Four Questions for Yemen Scholar Gregory Johnsen

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Gregory Johnsen, a highly regarded Yemen expert from Princeton University, said in an interview that he believes the English-language Al Qaeda magazine to be authentic, though he concedes that "it's difficult to tell with any degree of accuracy because I haven't seen the whole thing."

First, the hodge-podge quality of the publication; it takes a little from here, a little from there, quoting Islamic scholars and clerics affiliated with Al Qaeda and those who are not: 

It's similar to what Al Qaeda puts out in Arabic. They'll pull in stuff from what Bin Laden wrote, from what a Middle Eastern scholar wrote; the hodge-podge is very much in keeping with the editorial slant.

I asked if the "Make a Bomb in in the Kitchen of Your Mom" struck him as parody.

They've put out about 13 issues in Arabic, and in one of them that came out recently, the head of [Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula] makes a very similar point, saying that it takes very little money and expertise to build a bomb; you could do it from items out of your mother's kitchen.

What about the suspicion on jihadist websites that the magazine is a fake?

There are very few websites that are up, and these people tend to live in a conspiratorial mindset. They're always accusing each other of being a spy.

And what about the significance? Should Western intelligence agencies take this seriously?

What this means is that we're seeing the culmination of something a lot of people in Western intelligence agencies have been suspecting for a while. Al Qaeda has been able to recruit and welcome into their ranks people who can speak fluent English, idiomatic English. This is something where, in my view, Al Qaeda is really able to expand the potential pool of recruits. In the past, they'd have needed to be able to read a lot of Arabic, which is something that [many potential recruits] did not do well. This magazine opens a whole new line of potential recruits for the organization.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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