U.S. government officials recently began hyping the threat from a very small and little-known terrorist group called Khorasan and then striking it in Syria. Several of President Obama's aides told the media that airstrikes were launched to foil an "imminent" terrorist attack, possibly using hidden explosives to blow up aircraft. Yet other government officials seemed to pour cold water on that assessment. According to the New York Times, one anonymous senior official described the Khorasan plot as only "aspirational" and said that the group had not seemed to have established a concrete plan. Other officials, at least one of who was a senior counterterrorism official, said that the plot was far from mature and that no sign existed that the group had decided on the method of attack or the time and target of it.
These divergent stories should alert us to the possibility that the old saying -- the first casualty of war is truth -- is operating again (remember all the falsehoods surrounding then-President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq?). The Times then cited some experts as explaining this divergence by saying that the Obama administration may have developed specific intelligence about the location of the group's leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, and was trying to take advantage of it to kill him.