Qaeda magazine's authenticity questioned, could be 'parody'

"A charismatic terror leader linked to the botched Times Square car bomb has placed the Seattle cartoonist who launched 'Everybody Draw Muhammed Day' on an execution hit list," the New York Daily News reports.

Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - the radical who has also been cited as inspiring the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre and the plot by two New Jersey men to kill U.S. soldiers - singled out artist Molly Norris as a "prime target," saying her "proper abode is hellfire."

FBI officials have notified Norris and warned her they consider it a "very serious threat."

In an English-language Al Qaeda magazine that calls itself "Inspire," Awlaki damns Norris and eight others for "blasphemous caricatures" of the Prophet Muhammed. The other cartoonists, authors and journalists in Awlaki's cross hairs are Swedish, Dutch and British citizens.

The 67-page terror rag is seen by terrorism experts as a bald new attempt to reach and recruit Muslim youth in the West.

As RAW STORY reported in April, the Seattle cartoonist characterized as leading a movement against Comedy Central censorship said she didn't mean for her cartoon to go viral or "be the focus of any group."

"I make cartoons about current, cultural events. I made a cartoon of a 'poster' entitled "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" with a nonexistent group's name -- Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor -- drawn on the cartoon also. I did not intend for my cartoon to go viral. I did not intend to be the focus of any 'group'. I practice the first amendment by drawing what I wish. This particular cartoon of a 'poster' seems to have struck a gigantic nerve, something I was totally unprepared for. I am going back to the drawing table now!"

In a statement to RAW STORY, Norris said she did not personally start either of the large and growing Facebook groups on either side of the debate, but she did post her art to her personal page.

"I made a fictional poster and the information on it is also fictional," she said. "There is no Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor, etc. Although, I love the idea."

At Gawker, Hamilton Nolan rants,

Anwar al-Awlaki, you are one serious prick. Set aside artistic critiques, political disagreements, and wondrous varieties of cultures and religions. Boil it down to the most basic human level: a lady drew a cartoon, and you, sir, want to fucking murder her for it. You are a sick bastard. Do you not have disciples to tend to, and a world aflame to soothe with the love of god? Are you so afraid of normal, nonviolent intellectual debate that you'd rather see the blood of a human spilled than risk arguing with that person, rationally? Get a life, man.

You are a maladjusted loser unable to participate meaningfully in a civilized world, Anwar al-Awlaki. I'm sorry the US government is so fucking evil itself that it would be guilty of monstrous hypocrisy if it lectured much of the rest of the world on civilized conduct; nevertheless, any average person on this earth with a modicum of decency is able to see that you don't just call for a woman to be murdered because you didn't like her cartoon.

Don't be such a jerk.

The Daily News quotes an unnamed "senior US counterterrorism official" who says of Inspire, "It's like Al Qaeda's Tiger Beat."

However, there are some skeptics who believe that the magazine is only a parody.

On July 1st, The Atlantic Wire's associate editor wrote about "5 Reasons to Doubt Al-Qaeda Magazine's Authenticity."

One key reason by Max Fisher: "The language of the magazine, such as 'Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom,' reflects either a poor command of English or a light-hearted sense of self-parody. AQAP is not known for either. Awlaki, whose location in Yemen makes his participation very plausible, is a native, fluent, and very articulate English speaker. His fiery English-language sermons are not funny."

Fisher continues,

The magazine includes an essay by Abu Mu'sab al-Suri. But Suri, whose connection to al-Qaeda is uncertain, has been locked up in Guantanamo--and possibly a CIA black site--since 2005. However, as with bin Laden, it is possible the magazine simply copied old statements.

Analysts tell me that the magazine PDF file either does not load properly or carries a trojan virus. This is unusual because al-Qaeda and AQAP have produced and disseminated such PDF publications many times without such problems. If the report was produced by U.S. counterintelligence, or if the U.S. operatives attached the virus to the original file, would the trojan really be so easily detectable by simple, consumer-grade virus scanners? Surely U.S. counterintelligence has less detectable viruses at their disposal.

"There are also reasons to doubt that the report was produced by U.S. counterintelligence, as CI officials would likely know enough to edit out these red flags," Fisher added. "It's unclear who that leaves, but the most likely culprit could simply be mischievous, if knowledgeable, pranksters in the U.S. who wanted to disseminate a trojan virus among jihadi forum visitors. That would also explain why the document was written in English."

A CS Monitor article noted, "The article titles might seem perilously close to ones that could be thought up by the satirical publication The Onion. But an attempt at English-language outreach such as this would fit in with the evolving nature of Al Qaeda’s use of the Internet."

AFP reports, "Al-Qaeda's new English-language magazine is an 'unfortunately well done' publication aimed at convincing Americans to carry out terrorist attacks at home, a top US lawmaker said Monday."

Representative Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said "Inspire" magazine showed the group "has shifted its focus" from radicalizing recruits in training camps.

"This is an unfortunately well done magazine that is proof positive that al-Qaeda and its affiliates have launched a direct appeal for Americans to launch small-scale attacks here at home," Hoekstra said in a statement.