Expert: Terror Tape Shows Progress

Jeff Beatty
CBS/The Early Show
As al Qaeda's No. 2 man made new threats against the United States and London in a videotape broadcast Thursday by al-Jazeera televison, he actually unintentionally showed how much progress Washington and London have made against the terror network, an anti-terrorism expert says.

Ayman al-Zawahri embraced the London suicide bombings, warned Britain that more destruction lay ahead, and promised tens of thousands of U.S. casualties in Iraq. And he did it four weeks to the day from the first wave of bombings in London, which killed 56 people.

But Jeff Beatty, president of TotalSecurity.US, told co-anchor Julie Chen on The Early Show Monday the timing is the first tipoff that all isn't as al Qaeda would have the world believe.

"It took four weeks for this video, after the London attacks, to surface,"

. "And that tells me a few things. First of all, he's trying to communicate a threat. Second point: He's trying make a general call to arms to a now-more decentralized group of people.

"And third, it tells me something about their operational capability. They are now afraid to use electronic communications, the Internet, etc., that would have made it possible for him to make this videotape available a little bit more quickly. So, what they're using now is primitive communications, 'dead-drops.' We've all been hearing that term, about how spies leave something and then someone else picks it up at a spot and then moves on. This provides … security for them that they feel they need. And, when they have to operate that way, they lose the ability to command in real time.

"So, the bottom line is, there is some progress to be seen when you look at this thing closely."

Though al-Zawahri doesn't claim outright that al Qaeda was behind the London attacks, he makes it clear they pleased his group and, says Beatty, "That's another indicator of the fact that they're not necessarily having direct command, as they did with the influence on the 9-11 attacks. Rather, because of the pressure put on by the United States and our allies, they have been forced into seclusion.

"They have limited, now, direct command ability, seriously degraded direct command ability, so what they have to do is try to generally, strategically influence things, try to influence people like, maybe the (July 21) bombers in Great Britain. We don't know yet how close their affiliations were to al Qaeda. So I think this is showing that they have to resort to strategy, rather than be involved tactically."

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said everyday materials such as hair bleach and nails were used by the London plotters. But Beatty says even that isn't the ominous sign some may fear it is.

"The interesting thing," he observes, "is, why did they evolve to that? That's another terrorist evolution as a result of a security force success."

Beatty says al Qaeda has learned that crossing the border with explosives is too risky. Those border crossings are being watched. So terrorists know they have to do the "home-brew thing."