British spies swap cupcake recipes into al-Qaida magazine

Laura Rozen

Readers of al-Qaida's "Inspire" magazine got a tasty surprise thanks to British intelligence operatives: recipes, courtesy of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," for mini cupcakes.

British spies reportedly hacked into the website of the English-language quarterly published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula last year, swapping in the cupcake recipes to replace the bombmaking how-to guides set to appear in an article entitled "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."

"When followers tried to download the 67-page colour magazine, instead of instructions about how to 'Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom' by 'The AQ Chef' they were greeted with garbled computer code," the Daily Telegraph's Duncan Gardham writes.

"The code, which had been inserted into the original magazine by the British intelligence hackers, was actually a web page of recipes for 'The Best Cupcakes in America' published by the Ellen DeGeneres chat show," Gardham wrote.

"The little cupcake is big again," the cupcake feature said. "Self-contained and satisfying, it summons memories of childhood even as it's updated for today's sweet-toothed hipsters."

"We're increasingly using cybertools as part of our work," a British government official--speaking anonymously, of course--told the Associated Press, as he confirmed the hacking operation. 

The spy-hacking operation was reportedly conducted by officials with Britain's foreign intelligence service, MI6, and eavesdropping agency, the GCHQ. Since the whole operation was kept under wraps, one can only surmise that the MI6 agents involved were making an additional political statement about the extremely patriarchal outlook of militant Islam by selecting a cupcake recipe endorsed by a well-known lesbian talk show host

"Inspire" magazine, which began publishing last year, is reportedly the editorial brain-child of the Yemen-based, New Mexican-born Islamist radical Anwar al-Awlaki, who has become a propaganda chief for al-Qaida's Yemeni offshoot.

Several recent suspects in terrorist attacks targeting the United States have reportedly been inspired by the English-speaking al-Awlaki. Among them: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the wealthy, Nigerian-born London university student who was charged with attempting to blow up a Christmas Day 2009 flight to Detroit; and Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 fellow soldiers in a 2009 attack on troops at Ft. Hood, Texas.

The United States reportedly targeted al-Awlaki for a drone attack last month but missed.

(Hello Kitty cupcakes made by A&K Cupcakes in Fairbanks, Alaska: HO - A&K Cupcakes/AP)