What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Of Threats and Bounties

December 30, 2012, 9:49 PM
New_design_6

On December 23 - the same day the US carried out an apparent drone strike in the al-Baydha governorate of Yemen, apparently targeting 'Abd al-Rauf al-Dhahab - AQAP released a 43 minute video.

The video, which is one of the more polished videos I've seen AQAP release, is basically a catalog of perceived US and western crimes against Islam, ranging from allegations of torture in Guantanamo to the Danish cartoons, Terry Jones, and more recently the "Innocence of Muslims" video. 

Three top al-Qaeda figures - Qasim al-Raymi, Said al-Shihri and Ibrahim Rubaysh - are all featured in the 43 minute video.

At first view the video appears to be a standard - if polished - piece of AQAP propaganda.  But yesterday, there was a 41 second addendum linked to the video and it is this snippet that is causing a great deal of concern.

In the 41 second video AQAP makes two announcements.  First, they say that the organization is placing a bounty of 3,000 grams of gold on the US ambassador to Yemen.  Second, the video offers 5 million Yemeni riyals to anyone who kills a US soldier in Yemen.

Given that the original video included a translated segment of a New York Times article, talking about Benghazi and the killing of the US ambassador to Libya yesterday's threats and bounties have attracted a lot of attention.  For one example, see the Associated Press story here.

But since the threats and bounties weren't announced in the original video are we even certain that this is AQAP?  Particularly since there is a strange story that the US somehow deleted the bounty announcements from the original video.  Another theory goes that the video being released on December 23 is what prompted the 4 apparent US drones strikes this week in Yemen.

I'm not sure I have a good answer to any of these questions, but I have looked at both video clips - the 43 minute one and the 41 second one, and here is what I've come up with.

Both carry the al-Malahim logo, which by itself doesn't prove much as this would be fairly easy to throw up on any video.  The first, longer video is quite clearly an AQAP production, featuring AQAP leaders alive and dead (Anwar al-Awlaki even makes an appearance), but the second one - the one with the bounties - is less clear.  It is only a voice and, at least the version I saw, text of the two announcements in both Arabic and English. 

And that means that really the only thing we have to go on is the voice - the text itself seems like something AQAP might plausibly say, but again that in itself isn't much in the way of proof. 

I've listened to both videos and, to me, the narrator sounds the same in both.  But like much when studying AQAP that isn't a whole lot to go on. 

I don't think we'll know for certain whether or not this was AQAP until either the bounty addendum is given its own banner ad on a forum (the clip I saw was not hosted on a forum).  And I'm curious if any other forum watchers have come across the bounty video.  I've seen it referenced but I haven't seen the banner ad put up by site administrators.

The other confirmation would be a second statement put out by AQAP confirming the bounties.  The group has periodically done this in the past both to confirm or to deny that they were responsible for a particular act or statement.  However, the group has been - at least for it - relatively reserved in releasing material over the past 6 months.  (This doesn't mean AQAP hasn't been active on the ground, just that its online presence has receded a bit.)

Either way, the bounty addendum clip and the stories about the US erasing it from the original are all a bit strange.  Unfortunately, I think we're all going to have to wait a bit for the picture to settle. That is not satisfying, but it is honest. 

 

Of Threats and Bounties

Newsletter: Share: