The Washington Post

As al-Qaeda magazine goes quiet, intelligence analysts also lose a valuable resource

Al-Qaeda’s glossy online magazine, Inspire, hasn’t been seen since its creators were killed in a U.S. drone strike last fall, but the terrorist group’s loyalists aren’t the only ones lamenting its demise.

U.S. intelligence analysts miss the publication, too, at least to the extent that it provided a window into the thinking of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemen-based group is known.

“It was something that helped us gain insight into the group,” said a U.S. defense official involved in tracking AQAP, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The publication’s apparent demise is “an intelligence loss for us,” the official said.

Inspire first appeared in July 2010 as one of al-Qaeda’s most polished pieces of propaganda, an English-language publication with color photos and articles designed to reach — and potentially radicalize — readers in the United States and Europe.

Its provocative tone was set in its first issue, which included an article on how to “make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.” Subsequent issues broke down details on AQAP plots, including one that carried an accounting of the $4,200 that the group spent on the foiled plan to send parcels packed with explosives to addresses in the United States.

The magazine gave analysts at the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other agencies a glimpse into AQAP’s agenda, as well as its roster. It carried lengthy tracts from senior figures such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric who became the group’s main voice.

But Inspire’s seventh issue, which came out in September, may have been its last. The CIA drone strike in September that killed Awlaki also killed Samir Khan, another American citizen who served as the magazine’s editor and main creative force.

AQAP has not declared a formal end to Inspire, but U.S. officials said they have seen no indication that a new issue is in the works. The only way to know for sure, a second U.S. defense official, is to keep checking the Web.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Inspire’s last issue was its fourth and that it had it come out in March.

Greg Miller covers intelligence agencies and terrorism for The Washington Post.

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