Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Obama Administration backtracks on key claims of Bin Laden assault and disputes value of Bush era intelligence

 Last Sundays announcement by the President of the capture (and death of 9/11 terror mastermind Usama Bin Laden) at the hand of Special Ops and ultra classified "Seal Team Six" in Pakistan was inspiring.  Unfortunately, in light of subsequent public statements by Counter-terrorism Advisor to the President John Brennan this morning on Fox news and other national news outlets, as well as at a White House news conference yesterday afternoon with White House press secretary Jay Carney, in which he made certain statements which both contradict earlier statements of the Administration and other facts on the record regarding the Bush Administration's interrogation policies and to what extent they contributed to the success of this nation-critical security mission, we feel compelled to write a further response to these events and express our deep concern over an apparent attempt on the part of the Obama administration to unduly minimize the prior Administration's contributions in order to manipulate these events for partisan advantage.  (Especially onerous after such gracious and congratulatory reactions to the news by both former President George Bush and former Vice-President Dick Cheney, see yesterday's post).

 In the same news conference yesterday at the White House in which Obama's press secretary stated "the fact is that no single piece of information led to the successful mission that occured on Sunday, it simply strains credulity to suggest that a piece of evidence that may or may not have been gathered... eight years ago somehow directly led to a successful mission on Sunday," the top counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan backed off his initial claims that Osama Bin Laden was armed with a "knife or gun," used one of his wives as a "human shield" to deflect the assualt by U.S. Navy Seal special forces, and that the raid resulted in her death, (she was actually only shot in the leg when she rushed the commandos).   He also backed off claims that Bin Laden was offered a chance to surrender before the elite U.S. commando squad killed him with two gun shots to the chest and head, bringing to an end his reign as head of the world-wide Al-Qaeda terror network and exacting justice for the 9/11/01 world-trade-center attacks.  The 2001 terror attacks caused 3000 American citizens to be killed by the suicidal ramming of the trade towers with fully-fueled jetliners piloted by young Mid-Eastern and mostly Saudi nationals who received their flight skills largely by the beneficence of American flight schools.  Adding to the denials of Mr. Carney were the comments of Mr. Brennan, who affirmatively and openly denied that certain Bush Administration policies, (namely the Bush policies of "enhanced interrogation" of terror suspects and enemy combatants), played any significant role in the apprehension of Osama Bin Laden, a sentiment he repeated this morning on Fox news, to wit:

What allowed us to get to the Abbottabad compound was many years of pain-staking analysis as well as collection, putting together bits and pieces of information, some of it came from individuals who were in custody, some of it came from human sources, other technical means, but there was no single bit of information that was instrumental...-  John Brennan, Obama Administration's Chief Counterrorism Advisor, May 2, 2011, emphasis added.
  This followed incredulous claims by attorney General Holder-- which we shall deal with on another day-- that he "didn't know" if enhanced interrogation techniques under the Bush Administration led to "any actionable intelligence" helpful to apprehending terrorists engaged in jihad against the U.S., see here and here, in spite of it blatantly contradicting the express statements yesterday and repeated today by Peter King (R-NY) member on the House Intelligence Committee and Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee to the contrary.  Indeed, Congressman King was adamant today in reaffirming his initial statements, stating that "The initial information on the courier was obtained by waterboarding back in 2003.  I've spoken to people who... have first-hand information... I'm telling you that people who were on the ground, people who are in a position to know, they told me that."  Peter King, (R-NY), May 3, 2011, Watch video here.

 Regardless of the controversy-- which we expect, (and indeed hope), the U.S. Congress will get to the bottom of in investigative hearings in due course-- we find the claims of counter-terrorism advisor Mr. Brennan and the Administation highly doubtful at best, and at worst blatantly false, in light of what we already know about the information the Bush Administration received from its interrogation policies during George W. Bush's Presidency, (more on this below).  First however, from the Administration's Chief National Counter-terrorism Officer's own words, we know at least the following:

 First of all, as National counter-terrorist Advisor Brennan explicitly said of the information that led U.S. intelligence to the Bin Laden compound, "some of it came from individuals who were in custody," leading to the obvious questions, what information, from what individuals, and where in custody?  If we didn't know better, this sure sounds like it could comport with the "enhanced interrogation" policies and intelligence that we already know was gleaned from the Bush Administration; indeed, rather than disproving the contribution of Bush-era policies, such words, depending on what exactly they refer to-- reference the old trick of political operatives not wanting to get 'nailed down' saying something with which they could later be accused of lying in some Congressional Committee hearing while at the same time not wanting to be particularly helpful-- could actually, without explicitly coming out and saying so, confirm what Mr. Brennan couldn't directly say.  Otherwise, why the shocking vagueness and lack of specificity to this answer?  

  Indeed, the complete lack of verifiable detail in his answer, as well as mere logic, indicates the probability that Mr. Brennan falls into one of two categories:  1)  He is not being truthful in his answers for fear it might embarrass or reduce the "gravitas" and positive political impact to President Obama if it got out that, in fact, the success of this critical mission was actually owing to the enhanced interrogation policies of the Bush Administration his boss so vehemently opposed when he was a Senator (and subsequent candidate for the Presidency himself), OR 2) His lack of candor and verifiable detail is due to an ongoing need to protect valuable intelligence assets. 

  Judging however from Mr. Brennan's failure to assert any such need to protect intelligence assets, (though he doesn't say so and in all fairness isn't further pressed on this), we rather think that the latter possibility is more remote owing to the fact that Osama Bin Laden is now dead and that any living human intelligence source for the information now knows, or will know, this fact and/or is likely to have already divulged any relevant information, (or will not divulge any more due to their seeing the results and/or fear that if they become subsequently known as a "rat" it could endanger their lives from other al-Qaeda operatives if they eventually fail to be convicted or get freed from American custody as dozens of other Guantonamo detainees have).  In light of this we think it at least equally plausible that the White House's Security Chief falls into the first category.

  Indeed, taken together with what we already know about the information the Bush Administration received from its "enhanced interrogations" of top Al-Qaeda operatives Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003 and Abu Faraj al-Libbi in 2007, (before Obama was even President), we find the former category much more pursuasive for the following reasons.  

  As we established yesterday, the joint CIA-Military interrogations of both Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi were responsible for the key information regarding the identity of the trusted " human courier" of Osama Bin Laden's that ultimately led U.S. authorities to the Pakistani compound in Abbottabad in which he was hiding.   

  Indeed, even if the Obama Administration's claims about surveillance of the Pakistani compound or "other confirming intelligence" gleaned from the unknown detainees which Mr. Brennan referenced in yesterday's press conference and/or even the Pakistan government which may have more explicitly identified this key link in the process of finding Bin Laden's hide out are true-- which this last we find particularly dubious in light of the failure of the Pakistani's to notify us of the sprawling compound located less than a mile from the Pakistani equivalent of America's "West Point"--  it still proves the Bush Administration must properly be credited in large part with the capture/death of bin laden.

 This is so because, regardless of subsequent "corroborating intelligence" regarding Osama Bin Laden's courier and the subsequent extensive surveillance of the compound, such investigation and surveillance never even would have gotten off the ground in the first place if not for the Bush Administration's enhanced interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi yielding the critical " nick name"  identity of this trusted human contact of Bin Laden's. 
 Moreover, and equally salient, due to President Obama's blanket opposition to enhanced interrogation or rendition of enemy combatants-- not to mention closure of the Eastern European 'black sites' where the enhanced interrogations were conducted by CIA operatives and his attempted closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, indeed, his first act as President was to sign an Executive Order calling for Gitmo's closure-- no interrogations at all, enhanced or otherwise would likely have taken place sufficient to yield this critical information which ultimately led to Bin Laden as there wouldn't have been anywhere to conduct any questioning at all if Obama's preferred detention policies favoring the handover of enemy combatants to the civilian federal justice system for trial and closure of interrogation facilities had been the prevailing policies at the time following 9/11 instead of the Bush Administration. (Indeed, due to the Obama Administration's policy preference for terror suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi to to be processed through the criminal justice system no differently than common criminals, see here or heresuch policies would likely have resulted in these suspects-- upon being read their "Miranda rights" which our nation's Attorney General Eric Holder has suggested is appropriate for some terrorist suspects like the Times Square bomber or Christmas day bomber-- simply "lawyering up," resulting in no ability for useful intelligence to be gathered whatsoever, (a fact unaffected by Obama's subsequent backing off of such "preferred policies" and approach to terror suspects, but see here).  And this is so even if rendition and waterboarding were only used in these and one other case.  (Indeed, as far as we are concerned if such practices saved even one American life from these terrorist scum who respect no war treaties or conventions and don't fight under any nation's flag it would be worth it!)  See also GAO report on enhanced interrogation techniques and their results here.

 In light of these facts, we find it incredibly arrogant, not to mention dishonest and ungrateful, for the Obama Administration to not only act like this victory in the war on terror was all their doing but to continue to do so even after being on the receiving end of such gracious and pubic comments as have been made by both former President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, (which we cited in yesterday's post).
 As troubling as this is however, even more troubling is what all this portends vis a vis the apparent M.O. of this Administration, (we knew we could count on the President to prove his Administration was "transparent" in at least one area of his Presidency!)  Indeed, the lapse of the Obama Administration into the familiar pattern of conduct which by now has become almost expected is clear: Smear, distort and attack your political adversaries' policies, then co-opt and claim credit for them when they yield results which could help you politically, (even though you have previously undermined them at every chance you could). 

 Such political tactics share more resemblance with the logically flawed red herring, "strawman" and "ad-hominem"  arguments-- favorite logical fallacies of the left in all matters legal or political-- utilized most recently in the budget showdown with the Republican House over deficits and government spending which resulted in a last minute 'bi-partisan' compromise successful in avoiding a government shutdown, only to see President Obama subsequently, (the very next day!), turn around and slam Republicans and their chief budget policy wonk, Congressman and House budget committee Chairman, Paul Ryan (R-WI), see our post about it here.

  And while we don't know the efficacy of such tactics in the long run-- even if the American people's forgiveness and/or absentmindedness of such things is legendary-- especially so far in advance of the 2012 elections, (indeed, a year and a half is almost an eternity in politics), if history is any guide a lot rides on such "practical" considerations as the economy, the outcome of Obamacare before the U.S. Supreme court, and whether Obama can avoid any further terror attacks in coming months, all largely unknowns at this point in time.  On that score perhaps a final note about the politics and policies of the Obama Administration going forward is in order.

  Since we know the President is personally deeply opposed to enhanced interrogation techniques against the war on terror that were so helpful here-- as candidate Obama informed us in no uncertain terms in his 2008 campaign-- what could be behind the President's suddenly more strident anti-terror rhetoric and his insistence on claiming sole credit for the capture of Bin Laden and pledging anew his commitment to fight terrorism in the face of the approaching 10 year anniversary of 9/11? (Indeed, and amazingly, Obama even quoted the Pledge of Allegiance at his news conference, a political prop no other Administration has succumbed to in recent memory... We are still waiting for the liberal press corp and Congressional Democratic leadership who so mercilessly pilloried Republicans for reading the Constitution to kick off the opening of the 112th Congress to denounce this clear act of political demagoguery ;). 

 Of course, we wouldn't dare be so cynical as to wonder aloud if any of this could possibly have anything to do with the President recently kicking off his 2012 re-election campaign-- or would we?-- even in light of the known edge for Republicans on national security issues and the President needing to look more "decisive" of late, (something he has been universally criticized for from both sides of the political spectrum for everything from delay in repealing the DOMA to invading Libya... Just saying...).  But for those still unconvinced perhaps a review of our previous post(s) on Obama's dithering is in order.  We welcome you to do so by just clicking on that link.

  But all things considered, and politics aside, we should like to say that besides the death of Bin Laden there is at least one good outcome of all this in our body politic, and that is an unquestioned boost for the idea of the importance of human intelligence to our country's safety, (something the Administration has not always been so strong in, as above mentioned).

  Regardless of the political calculus that may lie behind President Obama's pro-military stance of late and public acclamations re: the role of human intelligence in the Bin Laden affair, it has at least resulted in a much-needed morale boost to the U.S. intelligence community by calling attention to the critical role intelligence plays in our nation's security. In this regard hopefully such public proclamations by the Administration will make such ideas politically impossible to retreat from in the future and translate into concrete policies that both parties could support to enhance and rebuild our national intelligence capabilities.

  In any case, and regardless of the motives of the present Administration in denying credit where credit is due, (i.e. the Bush Administration policies that made the Bin Laden victory possible), one thing is beyond question: Our armed forces, particularly the special ops experts making up "seal team six" which actually carried out this daring operation-- in addition to their civilian intelligence analysts and commanders-- deserve a debt of gratitude from all of us for their sacrifice and service to our country.

  In our perspective, no amount of politicking will, or can, change that. As we said in our last post on this subject, our hat is off to these American heroes for keeping our country safe. Moreover, whatever else is revealed in the days ahead, we also agree with President Obama on at least one thing, that "our country is safer as a result of the death of Osama Bin Laden." And on that closing note, all I can say is Amen! jp

No comments:

Post a Comment