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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
AP/Press Association Images
# Keeping Up With Khorasans
How imminent is an "imminent terrorist attack threat"?
Not necessarily that imminent, it seems.

SMART PEOPLE IN the Obama administration have spent the last number of days telling the American people that US strikes against the Khorasan Group were necessary to disrupt “imminent attack plotting” against U.S. and Western interests.

They warned that members of the shadowy Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida offshoot, were “nearing the execution phase” of an attack in the U.S. or Europe.

They spoke of “active plotting that posed an imminent threat.”

People may have come away with the impression that the terror group was on the brink of pulling off something awful.

Perhaps not.

In government-speak, “imminent attack plotting” doesn’t necessarily mean an attack is imminent.

Careful parsing of the language reveals a distinction between imminent plotting and an imminent attack.

Likewise, an imminent threat doesn’t necessarily mean an imminent attack.

And, in the view of the government, there’s more than one meaning for imminent, it turns out.

muhsin-al-fadhli-310x415 Muhsin-al-Fadhli, leader of the Khorasan group.
Dictionary.com defines imminent as “likely to occur at any moment.”

But a Justice Department white paper released in February 2013 gives a more nuanced view.

“An ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo reads.

That’s because U.S. officials say they can’t wait until preparations for a terrorist act are completed before they take action to defend U.S. interests.

So their idea of taking action against an “imminent threat” involves a more elastic time frame.

Khorasan Group AP / Press Association Images Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, Jr., Director of Operations J3, speaks about the operations in Syria AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

In the case of the Khorasan Group, two U.S. officials told the AP that U.S. officials aren’t aware of the terrorists identifying any particular location or target for an attack in the near future. But intelligence officials have known for months that Khorasan group extremists were scheming with bomb-makers from al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate to find new ways to get explosives onto planes, the officials said.

The plans were far enough along that the Transportation Security Administration over the summer banned uncharged mobile phones and laptops from flights to the U.S. that originate in Europe and the Middle East.

A bulletin from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued Tuesday said U.S. officials had “no indicators of advanced al-Qaida or ISIL plotting in the homeland.”

Read: A little-known terror group was ‘on verge of major attack’ on the US

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