Archive for May 12th, 2011
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Officials: Bin Laden eyed small cities as targets
WASHINGTON – Though hunted and in hiding, Osama bin Laden remained the driving force behind every recent al-Qaida terror plot, U.S. officials say, citing his private journal and other documents recovered in last week’s raid.
Until Navy SEALs killed him a week ago, bin Laden dispensed chilling advice to the leaders of al-Qaida groups from Yemen to London: Hit Los Angeles, not just New York, he wrote. Target trains as well as planes. If possible, strike on significant dates, such as the Fourth of July and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Above all, he urged, kill more Americans in a single attack, to drive them from the Arab world.
Bin Laden’s written words show that counterterrorist officials worldwide underestimated how key he remained to running the organization, shattering the conventional thinking that he had been reduced through isolation to being an inspirational figurehead, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
His personal, handwritten journal and his massive collection of computer files show he helped plan every recent major al-Qaida threat the U.S. is aware of, including plots in Europe last year that had travelers and embassies on high alert, two officials said. So far, no new plots have been uncovered in bin Laden’s writings, but intelligence officials say it will take weeks, if not months, to go through them.
They described the intelligence to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about what was found in bin Laden’s hideout.
The records show bin Laden was communicating from his walled compound in Pakistan with al-Qaida’s offshoots, including the Yemen branch, which has emerged as the leading threat to the United States. U.S. officials have not shared any specific evidence yet that he was directly behind the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner or the nearly successful attack on cargo planes heading for Chicago and Philadelphia, but it’s now clear that they bear some of bin Laden’s hallmarks.
He was well aware of U.S. counterterrorist defenses and schooled his followers how to work around them, the messages to his followers show. Don’t limit attacks to New York City, he said in his writings. Consider other areas such as Los Angeles or smaller cities. Spread out the targets.
In one particularly macabre bit of mathematics, bin Laden’s writings show him musing over just how many Americans he must kill to force the U.S. to withdraw from the Arab world. He concludes that the smaller, scattered attacks since the 9/11 attacks had not been enough. He tells his disciples that only a body count of thousands, something on the scale of 9/11, would shift U.S. policy.
He also schemed about ways to sow political dissent in Washington and play political figures against one another, officials said.
The communications were in missives sent via plug-in computer storage devices called flash drives. The devices were ferried to bin Laden’s compound by couriers, a process that is slow but exceptionally difficult to track.
Intelligence officials have not identified any new planned targets or plots in their initial analysis of the 100 or so flash drives and five computers that Navy SEALs hauled away. Last week, the FBI and Homeland Security Department warned law enforcement officials nationwide to be on alert for possible attacks against trains, though officials said there was no specific plot.
Officials have not yet seen any indication that bin Laden had the ability to coordinate timing of attacks across the various al-Qaida affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq and Somalia. It is also unclear from bin Laden’s documents how much the affiliate groups followed his guidance. The Yemen group, for instance, has embraced the smaller-scale attacks that bin Laden’s writings indicate he regarded as unsuccessful. The Yemen branch had already surpassed his central operation as al-Qaida’s leading fundraising, propaganda and operational arm.
Al-Qaida has not named bin Laden’s successor, but all indications point to his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri. The question is whether al-Zawahri, or anyone, has the ability to keep so many disparate groups under the al-Qaida banner. The groups in Somalia and Algeria, for instance, have very different goals focused on local grievances. Without bin Laden to serve as their shepherd, it’s possible al-Qaida will further fragment.
British officials said the Americans had shared some information with them about the bin Laden cache, but they said they had been shown nothing concrete yet to indicate bin Laden’s helped directly plan recent terror attacks or plans in Britain — including a European plot last year involving the threat of a Mumbai-style shooting spree in a capital. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.
One British official said counterterror authorities had not been tracking bin Laden like they had other terrorists deemed more directly involved in operations.
While Obama has ordered that photos of bin Laden’s body be kept from public view, members of the House and Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees have been making appointments at CIA headquarters to view the graphic images.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., a Senate Armed Services Committee member, said he spent nearly an hour Wednesday looking over more than a dozen photos taken at the Pakistan compound the night bin Laden was killed and on board the U.S. Navy ship that buried his body at sea.
One of the photos was of bin Laden’s head and showed what appeared to be a fatal wound, according to Inhofe.
Some lawmakers had no interest in seeing the photos. Said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., a member of House Armed Services Committee, “I’m quite satisfied Osama bin Laden is dead.”
Kimberly Dozier can be reached on Twitter at kimberlydozier
Osama bin Laden Transfigured
Posted By Philip Giraldi On May 11, 2011 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 2 Comments
The execution-style slaying of Osama bin Laden has been touted as a great success for United States intelligence operatives and also for the special operations soldiers, sailors, and airmen who executed the plan. But it also leaves one feeling a bit uneasy about where this is all going now that the world’s most wanted fugitive is dead. A retrospective look at the fifteen year manhunt mounted by the US government estimates that it cost something like $3 trillion to kill him. An effort is being made to confirm that bin Laden was still a very dangerous man, plotting with his associates and “coming up with ideas” about attacking transportation hubs in the US, but there is little to suggest that the aging terrorist was well positioned to mount any effective operations against anyone. As he relied on couriers to communicate his wishes he was not even able to send instructions or advice to his remaining associates in under a week, hardly qualifying him as a hands-on master of terror.
Most Americans have welcomed the death of bin Laden because the reality of his crimes against the American people would appear to be undeniable. That said, there has also been a certain level of unease becoming more evident in discussions of the assassination because an unarmed bin Laden was killed without any due process, a pattern of behavior that has been characteristic of both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. The White House clearly did not want to permit bin Laden to appear in a show trial, in which he would inevitably be the star and would have been able to make a powerful case against US policy.
Many Americans also have begun to question the White House narrative about how and why bin Laden was killed, particularly as the story has changed a number of times. Indeed, the first accounts that he was resisting with an AK-47 in hand have now somewhat mellowed into a version that has him hiding in a bedroom with his son and his wife, where he and they were shot dead. As the president put it in his official statement on the end of the terrorist leader, “After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden.” The word “after” and its placement is significant as it implies that there was some shooting followed by a targeted assassination. The subsequent rapid disposal of the body at sea also will lead to more questions than answers and is already beginning to do so.
But what is particularly disquieting about the bin Laden story is how it is being used by some media commentators and politicians to support the reactionary war on terror policies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In the press and on Capitol Hill there have been suggestions that the successful tracking of bin Laden came about because of torture, that the key information that led to his hideout in Pakistan was developed in a CIA secret prison. Demagogic politicians like congressman Peter King are extolling the virtues of enhanced interrogation and calling for more of it.
The fact is, however, that there is no evidence that the significant information that eventually led to bin Laden’s hideaway came through the harsh treatment of anyone. Senator Joe Lieberman and others who have become cheerleaders for the targeted killing are praising the war against terror and are calling on the administration to expand it to include more operations by delta soldiers and navy seals, but they have long favored a more aggressive policy overseas just about everywhere. They may be envisioning and hoping for more assassination operations to kill undesirable leaders in countries that are currently in turmoil, like Yemen and Syria. If that is so, they are opening a door that should remain closed for many good reasons including one in particular: if we start assassinating them they will start assassinating us.
But amidst the euphoria over the death of America’s great enemy, many Americans have, perhaps surprisingly to some, not embraced the more war all the time agenda and instead are seeing the death of bin Laden as an opportunity to restore some measure of normality and sanity to our fractured foreign and defense policies. President Obama has scored a great success in the eyes of most Americans. He has killed the terrorist leader who has been the target of the worldwide thrashing about that US government forces have engaged in for the past ten years. With bin Laden gone, it is time to cash in the political capital and bring about some real change. This should be a liberating moment, a moment of transfiguration, not a recipe for more of the same.
Minus the always overinflated threat posed by bin Laden, there is a good opportunity to end the phony war on terror started by Bush and continued as overseas contingency operations by his successor. The timing is perfect if only the President of the United States has the courage to seize it because the raid casts light on several false assumptions being made by the administration to support continued conflict in Asia. First is the true nature of the relationship with Pakistan, which the White House has seen as an essential ally, an absolute sine qua non for success in Afghanistan. The raid on Abbottabad did not only kill a terrorist and his associates, it revealed the true depth of the folly that the United States is engaged in in south and central Asia vis-à-vis its would-be friends in Islamabad.
Pakistan recognizes that the United States will not remain in Afghanistan forever and is acting in support of its own interests, which means establishing working relationships with every side to every dispute in central Asia. The full story of Islamabad’s concealment of bin Laden may never come out, but no one in the intelligence community who knows anything about Pakistan believes that he was not being protected by someone at some level in the country’s government. If elements in the Pakistani government have been capable of hiding for nearly ten years the man being desperately sought by the US, they are capable of anything in support of their own interests, which should surprise no one.
Pakistan’s understandable failure to fully comply with Washington’s “you are either with us or against us” challenges the other major assumption, that the Taliban can be defeated militarily leading to some sort of viable quasi-democratic regime in Kabul. But with Islamabad playing an ambivalent role and quite likely providing safe havens for the Taliban on its territory there can be no military victory. Taking the two assumptions together and turning them on their heads, President Obama should be coming to the conclusion that killing more young Americans and Afghans while spending billions of dollars in a pointless war is not only a waste of resources, it is a course of action that will likely end up very badly indeed, making bloody and corrupt Iraq look like a model government in a civics class. Obama should take the opportunity provided by the death of bin Laden and the political space that his new-found popularity affords him to declare victory and get out of central Asia. And leaving a battlefront might become addictive, leading to some serious questioning of what is going on in Libya. The removal of the bin Laden threat will not undo ten years of bad policies and persistent blundering but it could well spark a revolution in the way Washington sees the rest of the world and could actually bring about some change for the better. Let us hope that President Obama has both the wisdom and the courage needed to grasp the nettle.
Read more by Philip Giraldi
Article printed from Antiwar.com Original: http://original.antiwar.com