NSA Has Bigger Problems Than Snowden

And here we were giving Edward Snowden all the credit. As it turns out, U.S. intelligence officials are now finding that leaked information about an al Qaeda plot in August is doing a lot more damage to the counter terrorism initiative than all of the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden have managed to. Apparently, the normal methods of communication between al Qaeda's top officers has grown much quieter following a news leak in August that disclosed some of the ways U.S. intelligence entities gather information about terrorist plots — specifically communications between top al Qaeda operatives in the Middle East.

In August, a number of U.S. embassies in the Middle East were closed and staff in some areas were told to evacuate after intelligence agencies intercepted communications between a Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda's Yemen operations. The intel pointed to an imminent threat to Western countries.

Since media sources disclosed the names of the two al Qaeda officials involved in the conversation, a U.S. official said of intercepted communications, “The switches weren’t turned off, but there has been a real decrease in quality."

That's a more significant immediate impact than the transition that was seen after leaker Edward Snowden released classified documents on the NSA's spying capabilities. According to reports by the New York Times, Snowden's leak didn't cause a similar decrease in communications, but did prompt al Qaeda operatives to discuss only information that they knew intelligence officials were already aware of.

Al Qaeda's Yemen operation is one of the most dangerous cells of the organization. On Monday, al Qaeda militants captured a military base in Yemen, killing security guards are reportedly holding high ranking officials inside the base. Military troops were sent to the base.

The attack is the latest in a wave of deadly violence perpetrated in Yemen in recent months. Suspected al Qaeda militants were responsible for the deaths of 31 Yemeni soldiers and policemen during attacks that took place in September.