When American and Pakistani officials said this week that one conspirator in the foiled plan to bomb trans-Atlantic airliners was a ”liaison” to Al Qaeda, they suggested that his arrest proved the group was linked to the scheme. Rashid Rauf, a Briton, had trained in the group’s camps in the 1990’s and was ”a key Al Qaeda operative,” one Pakistani official said.  But counterterrorism experts said Saturday that the focus of government officials and the public on Al Qaeda, a term today with deep connotations but elusive meaning, may be misplaced.

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