It turns out that the crucial piece of intelligence that led to 22 diplomatic outposts closing across the Middle East and North Africa was an intercepted conference call.
More than 20 top al Qaeda operatives dialed in to talk with the group's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a call that a U.S. intelligence officer likened to "a meeting of the Legion of Doom," according to The Daily Beast.
Also on the call: Nasser al-Wuhayshi, leader of the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, plus top representatives from Nigeria's Boko Haram, the Taliban in Afghanistan, al Qaeda in Iraq, and operatives working out of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel.
"All you need to do is look at that list of places we shut down to get a sense of who was on the phone call," an official told The Daily Beast.
So what do al Qaeda leaders talk about on a conference call?
U.S. intelligence officials who were listening in say the terrorists discussed having teams ready to carry out a pending attack. Also, Wuhayshi got a promotion to "Ma'sul al-Amm," which translates roughly to "general manager," putting him in charge of multiple al Qaeda affiliates across the Muslim world.
While promoting someone to general manager might seem a little corporate for a terrorist organization, al Qaeda actually has a history of Office Space-like politics, once admonishing an operative for turning in expense reports late, failing to meet financial goals, and not getting along with team members.
Holding a conference call, however, was almost certainly a mistake for al Qaeda, as the United States followed up with a drone strike that killed six suspected militants in Yemen. Earlier today, Yemeni officials claimed to have broken up a plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize control of some of the country's ports.
The United States has already pulled nearly 100 government workers from Yemen and issued a global travel alert for the next month. Nineteen U.S. embassies and consulates remain closed due to the increased terror threat.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Save the world... by changing how you pee
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why does Fareed Zakaria still have a job?
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 10 things you need to know today: September 22, 2014
- Does solar energy have a battery problem?
- 7 common estate-planning mistakes
Subscribe to the Week