could fight in the ranks of the Taliban.
They were instead recruited by al-Qaeda.
They arrived in Peshawar in late August. They needed help navigating their way across the border. Zazi’s cousin, Amanullah, had the supposed connections. He led them to a local imam, who led them to a man named Ahmad. Ahmad offered to take them to a training compound in Waziristan. The tribal region on the border. They piled into a gray Toyota and began driving. After a few conversations, they realized what they had gotten themselves into: Ahmad was al-Qaeda. Ahmad introduced them two to men, one, who called himself Ibrahim, was in actuality Rashid Rauf. The trio represented the single greatest asset: men who could move about freely in the west. They received training in weapons and explosives. When Zazi, and his friends, returned to the US, he began setting in motion his plot.
There is not only the proliferation of local affiliates of al-Qaeda which must be considered, but homegrown independent cells. Cells of this nature are not created by al-Qaeda, even if they are influenced by it. This brings up a troubling direction of Islamist terrorism: ideology. If al-Qaeda as a base is gone, if its core cadre have been largely made irrelevant, it stills works to act as a model and ideology. Ressam had contact with the highest echelons of the al-Qaeda core. Zazi had little trouble in finding bona fide operatives (or suspected operatives, anyway). Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one half of the Boston Marathon bombers, seems unaffiliated with any ‘terrorist group’. He and his brother were supposedly motivated by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they had learned how to make bombs by logging onto Inspire, an al-Qaeda magazine. If al-Qaeda’s ideology has not yet become synonymous with extreme Islamic political violence, it still means that ridding ourselves of an organized al-Qaeda would do little to stem the rise of independent cells. Nor would it stop people from invoking the brand.
Al-Qaeda still functions as a model, in terms of ideology or methodology. If the mainstream is going to continue to promote the myth of al-Qaeda as a credible, centralized organization, it will force us to misjudge certain threats and ignore others. Zawahiri, the ineffectual head is, at this point, largely irrelevant. Rather than focus on a symbolic victory (one in which he would probably be made martyr, anyway) by decapitating the perceived head, the far better course of action – one which is already being done – would be to treat all of the affiliates as separate entities. The only thing they have in common is the brand name.
One of the nasty side effects of promoting al-Qaeda as this global terrorist organization is that you perform an unnecessary marketing campaign for them. The more you empower the name, the more you empower the brand, and, as a consequence, the model. It is the model which must be made ineffectual, not Zawahiri, along with combating the various affiliates at local and regional levels. McCants, funnily enough, acknowledges, perhaps implicitly, that infighting between local groups could damage the al-Qaeda brand. He once again attributes this to Zawahiri’s mismanagement. In a way, however, he might have a credible point. Take note of who his words are directed towards: people who might join these organizations. There is doubt that many of these people seek to join a centralized al-Qaeda. No, they join local affiliates for various and different motivations.
This leads to a further problem, which is the ignorance of widespread Islamic extremism, the ideology, one which manifests itself in individual cells. One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Zazi case was that it was not massive amounts of intelligence which thwarted the attack, but a combination of good intelligence, good partnerships, and, yes, even some good circumstances (the authors of Enemies Within call it luck). So it seems Shapiro’s conclusion holds some measure of validity. However, he should be careful not to ignore the differing premises. The Boston Marathon bombings were not even thwarted. This is because of lack of any association with al-Qaeda, or some other group. What is dangerous most, at this point, at least to those living in developed western countries, is the ideology. If the violent type of Islamist extremism that al-Qaeda touts has now usurped Islamist violence, then it matters less that any organization, if any at all, is behind an attack.
In his conclusion, William McCants states that Zawahiri’s lack of control may not necessarily be a boon for the United States. Specifically: “The various factions of a once-unified al Qaeda could compete with one another over which group can mount the biggest attack on the West.” This sparse conclusion belies the real dangers. First, that killing Zawahiri will accomplish nothing. Second: that we will continue to focus on a supposed global organization, rather than trying to combat groups at a local level. Third, it ignores the prominence of splinter groups and individual terrorist cells. Fourth, it understates the idea of al-Qaeda as a model or an ideology. Has the vision of Islamist political violence been usurped by al-Qaedaism? If so, the problem is not within the perceived lack of control of certain individuals. The problem is how to combat the ideology.
- Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 298
- Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam (London: Penguin Books, 2007)
- “Joining Jihad”, in The Terrorist Within, http://seattletimes.com/news/nation-world/terroristwithin/chapter7.html
- Wright, 298
- Jason Burke, “Think Again: Al Qaeda”, ForeignPolicy.com, 12 July 2010, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2004/05/01/think_again_al_qaeda#sthash.aWMRsjkZ.TOWyN7Wj.dpbs
- Uri Friedman, “The Media Loves Comparing Al-Qaeda to a Corporation”, The Wire, 24 June 2011, http://www.thewire.com/global/2011/06/media-loves-comparing-al-qaeda-corporation/39227/
- Caroline Faraj, “Al-Zarqawi Group claims allegiance to bin Laden”, CNN, 17 Oct. 2004, http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/10/17/al.zarqawi.statement/
- Loretta Napoleoni, “The Myth of Zarqawi”, AntiWar.com, 11 Nov. 2005, http://www.antiwar.com/orig/napoleoni.php?articleid=7988
- “Profile: Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi”, BBC News, 10 Nov. 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/3483089.stm
- Adam Martin, “The Corporate Shortcomings of Al Qaeda’s Most Difficult Employee”, Daily Intelligencer, 29 May 2013, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/05/shortcomings-of-al-qaedas-worst-employee.html
- “Al Qaeda’s Second Fatwa”, Feb. 1998, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/military/jan-june98/fatwa_1998.html
- Pepe Escobar, “The emergence of hyperterrorism”, Asia Times, 17 Mar. 2004, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/FC17Aa04.html
- Jonathan Feiser, “Evolution of the al-Qaeda brand name”, Asia Times, 13 Aug. 2004, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FH13Ak05.html
- I have not read of another successful strike before this one. See also: Mark Bowden, “The Killing Machines”, The Atlantic, 14 Aug. 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/09/the-killing-machines-how-to-think-about-drones/309434/
- Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013)
- Samantha Gross, David Caruso and Michael Rubinkam, “Najibullah Zazi: Terror Suspect Worshipped With Radical Imam”, HuffingtonPost.com, 4 Oct. 2009, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/04/najibullah-zazi-terror-su_0_n_309038.html
- See 
- “Najibullah Zazi reveals chilling details on Al Qaeda training and terrorist plot to blow up subways”, NY Daily News, 23 Feb. 2010, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/najibullah-zazi-reveals-chilling-details-al-qaeda-training-terrorist-plot-blow-subways-article-1.169311
- See 
- Scott Wilson, Greg Miller and Sari Horwitz, “Boston bombing suspect cites U.S. wars as motivation, officials say”, The Washington Post, 23 April 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/boston-bombing-suspect-cites-us-wars-as-motivation-officials-say/2013/04/23/324b9cea-ac29-11e2-b6fd-ba6f5f26d70e_story.html
- Michael Cooper, Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, “Boston Suspects Are Seen as Self-Taught and Fueled by Web”, The New York Times, 23 April 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/us/boston-marathon-bombing-developments.html?hp&pagewanted=all