Claim: A high-ranking member of al-Qaeda revealed that the terrorist organization has already placed nuclear weapons in seven large American cities.
Example: [Asia Times, 2002]
Apocalypse Now, or Alottanukes Soon
November 15, 2002
At a time when a tape handed over to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television station has received widespread expose for its purported comments by Osama bin Laden in praise of recent terror events around the world, another
Al-Jazeera was granted an interview with one Mohammed al-Usuquf, allegedly
Al-Usuquf says that al-Qaeda's Kuwaiti spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, and bin Laden himself, suggested that he grant the interview. Bin Laden, he says, is "alive and healthy, along with his commanders Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaik Mohammed and Mullah Omar".
Al-Usuquf starts by criticizing Washington's disrespect of the Kyoto Protocol on climatic change, the International Criminal Court and the Palestinian cause, as well as the "financial greed" engendering speculative gains over Third World countries. He also criticizes the manner in which America wastes wealth, like US$80 billion a year on gambling. "They [have] lost the notion of spirituality and only live in sin."
For this reason, America must be destroyed, and al-Usuquf insists that "aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and spy satellites will be worthless in the next war".
Al-Qaeda, according to him, has 5,000 first rank operatives and around 20,000 all over the world. Of all the prisoners in the US, only "20 or 30" are
Al-Usuquf insists that September 11 "was just the beginning. It was a way to call the world's attention to what's going to happen." He then details a plan to destroy the US by "attacking the heart of what they consider the most important thing in the world: money".
"The American economy is an economy of false appearances," says
Al-Usuquf is absolutely positive, "because, in a smaller scale, this is exactly what big financial conglomerates do with Third World countries to collect profits in one month that no Swiss bank would guarantee in four to five years".
Al-Usuquf says that the bombs were bought on the black market: five from the former USSR and two from Pakistan. The five Russian heads "are from
Each of the Russian bombs would have cost around
And Iraq's Saddam Hussein, says Al-Usuquf, is not one of these people, "but just a collaborator, represented by Abdul Tawab Hawaish, his vice prime minister and responsible for Iraq's arms program".
Al-Usuquf says that the bombs cannot be detected by US authorities. "Even if they are old, they were modernized and are very well hidden. Even if they were located, they have autodetonation mechanisms in case something or someone gets close. Even an electromagnetic pulse is not capable of deactivating them." The bombs allegedly cannot be detected because "they are enveloped in thick layers of lead". They could be detonated "by various methods - cellphone call, radio frequency, seismic shock or by their regressive clock".
Al-Usuquf details the whole plan. "First, one head would be detonated, which would cause the deaths of 800,000 to
This attack would not knock out the US, recognizes
Al-Usuquf does not fear an American military response. "Even if five or
The world economy would not collapse, says
And whatever America does, "it's too late". When will the attack begin? "I can't tell."
Origins: The article quoted above gained prominence when it appeared on the web site of the Asia Times on
The interview this article was based upon claims as its provenance that it was an item "sent to Abel-Bari Atwan, chief editor of
- You should consider the statement "This information has not been not published because it was considered too inflammatory" (or "too alarming") the equivalent of a big red neon sign blinking the word "HOAX" over and over. Newspapers fall all over themselves to get sensational stories into print, because that's what their audience craves. Neither newspapers nor the U.S. government itself has been circumspect about issuing a spate of warnings about impending terrorist attacks (including some of the "spectacular" variety) since the events of
September 11, and Arab newspapers certainly don't shy away from "inflammatory" material either.
- If this interview was truly "too revealing" (i.e., divulged too much of
al-Qaeda'splans), then why did "Mohammed al-Usuquf," the supposedly high-ranking al-Qaedalieutenant, give it in the first place? Are we supposed to believe this highly-educated, intelligent, and capable terrorist doesn't understand the concept of "secrecy"?
- You really shouldn't run an article whose source is a foreign language you don't understand unless you have a copy of the original text and you're especially confident of the translator. And you really shouldn't run an article that has already been translated once into a second language you don't understand, then
re-translated.If this interview was really taken from a Portugeuse translation of an Arabic transcript, where are those other versions? Shouldn't verifying that they at least existed have been a basic step undertaken to determine that the interview wasn't a hoax before running this article? And even if the interview this article was based upon were genuine, how would we know whether the doubly-translated Arabic-to-Portuguese-to-English version bore any reliable resemblance to the meaning of the original?
- You should consider how incredibly foolish the "third-in-command of the
Al Quedaorganization" would have to be to grant an interview in which he openly discussed al-Qaeda'splans for upcoming attacks, including details about where the attacks would be launched and what form they'd take, and providing information about the number of operatives already in place in the USA and characteristics that could help U.S. intelligence identify them.
- Most importantly, verify that your sources actually exist and are who they claim to be. The Asia Times stated flat out that they could do neither ("the identity of the man has not yet been confirmed, nor has his membership within
al-Qaeda"),yet they ran the article anyway. Journalism doesn't get any more irresponsible than that.
It used to be a journalistic standard that every story had to be vetted by two reliable sources before being printed. Nowadays, unfortunately, some news outlets consider that to be two sources too many.
Last updated: 7 April 2008