John Miller: Al Qaeda's intent high, capability low

Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in a video circulated on jihadist websites in January 2012, delivering a message titled, "To Our People in Afghanistan: The War for Honor and the Holy Places."
International Institute for Counter-Terrorism

(CBS News) Al Qaeda's intent to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden is high, but the terror group's capability, for now, is low, says John Miller.

Sources tell CBS News there has been an increase in messages on jihadist extremist websites calling for terror attacks on May 2, the anniversary of last year's U.S. Navy SEALs raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

There has been no indication of any credible, specific attacks, said Miller - a former deputy director at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence - on "CBS This Morning."

However, Miller said al Qaeda likes symbolic dates. "In the search in Abbottabad, we found out that bin Laden himself was writing missives advocating attacks on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, July 4th, and the 9/11 anniversary, so I think we have to add that May 2 anniversary to that factor."

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Miller believes while the group's intent is high, their capability is low, because of the debilitating effects of drone strikes, the loss of key leadership, and the death of bin Laden.

"But I think [al Qaeda's leaders] have increasingly sought to leverage the intent of others, and downgraded to their capability," advocating attacks by affiliates.

"You saw the attack in Mumbai, other attacks where it was just people with homemade bombs and guns," and the gunman in France a couple weeks ago. "They've been on those websites urging people to carry out something within their capabilities. And that's why the government kind of couldn't not issue this alert, to tell local law enforcement to be paying very close attention."

International Institute for Counter-Terrorism: March 2012 Periodic Review

Miller said the U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Forces - a combination of FBI and police in FBI field offices across the country - are going back to their human sources and looking for signs, i.e., has something started to move suddenly faster, or has there been a purchase of weapons? "So they're ramping that up," he said.