Al-Qa'ida: Exploring Vulnerabilities in US Maritime Sector

Recent al-Qa’ida propaganda exposes the group’s view that the US maritime sector is an appealing target. Since last fall, al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have highlighted in their English-language media limited port and cargo security throughout the United States—stressing to followers the negative economic consequences to the US of an attack on this sector. 

  • In the October edition of AQIS’s Resurgence magazine, the group emphasized its intent to target oil tankers, calculating that attacks would increase oil prices as well as shipping and maritime premiums. The cover story “Besiege Them!” reads, “paralyze international trade for the enemy states, or at the very least, increase its costs, by targeting their cargo ships…any of their ships are legitimate targets.”
  • In December, AQAP’s Inspire magazine dedicated a column on vulnerabilities associated with cargo containers, asking, “Can the Americans check all the cargos from all over the world?”
  • Current intelligence reveals no specific threats to Port New York/New Jersey, the third-largest in the US with approximately $200 billion in annual economic activity. According to a US Government Accountability Office report published this year, less than one percent of the twelve million containers that entered the US in 2013 were treated as high risk.

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