It might have been the biggest meeting of Al-Qaeda in recent years, and it was all on captured video.
In the brazen 15-minute video, the group’s second-in-command Nasir al-Wuhayshi has a message for the U.S. "We must eliminate the cross. ... The bearer of the cross is America!" (Via Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium)
U.S. intelligence officials told several news outlets the video, apparently shot in Yemen, seems both recent and legitimate. And as one official told NBC: “The depiction of such a large gathering of fighters and the appearance of senior leaders are atypical of AQAP's propaganda videos.” (Via NBC, CNN, The Washington Post)
And it's especially noteworthy, according to Slate, because the meeting took place out in the open — “running counter to speculation that AQAP leaders had gone underground and were communicating solely by courier.”
And perhaps running counter statements like this from the administration.
"Today the core of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistna is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us." (Via The White House)
But they certainly don't appear to be concerned with their own safety in this video, and that begs the question did the CIA know about this meeting?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: "The U.S. intelligence community should be surprised that such a large group of Al-Qaeda assembled together, including the leadership, and somehow they didn't notice.”
If they did know about it, why not send a drone? After all, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, is thought to be the terror network’s most dangerous affiliate. (Via Euronews)
The CIA has targeted the Yemen-based group with drone strikes, killing much of its leadership in recent years. (Via U.S. Department of Defense)
This video is alarming for another reason. If you take a look, you'll notice some of the faces are blurred — likely to protect their identities. (Via Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium)
The Washington Post suggests this was done to "protect the identities of recruits from Western nations or others potentially being groomed to carry out attacks."
U.S. officials are said to be analyzing the recent video for clues on possible plots.