Pale Wire (Popscene)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Articles of Faith
Following al Qaeda's paper trail

On Friday military intelligence quietly declassified a few Qaeda-related documents not included to last month's Harmony report (link). It's nearly always an illuminating thing to read Bin Laden and Co.'s internal correspondance, but after a couple years spent absorbing this stuff, it's the little things that really get me.

Things like how despite al Qaeda's generous vacation policy1 members still had to submit requests for time off "2 1/2 months prior to travel" (link). And the fact that vacations are the second thing listed in its constitution. Or how about the stunning banality of the forms given to new applicants at training camps in Afghanistan (link)? I couldn't make this up: They actually asked applicants to list their hobbies.

Speaking of the military, on Wednesday I got an email back from our friend Penny Mellies in Fort Leavenworth. I sent her a short note asking for an explanation of the bizarre bar chart I wrote about earlier this week (link). Her complete response:
From a US perspective, it is meant to reflect the strategic importance of that region.

I've already sent her a reply that expressed my confusion about the lack of labels on the chart's x and y axes and requested further clarification on how something like strategic importance could be measured. She has yet to answer.

1One week per month if you're married; five days if you're single. You also may interested to learn that a married member made 6.5 times more money than a single member, pulling in 6500 Pakistan rupees each month, compared to a bachelor's 1000 rupee salary.