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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Quick Notes On Newest Adam Gadahn, Yahya Al Libi Videos

And that brings us to tonight's "Word"

By J.M. Berger

In around January or February, Al Qaeda's As-Sahab media operation suffered a serious setback. We don't know the details, but some key node in the media shop was taken out, with clearly visible results. Where once there were near-HD videos, now there were Webcam-quality videos. Where once there was low-quality video, now there was audio.

Over the last several days, it has become clear that whatever happened (let's say, drone attack on the studio), As-Sahab is back. Two recent videos from senior AQ leader Yahya Al Libi and American Al Qaeda Adam Gadahn (who also runs the media shop) show a return to nearly complete functionality.

Both videos are in near-HD quality, although with some compression, which suggests to me they are using a high-end consumer camcorder. Before 9/11, Al Qaeda used professional media equipment from time to time, but since then, HD camcorders are pretty much the state of the art. That's just smart business. When you're distributing over the Internet, you don't need anything bulkier or more expensive.

The Al Libi video features a CGI background. It's been quite a while since we saw that in an Al Qaeda video. So that means they're back up with a quality laptop too. Gadahn's video features a black background, but a spiffy Bill O'Reilly/Colbert Report style text sidebar.

One final note of interest. Gadahn's video was released today, June 20, 2010, and the content is noteworthy only in its failure to mention Times Square or the Gaza Flotilla. A closer look shows that the file appears to have been last modified on April 10. This might mean that As-Sahab reconstituted its camera in the spring but didn't get replace it's presumed-exploded laptop until very recently. It also means that, technically, we haven't seen Gadahn for at least two months (assuming his last video is also dated back this far). Also, April 10 is the modified date, not the create date, so it's possible the video was recorded even earlier.

P.S. Remember the reports this spring that some American named Abu Yahya Mujahdeen Al Adam had been arrested in Pakistan? That was around March 9 or 10, and the new video references the March 11, 2010, State Department Human Rights report.

So Adam II is definitely not the same guy as Adam I. But it's possible Adam II worked for As-Sahab, and his capture might have sent Adam I scrambling for the hills without his laptop. Just a thought.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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