...the open source jihad is America's worst nightmare. Al Qaeda (AQAP Inspire).
Earlier this year, al Qaeda formally announced that it had adopted open source warfare (a new, extremely potent theory of 21st Century warfare that makes it possible for a large number of small autonomous groups to defeat much larger enemies) as its preferred method of conducting its insurgency against the west.
The adoption of open source jihad led the organization to launch a new english language magazine called Inspire. This magazine, filled with tools (software, etc.), techniques, and philosophy (on how to carry out open source jihad), demonstrated its desire to shift its role from closed leadership (of operations) to coaching small groups to act on their own. It also led al Qaeda to make a demonstration (an attack) that could provide a plausible promise for its open source collaborators/partners.
Systems Disruption and Parcel Bombs
To bring down America we do not need to strike big. ...security phobia that is sweeping America, it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve less players and less time to launch. Al Qaeda's Inspire e-Zine
To provide a plausible promise (proof that open source warfare can be successful against the enemy), al Qaeda turned to systems disruption. Systems disruption, a major part of open source warfare theory, is a method of attack that uses a knowledge of networks to amplify the damage of the attack. With systems disruption, even small attacks (that cost little and generate little risk to the group) can have national or global impact. As such, it's perfect for the type of attack made by the small autonomous groups within an open source insurgency. It also has a proven track record, in conflicts from Mexico to Nigeria. It works.
Al Qaeda's choice of a demonstration was to use parcel bombs (called Operation Hemorrhage -- a classic name for a systems disruption attack). These low cost parcel bombs, were inserted into the international air mail system to generate a security response by western governments. It worked. The global security response to this new threat was massive.
Returns on Investment (ROIs)
Part of effective systems disruption is a focus on ROI (return on investment) calculations. As paraphrased in Inspire: it is such a good bargain for us to spread fear amongst the enemy and keep him on his toes in exchange of a few months of work and a few thousand bucks. We knew that cargo planes are staffed by only a pilot and a co-pilot, so our objective was not to cause maximum casualties but to cause maximum losses to the American economy. (this shift is a clear attempt to avoid limitations of blood and guts terrorism by adopting systems disruption as outlined in this article)
To demonstrate this ROI, Inspire listed the costs of the investment in the operation:
- Printers: $300 each
- Nokia mobile phones: $150 each
- Shipping and transportation: short $$
- TOTAL COST: $4,200
It's pretty clear that the security costs inflicted as a result of this operation are counted in the millions of dollars, making for an impressive return on investment for the operation. ROIs from systems disruption can reach one million to one.
Given this successful demonstration attack, we should expect to se many more attacks that employ systems disruption in the future as open source jihadis adopt the method.
NOTE: My intent with developing open source warfare, systems disruption, etc. back in 2004-6 was do what JFC Fuller did with armored warfare in the early 1930's: to develop a truly modern theory of warfare that reflected trends already in motion. Apparently that is proving to be the case as insurgents adopt it from Nigeria's MEND to al Qaeda. Perversely, the US gov't had a head-start on this given my presentations to the DoD/CIA/NSA and even a House Armed Services Committee appearance, but they squandered it.