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Coming Up: The Al Qaeda Version Of "the Office"

The Los Angeles Times reminds us that even terrorist groups have to deal with bureaucratic procedures:

Mohammed Atef was furious.

The Al Qaeda leader had learned that a subordinate had broken the rules repeatedly. So he did his duty as the feared military chief of a global terror network: He fired off a nasty memo.

In two pages mixing flowery religious terms with itemized complaints, the Egyptian boss accused the militant of misappropriating cash, a car, sick leave, research papers and an air conditioner during "an austerity situation" for the network. He demanded a detailed letter of explanation.

"I was very upset by what you did," Atef wrote. "I obtained 75,000 rupees for you and your family's trip to Egypt. I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant, and that you made reservations for 40,000 rupees and kept the remainder claiming you have a right to do so. ... Also with respect to the air-conditioning unit, ... furniture used by brothers in Al Qaeda is not considered private property. ... I would like to remind you and myself of the punishment for any violation."

The story goes to describe Al Qaeda as "an organization obsessed with paperwork and penny-pinching and afflicted with a damaging propensity for feuds." Hmm, a stifling maze of bureaucracy and a tendency to get bogged down in counterproductive infighting...sounds vaguely familiar! But frugality, not so much.

--Josh Patashnik