When the US government ordered the surprise closure of 22 embassies last week, it wasn't because of just any terror threat: The Daily Beast reports that it was because the government had intercepted a conference call between more than 20 al-Qaeda operatives, including the group's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. “This was like a meeting of the Legion of Doom," one US intelligence official told the Beast. The government initially noted that the embassies — which were located throughout the Middle East and northern Africa — were temporarily closing because of a possible threat, and it now appears that concerns arose over information learned during the conference.
The call was reportedly focused on managerial matters. According to the Beast, Nasser al-Wuhayshi — the leader of an al-Qaeda affiliate group based in Yemen — is said to have received a promotion that would allow him full control over many other affiliates. His promotion was apparently a major factor in the US government's decision to shut down embassies. Those on the conference call were also said to have discussed plans for an attack, though they reportedly spoke of it in vague terms.
al-Qaeda apparently believed the call was secure
The Beast reports that al-Qaeda was under the impression that its conference call was secure. However, previously intercepted transmissions had apparently given the US intelligence community enough information to determine a way to listen in.
The news has some in Washington wondering what that means for the terrorist group. "This may punch a sizable hole in the theory that al Qaeda is on the run,” senator John McCain told the Beast. In spite of the government's new information, White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated on Tuesday that the Obama administration believed al-Qaeda was dwindling, "There's no question," he said. "Al-Qaeda core [throughout the Afghanistan and Pakistan region] is on the run."