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The House of Representatives and the Senate agree to spend $15.5 million to develop a nuclear bunker-buster, or “mini-nuke,” called the “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator” (see January 2003). They also agree to allocate funds to make changes to the Nevada Test Site (see Early March 2003) in order to shorten the amount of time that would be needed to resume nuclear tests to as little as 18-24 months. [Guardian, 3/7/2003; USA Today, 7/6/2003]
The US trains between Iraqi exiles at the Taszar military base in Hungary. At the base, dubbed “Camp Freedom,” the exiles, or “Free Iraqi Forces” (FIF), are taught both survival skills and support functions. Most of those trained are believed to be supporters of INC president Ahmed Chalabi. [BBC, 4/1/2003; Associated Press, 4/1/2003; Knight Ridder, 7/12/2003]
Iraq begins destroying equipment associated with its Al Samoud Weapons program which the UN had determined was in violation of UN resolutions since the range of the missiles exceeds the 150km limit imposed in 1991 after the Gulf War (see February 12, 2003). [BBC, 3/2/2003; CNN, 3/9/2003]
When an Associated Press reporter asks the US military to comment on the accounts of two former Afghan detainees (see December 10, 2002)
(see November 30-December 3, 2002), spokesman Roger King claims their accounts are mostly untrue. “Some of the stuff they are saying sounds like partial truths, some of it’s completely bogus,” he says. “They were stripped naked probably to prevent them from sneaking weapons into the facility. That’s why someone may be stripped…. We do force people to stand for an extended period of time…. Disruption of sleep has been reported as an effective way of reducing people’s inhibition about talking or their resistance to questioning….They are not allowed to speak to one another. If they do, they can plan together or rely on the comfort of one another. If they’re caught speaking out of turn, they can be forced to do things—like stand for a period of time—as payment for speaking out.” [Associated Press, 3/14/2003; Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]
The platoon of 15 interrogators led by Capt. Carolyn A. Wood is sent to Iraq together with another 15 fellow soldiers from Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion. [Knight Ridder, 8/21/2004] Wood had been involved in detainee abuses in Afghanistan (see November 30-December 3, 2002) and will be involved in the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal in Iraq (see (Early August 2003)).
A building in Baghdad is bombed during the US invasion of Iraq. [Source: Reuters]The US begins its official invasion of Iraq (see (7:40 a.m.) March 19, 2003). While most observers expect a traditional air assault, the US planners instead launch what they call a “Shock and Awe” combination of air and ground assaults designed to avoid direct confrontations with Iraqi military forces and instead destroy Iraqi military command structures. [CNN, 3/20/2003; CNN, 3/20/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 302] The initial invasion force consists of 250,000 US forces augmented by 45,000 British troops and small contingents from Poland, Australia, and Denmark, elements of the so-called “coalition of the willing.” [BBC, 3/18/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 302]
On the second day of a US invasion of Iraq, the US military conducts an airstrike against the training camp in Northern Iraq controlled by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The camp is territory controlled by Kurdish rebels and it is believed that a chemical weapons lab is there. Prior to the start of the war, the US drew up three separate plans to attack the camp with air strikes, but each time the plans were rejected by the White House. [MSNBC, 3/2/2004] More than 40 cruise missiles hit the camp near the town of Khurmal, destroying what Gen. Tommy Franks calls a “massive terrorist facility.” But Saddam Hussein had been given an ultimatum before the start of the war, which meant the timing of the start of the war had been announced several days in advance. Not surprisingly, by the time the camp is hit, al-Zarqawi and many of his followers had already left it. One of al-Zarqawi’s top lieutenants, Abdul Hadi Daghlas, a.k.a. Abu Taisir, is killed. Al-Zarqawi will release an audio message several months later lamenting his death. [Wall Street Journal, 2/10/2004] Former National Security Council member Roger Cressey will later claim, “Here’s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we’re suffering as a result inside Iraq.” [MSNBC, 3/2/2004]
The US establishes a loose network of prisons and detention centers in Iraq where Iraqi prisoners of war are held and interrogated. Iraqis detained by Coalition Forces are usually first brought to facilities at US military compounds where they are subjected to initial and secondary interrogations, ranging from a period of one week for initial interrogations up to one month for secondary interrogations. During this period, the detainees are not permitted to contact relatives or seek legal counsel. The prisoners are then sent to one of ten major Coalition prison facilities, at which point their names and information are supposed to be entered into the Coalition’s central database. The major facilities include:
Abu Ghraib Prison (Baghdad Central Correctional Facility or BCCF), the largest.
Camp Bucca, in Umm Qasr.
Talil Air force Base (Whitford Camp), located south of Baghdad.
Al-Rusafa (formerly the Deportations’ Prison or Tasfirat), in Baghdad.
Al-Kadhimiyya, in Baghdad, for women only.
Al-Karkh, in Baghdad, for juveniles only.
Al-Diwaniyya Security Detainee Holding Area.
the Tikrit detention facility.
the Mosul detention facility.
and MEK (Ashraf Camp), near al-Ramadi. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
An overhead view of Abu Ghraib prison. [Source: Google Earth]The US Army seizes the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, which is notorious for having been the scene of torture under Saddam Hussein. BBC reporter Martin Asser describes the event: “It had been only lightly looted, vandalism mainly, and the MPs—reservists led by a colonel from Florida—were there to secure the location ‘as a possible center for operations’.” [BBC, 8/4/2004]
Soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company arrive in Iraq and are assigned to routine traffic and police duties. [New Yorker, 5/10/2004]
In a homemade video journal, an unidentified female US soldier at Camp Bucca prison in Iraq candidly speaks of how she and her colleagues have shot and killed prisoners. “If we shoot any more of the Iraqis, or attack any of them, they’re gonna supposedly come in and attack the camp…. But we’ll believe that when it actually happens, because we’ve already killed another Iraqi just last night when I was working. So I don’t know what’s going on…” She does not describe under what circumstances the shootings had taken place. In another part of the video she admits to antagonizing the captives. “I actually got in trouble the other day because I was throwing rocks at them.” [CBS News, 3/12/2004]
A group of at least 20 paramilitary soldiers—trained and funded by the US (see (2001-2004))
—cross into Haiti from the neighboring Dominican Republic and attack a hydroelectric power plant on Haiti’s central plateau. Shortly after the attack, Dominican authorities, at the behest of the Haitian government, arrest five men, including Guy Philippe, in connection with the paramilitary operation. But they are quickly released by the Dominicans who say there is no evidence of their involvement in the attack. Philippe is interviewed by the Associated Press afterwards and asked what he is doing in the Dominican. Philippe, who mentions to the reporter that he would support a coup against Aristide, refuses to “say how he makes a living or what he does to spend his time in the Dominican Republic.” Less than one year later, Philippe will participate in the overthrow of the Aristide government. [Black Commentator, 5/15/2003] On the same day the five men are detained, Haitian authorities raid the Port-au-Prince residence of mayoral candidate Judith Roy of the Democratic Convergence opposition. The Haitians claim to find “assault weapons, ammunitions, and plans to attack the National Palace and Aristide’s suburban residence.” The Haitian government contends that Roy is close to Philippe. [Black Commentator, 5/15/2003]
The 9/11 Commission holds a public hearing at which it takes testimony from military officials about the timeline of events on the day of 9/11. The key witness is retired Air Force General Larry Arnold, who commanded NORAD’s Continental US Region on the day of 9/11. Under questioning from commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, Arnold says, “I believe that to be a fact: that 9:24 was the first time that we had been advised of American 77 as a possible hijacked airplane.” However, the Commission will later conclude that the military was not notified of the hijacking at this time, although it had been mistakenly advised Flight 11 was inbound to Washington three minutes previously (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold adds that if the military was slow in responding to Flight 77, it was because “our focus—you have got to remember that there’s a lot of other things going on simultaneously here—was on United 93.” However, Flight 93 was not hijacked until a few minutes after 9:24 (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold adds: “It was our intent to intercept United Flight 93. And in fact, my own staff, we were orbiting now over Washington, DC, by this time, and I was personally anxious to see what 93 was going to do, and our intent was to intercept it.” However, the Commission will later conclude that the military did not learn that Flight 93 had been hijacked until around 10:00 a.m. (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Prior to the hearing, the Commission’s staff had been concerned about the inaccuracy of timelines offered by the military. Author Philip Shenon will write: “It seemed all the more remarkable to [Commission staffer John Farmer] that the Pentagon could not establish a clear chronology of how it responded to an attack on the Pentagon building itself. Wouldn’t the generals and admirals want to know why their own offices—their own lives—had been put at risk that morning?” Therefore, Farmer thought that the hearing should clear things up, but, according to Shenon, he and his colleagues are “astonished” when they analyze what Arnold says, although he is not under oath on this day. Shenon will add, “It would later be determined that almost every one of those assertions by General Arnold in May 2003 was flat wrong.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 119-121]
US serviceman Mike Quinn is fatally shot at a traffic control point in Fallujah, Iraq, during an ambush. According to his friend, Staff Sgt. Dave Harris, he was killed because he was not wearing his body armor. He had apparently given his vest to a young soldier who had not been provided with one of his own. [European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, 8/31/2003]
The Pentagon announces that four US soldiers from a Pennsylvania-based Army Reserve have been charged with punching, kicking, and breaking the bones of Iraqi captives at Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in connection with the May 12 incident (see May 12, 2003). This is the first known case where US soldiers are charged for alleged illegal treatment toward prisoners of war. [Associated Press, 7/27/2003] By January 2004, the soldiers will have all been discharged after Brig. Gen. Ennis Whitehead III determines that they had kicked prisoners or encouraged others to do so. [Associated Press, 11/25/2003; Associated Press, 1/16/2004]
NATO takes control of security in Kabul, Afghanistan. This is NATO’s first-ever operational commitment outside Europe. [BBC, 5/15/2007] NATO will eventually take control of military operations for all of Afghanistan in 2006 (see July-October 2006).
An unnamed US soldier witnesses two interrogators pull an Iraqi man, gasping for air, from the trunk of a black Mercedes after having driven around with him in the back for some time. “They kind of had to prop him up to carry him in. He looked like he had been there for a while,” the soldier later tells the Guardian. The soldier also notes that it had been extremely hot that day. According to the soldier, the torture tactic is referred to as the “bitch in a box.” [Mail & Guardian, 5/14/2004]
Map of the US-occupied “Green Zone” inside Baghdad. [Source: Representational Pictures]There is a growing realization within the Department of Defense that the militant resistance in Iraq against the US and British occupation has been underestimated. An internal Pentagon document notes: “Their ability to attack convoys, other vulnerable targets and particular individuals has been the result of painstaking surveillance and reconnaissance. Inside information has been passed on to insurgent cells about convoy/troop movements and daily habits of Iraqis working with coalition from within the Iraqi security services, primarily the Iraqi Police force which is rife with sympathy for the insurgents, Iraqi ministries and from within pro-insurgent individuals working with the CPA’s so-called Green Zone…. Politically, the US has failed to date. Insurgencies can be fixed or ameliorated by dealing with what caused them in the first place. The disaster that is the reconstruction of Iraq has been the key cause of the insurgency. There is no legitimate government, and it behooves the Coalition Provisional Authority to absorb the sad but unvarnished fact that most Iraqis do not see the Governing Council as the legitimate authority. Indeed, they know that the true power is the CPA.” The report emphasizes that intelligence on the people involved in Iraq’s domestic uprising is insufficient. “Human intelligence is poor or lacking… due to the dearth of competence and expertise…. The intelligence effort is not coordinated since either too many groups are involved in gathering intelligence or the final product does not get to the troops in the field in a timely manner.” [New Yorker, 5/24/2004] The study is a contributing factor in the decision by the civilian leadership of the Pentagon to seek “actionable intelligence” from detainees being held in Iraq’s detention facilities (see August 31, 2003-September 9, 2003). [New Yorker, 5/24/2004]
The US military reopens the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Baghdad, which had been the main prison used by Saddam Hussein. Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum, a reservist who commands the 320th Military Police Battalion, is put in charge of the prison. He reports directly to Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski. [Washington Post, 5/9/2004]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directs his undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Stephen Cambone, to send Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to Iraq to review the US military prison system in Iraq and make suggestions on how the prisons can be used to obtain “actionable intelligence” from detainees. Cambone passes the order on to his deputy Lt. Gen. William Boykin who meets with Miller to plan the trip. [Washington Post, 5/21/2004; Newsweek, 5/24/2004]
The front gate to the Abu Ghraib prison. [Source: US Marine Corps]After the attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad (see August 29, 2003), Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski becomes more concerned about the security of Abu Ghraib. “[W]e knew that we were more vulnerable than we had even imagined.” A combat unit for the defense of the prison is required. “It was promised countless times,” says Karpinski. “But we never received them. And we took measures ourselves, to the extent that we could, to reinforce our entry control points, to get appropriate weapons to the extent we were able in the towers, to get sandbags around the tents for the prisoners so at least they would have a chance of defending themselves if anything happened again. And mortars came in every night.” [Signal Newspaper, 7/4/2004]
Geoffrey Miller. [Source: US Army]Major General Geoffrey Miller, who oversees the prison at Guantanamo (see November 4, 2002), flies to Iraq for a 10-day consulting trip (see August 18, 2003). He is part of a team “experienced in strategic interrogation… to review current Iraqi theater ability to rapidly exploit internees for actionable intelligence” and to review the arrangements at the US military prisons in Iraq. [Washington Post, 5/9/2004; New Yorker, 5/17/2004; Washington Post, 8/24/2004; Savage, 2007, pp. 190] The team consists of 17 interrogation experts from Guantanamo Bay, and includes officials from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). [Washington Post, 6/12/2004]
Attempt to Increase Flow of 'Actionable Intelligence' - The Pentagon’s decision to dispatch the team on this mission was influenced by the military’s growing concern that the failure of coalition forces to quell resistance against the occupation was linked to a dearth in “actionable intelligence”
(see August 2003). [New Yorker, 5/24/2004] Miller has therefore come to help Brigadier General Barabara Fast improve the results of her interrogation operations. More to the point, he is supposed to introduce her to the techniques being used at Guantanamo. [New Yorker, 6/21/2004; Signal Newspaper, 7/4/2004] Officials are hoping detainees will provide intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein, who is still on the loose. [Washington Post, 5/16/2004]
'Gitmoizing' Abu Ghraib - “[Miller] came up there and told me he was going to ‘Gitmoize’ the detention operation,” Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski, later recalls. [Washington Post, 5/9/2004] Miller will later deny he used the word “Gitmoize.” [Washington Post, 5/12/2004] During Miller’s visit, a Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) is established in order to centralize the intelligence operations at the prison. Captain Carolyn A. Wood is made officer in charge (OIC) of the Interrogation Coordination Element (ICE), within the JIDC. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 ] Before returning to Washington, Miller leaves a list of acceptable interrogation techniques—based on what has been used in Guatanamo—posted on a wall in Abu Ghraib, which says that long term isolation, sleep disruption, “environmental manipulation,” and “stress positions” can be used to facilitate interrogations, but only with the approval of Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez on a case-by-case basis. [Washington Post, 5/21/2004] The use of dogs is also included, even though the technique was banned at Guantanamo eight months before by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (see January 15, 2003). [Washington Post, 7/19/2004; US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 ] Karpinski later recalls, “He said they are like dogs and if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you’ve lost control of them.” [BBC, 6/15/2004] Miller’s visit to Iraq heralds some significant changes, which include, first, the introduction of more coercive interrogation tactics; second, the taking control of parts of the Abu Ghraib facility by military intelligence; and third, the use of MPs in the intelligence collection process. During his visit, Miller discusses interrogation techniques with military intelligence chief Colonel Thomas M. Pappas. [New York Times, 5/13/2004]
'Snowballing' Effect of Chaos, Brutality - “The operation was snowballing,” Samuel Provance, a US military intelligence officer, will later recall, describing the situation at Abu Ghraib after Miller’s visit. “There were more and more interrogations. The chain of command was putting a lot of resources into the facility.” And Karpinski will later say that she was being shut out of the process at about this time. “They continued to move me farther and farther away from it.” [Washington Post, 5/20/2004] Major General Anthony Taguba (see March 9, 2004) will later determine that Miller’s visit helped bring about the complete breakdown of discipline at the prison: “Interrogators actively requested,” at Miller’s behest, “that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogations of witnesses.” In essence, Miller tells guards to “soften up” prisoners so they will not be able to resist their inquisitors. Miller will later deny any responsibility for the Abu Ghraib torture program (see May 4, 2004). [Savage, 2007, pp. 190]
Army Col. Thomas Pappas tells Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, a soldier overseeing interrogations at Abu Ghraib, that the White House wants interrogators to “pull the intelligence out” of the detainees. Pappas tells him at least twice “that some of the [intelligence] reporting was getting read by [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld, folks out at Langley, some very senior folks.” [USA Today, 6/17/2004]
A US military guard at the FOB [Forward Operating Base] Packhorse detention facility in Iraq fatally shoots a detainee who is throwing rocks. [Denver Post, 5/18/2004]
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez writes a classified memo calling for a “harmonization” of policing and intelligence tasks at Abu Ghraib in order to ensure “consistency with the interrogation policies… and maximize the efficiency of the interrogation.” [Washington Post, 5/16/2004] The memo instructs that intelligence is to work more closely with military police in order to “manipulate an internee’s emotions and weaknesses” by controlling the detainee’s access to “lighting, heating,… food, clothing, and shelter.” [Washington Post, 5/21/2004] It says that “it is imperative that interrogators be provided reasonable latitude to vary their approach” according to the prisoner’s background, strengths, resistance, and other factors. [Washington Post, 5/16/2004] The memo is a revision of Gen. Geoffrey Miller’s September 9 memo (see September 9, 2003), which included a list of acceptable interrogation techniques. Sanchez’s memo, however, drops the list replacing it with a general statement that “anything not approved, you have to ask for,” and adding that the detainees must be treated humanely and that any dogs used during the interrogations must be muzzled. [Washington Post, 5/16/2004; Washington Post, 5/21/2004] Larry Wilkerson, the chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, later says that such instructions are well understood to be honored on paper only. He will say, “When you read [a memo like this], you read, for example, that dogs can be used but they have to be muzzled. Well, I’m a soldier. I know what that means to an E-6 [noncommissioned officer] that is trying to question a guy and he’s got a German shepherd with a muzzle on there. If that doesn’t work, the muzzle comes off. If that doesn’t work, you kind of let the dog leap at the guy and maybe every now and then take a bite out of him (see November 20, 2003). It’s a very careful crafting of a memo… ” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 191-192]
Soon after the 372nd Military Police Company arrives at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski sends Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, who is in charge of the prison, to Kuwait for two weeks so that he can have “some relief from the pressure he was experiencing.” [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004; Washington Post, 5/9/2004]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at the request of CIA Director George Tenet, orders military officials in Iraq to keep an unnamed high-value detainee being held at Camp Cropper off the records. The order is passed down to Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then to Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander of American forces in the Middle East, and finally to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the ground commander in Iraq. “At each stage, lawyers reviewed the request and their bosses approved it,” the New York Times will report. “This prisoner and other ‘ghost detainees’ were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy,” the newspaper will report, citing top officials. The prisoner—in custody since July 2003—is suspected of being a senior officer of Ansar al-Islam, an Islamic group with ties to al-Qaeda. Shortly after being captured by US forces, he was deemed an “enemy combatant” and thus denied protection under the Geneva conventions. Up until this point, the prisoner has only been interrogated once. As a result of being kept off the books, the prison system looses track of the detainee who will spend the next seven months in custody. “Once he was placed in military custody, people lost track of him,” a senior intelligence official will tell the New York Times. “The normal review processes that would keep track of him didn’t.” [New York Times, 6/17/2004; Reuters, 6/17/2004; Fox News, 6/17/2004]
Thomas Pappas. [Source: US Army]The office of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez formally puts Col. Thomas M. Pappas of 205th Military Intelligence Brigade in charge of cell blocks 1A and 1B in the Abu Ghraib prison. As Gen. Antonio Taguba will note in his February 26, 2004 (see February 26, 2004) report, the order “effectively made an MI Officer, rather than an MP officer, responsible for the MP units conducting detainee operations at that facility. This is not doctrinally sound due to the different missions and agenda assigned to each of these respective specialties.” [New York Times, 5/12/2004; Washington Post, 5/16/2004; New Yorker, 5/17/2004; Newsweek, 5/24/2004] Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba will also note: “[T]he intelligence value of detainees held at… Guantanamo is different than that of the detainees/internees held at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities in Iraq…. There are a large number of Iraqi criminals held at Abu Ghraib. These are not believed to be international terrorists or members of al-Qaeda.” The report will say also that the order was in conflict with existing military regulations and suggests that Sanchez’s recommendation had influenced the conditions at Abu Ghraib.
President Bush signs into law the defense authorization bill, which contains a controversial rider allowing the Pentagon to circumvent the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). The MMPA prohibits government and commercial interests from engaging in activities harmful to the declining populations of whales, dolphins and seals. The act, passed in 1972, has been credited with halting the decline of some of those populations. The bill also exempts the military from certain provisions of the ESA. [Washington Post, 11/16/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003] For example, the bill:
Permits the secretary of defense to exempt any military activity from the MMPA, without regard to its impact on whales, seals and dolphins. The Navy claims the MMPA puts American lives at risk because it makes it more difficult for the Navy to detect enemy submarines. [Washington Post, 11/16/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003; Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004]
Loosens the MMPA definition of “harassment” of marine mammals, making it almost impossible to enforce the MMPA. [Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003; Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004]
Extends the Pentagon’s exemptions to scientists who conduct research sponsored by the Navy or other federal agencies. [Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004]
Eliminates language in the MMPA that prohibits the Navy from doing sonars, invasive research, bomb testing and other activities that threaten the habitat of whales, seals and dolphins. [Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003; Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004]
Exempts US military bases and lands from ESA habitat-protection provisions. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says that the new exemption will “improve… military readiness” even though a General Accounting Office study found that “very few units reported being unable to achieve combat-ready status due to inadequate training areas.” [General Accounting Office, 6/2002 ; Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003; Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004] Encouraged by their success at weakening the MMPA and ESA, defense officials say that next year they will attempt to modify a court agreement the Pentagon accepted the month before requiring the Navy to limit where it can use its new low-frequency sonar system that has the ability to track quiet diesel submarines. Critics argue the sonar’s frequency is so loud that it could kill noise-sensitive whales and dolphins. [Washington Post, 11/16/2003] The military is also planning to seek exemptions to the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Superfund Act (see April 6, 2004). [Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003]
Human Rights Watch writes to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “to express concern about incidents in which US forces stationed in Iraq detained innocent, close relatives of wanted suspects in order to compel the suspects to surrender, which amounts to hostage-taking, classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), makes some surprising comments about the US military’s response to the 9/11 attacks during an interview with the 9/11 Commission. Marr played an important role in NEADS’s response to the 9/11 attacks. A memorandum summarizing the interview will reveal some hints by Marr that others in the US military doctored the data describing the Air Force’s response to the hijackings, perhaps to show that the US military did not shoot down Flight 93.
Log Doesn't 'Look Right' - For instance, the memorandum will state: “Marr noted that one of the chat logs presented to him by Commission staff ‘doesn’t look right.’ [Commission staff noted this beforehand, but did not present to Marr as such.]” There is no further explanation in the interview account to explain what this means.
Timelines Conflict - After Marr is presented with a transcript of the 9/11 Commission’s May 23, 2003 hearing (see May 23, 2003), “Marr noted that the Dictaphone DAT times are off, and this led to a misconception with the time frame. He commented that NORAD asked for details to prove that they did not shoot down [United Airlines Flight] 93 shortly after 9/11. He noted that [two military officials] worked towards putting the initial information together. But because of the damage that occurred to the tapes during the transcription process (see September 21, 2001) they did not re-examine the tapes until very recently. Commission staff presented Marr with a timeline that was created by NORAD. Marr speculated that some of the discrepancies on this timeline were because of inaccurate computer timing.”
Mistakes Were Made to Show Flight 93 Was Not Shot Down - The memorandum will conclude, “Marr was emphatic that the mistakes in the data points were specifically made to show that they did not shoot down Flight 93.” [9/11 Commission, 1/23/2004 ] However, there will be no hint of these allegations in the 9/11 Commission’s final report, and no hint about any data manipulation or discrepancies.
Haitian police abandon their posts in Le Cayes, Haiti, and flee approaching paramilitary rebel forces. 30-year-old “Ti Gary” steps in to fill the power vacuum, making himself the town’s law enforcer. He will order at least 5 public extra-judiciary executions. [Griffin, 4/11/2004 ]
In the Haitian town of Petit Goave, “Ti Kenley” and his followers burn the homes of Aristide supporters, including the homes of the national congress deputy, local elected political and civic leaders, student leaders, and family members of Aristide supporters. The burned homes are later photographed by a National Lawyers Guild human rights delegation (see March 29, 2004-April 5, 2004). [Griffin, 4/11/2004 Sources: Unnamed witnesses interviewed by a National Lawyers Guild human rights delegation]
US President George Bush announces that the US is sending US forces to Haiti to help stabilize the country. [Reuters, 3/1/2004]
Forty to sixty bodies are transported in trucks to a field near the Piste D’Aviation, bordering the Delmas 2 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince along a road to the airport. The following day the bodies will be relocated and burned (see March 22, 2004). [Griffin, 4/11/2004 Sources: Unnamed witnesses interviewed by a National Lawyers Guild human rights delegation]
Forty to sixty bodies are moved from the roadside near the Piste D’Aviation (see March 22, 2004) to a
remote field a quarter-mile away and burned. [Griffin, 4/11/2004 ; Democracy Now!, 4/12/2004 Sources: Unnamed witnesses interviewed by a National Lawyers Guild human rights delegation] A National Lawyers Guild human rights delegation (see March 29, 2004-April 5, 2004) investigating the incident observes a “massive ash pile, and pigs eating flesh of human bones that had not burned at Piste D’Aviation.” The delegation photographs “fresh skulls and other human bones, some still tangled in clothes or with shoes and sneakers nearby.” The fuel for the fire had been transported in containers marked “Haitian currency.” [Griffin, 4/11/2004 ] The photographs are later shown on the April 12 program of Democracy Now!. [Griffin, 4/11/2004 ; Democracy Now!, 4/12/2004]
The bodies of 200 Haitians are dumped by the State Morgue in Port-au-Prince, which typically buries only about 100 bodies per month. On March 7, the morgue had buried some 800 bodies (see March 7, 2004). Many of the “bodies… had their hands tied behind their backs and had black bags over their heads, and had been shot.” This continues in April (see Early April 2004). [Griffin, 4/11/2004 ; Democracy Now!, 4/12/2004 Sources: Director of the State Morgue in Port-au-Prince]
Bodies of dead Haitians continue (see March 7, 2004)
(see March 28, 2004) to arrive at the State Morgue in Port-au-Prince with their “hands tied behind their backs and bags over their heads.” [Griffin, 4/11/2004 Sources: Unnamed employees at the State Morgue in Port-au-Prince]
A little more than a year after the creation of his office, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Steven A. Cambone appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide a description of his office’s role and mission and how the military’s intelligence capabilities will be transformed from a cold war era model to one that can respond quickly to the wide variety of non-state asymmetrical threats to US interests that it expects to encounter in the 21st century. He says the military needs to acquire the capability to competently detect threats; develop a “network-centric environment” in which data can be transferred at very high speeds to all levels of the military; achieve maximum interoperability between its network systems through the adoption of common standards (see July 27, 2001); improve the acquisition and sharing of human intelligence; gain the ability to quickly relay actionable intelligence to soldiers in the field; and achieve the capability of persistent surveillance (“the ability to monitor, track, characterize, report and update at short intervals on specific activities at a fixed location, moving objects such as trains, convoys or military movements, as well as changes occurring to the surface of the earth”). He says that the Pentagon’s Space Based Radar (SBR) “in combination with other complementary space and airborne systems” could bring the US “much closer to realizing persistent surveillance.” The military wants to know “something of intelligence value about everything of interest to us, all the time,” he says. [US Congress, 4/7/2004; New York Times, 11/13/2004]
The Washington Post reports that according to Pentagon figures and estimates by intelligence experts, “more than 9,000 people are held by US authorities overseas… the vast majority under military control.” Najeeb Nuaimi, a former justice minister of Qatar, tells the Post: “The number of people who have been detained in the Arab world for the sake of America is much more than in Guantanamo Bay. Really, thousands.” [Washington Post, 5/11/2004] The Independent will similarly report a few days later that “almost 10,000 prisoners [are] held around the world in secretive American-run jails and interrogation centers.” [Independent, 5/15/2004]
Specialist Eric McKinley from the Oregon National Guard is killed when his unarmored Humvee hits an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) outside of Baghdad. Also in the vehicle is fellow guardsman Staff Sergeant Sean Davis, who suffers shrapnel wounds and burns. The Humvee had been fitted with plywood, sandbags, and armor salvaged from old Iraqi tanks. McKinley was supposed to have been discharged from the Oregon National Guard a few months before, but he was kept in Iraq because of the Army’s “stop-loss” policy (see June 2, 2004). [CBS News, 10/31/2004] Davis will later discuss the incident with a reporter (see Late October 2004).
NATO adopts an official policy document mandating “zero-tolerance” for the trafficking in human beings by NATO forces and staff. The document is a result of discussions that began at NATO in the fall of 2003. The document says that NATO will increase cooperation among countries in order to combat the problem of human trafficking. Specific strategies outlined in the document include reviewing current legislation of member countries, encouraging member countries to approve the UN Convention Against Organized Crime, providing support to local authorities in their efforts to combat trafficking in human beings, imposing penalties on contractors who engage in human trafficking, and evaluating the implementation of the efforts of those involved. [NATO, 6/29/2004]
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports to Congress on the challenges facing the development of the Global Information Grid (GIG). GIG, sometimes referred to as the “war net,” is the military’s “Internet in the sky” (see February 25, 2004) that will give soldiers in the field unprecedented access to data, such as images, maps, and other types of actionable intelligence, via a very high-speed satellite link in real-time. In addition to a variety of management and operational challenges, GAO reports that most of the technologies needed to develop GIG are immature and that the Defense Department “is at risk of not delivering required capabilities within budgeted resources.” For example, “two key GIG related programs—JTRS and TSAT—are facing schedule and performance risks,… largely rooted in attempts to move these programs into product development without sufficient knowledge that their technologies can work as intended.” Additionally, reports GAO, the Pentagon’s Future Combat Systems program “is at significant risk, in part because more than 75 percent of its critical technologies were immature at the start and many will not be sufficiently mature until the production decision.” [General Accounting Office, 7/2004 ; New York Times, 11/13/2004]
Towards the end of its tenure, the ten members of the 9/11 Commission secretly meet to discuss whether military and aviation officials deliberately misled them and the public. For over two years following 9/11, NORAD and the FAA had given information in testimony and media appearances later found to be incorrect. Authorities claimed that America’s air defenses reacted quickly on 9/11, with fighters launched in response to the last two hijackings and ready to shoot down Flight 93 if it threatened Washington, DC. Yet audiotapes from the FAA and NORAD obtained by the commission under subpoena showed that the military never had any of the hijacked airliners in its sights and only became aware of Flight 93 after it crashed. John Farmer, a senior counsel to the commission, says the military’s original story was “a whole different order of magnitude than spin. It simply wasn’t true.” The commissioners debate whether to refer the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, but as a compromise they instead refer it to the inspectors general for the Pentagon and the Transportation Department (which includes the FAA). The Pentagon inspector general’s office will issue a secret report to Congress in May 2005, blaming the inaccuracies partly on “inadequate forensic capabilities,” including poor log keeping at the military air traffic control centers (see May 27, 2005). However, Farmer and other commission staff will later point out that the military had already reviewed the NORAD audiotapes before its officials gave their inaccurate testimonies. The 9/11 Commission’s concerns over whether it was deliberately misled will only come to light in news reports in August 2006. Thomas Kean, its former chairman, will say, “We to this day don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us. It was just so far from the truth.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Washington Post, 8/2/2006; New York Times, 8/5/2006] The Transportation Department’s inspector general’s office will issue its report in response to the commission’s referral in September 2006 (see September 1, 2006).
At the request of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, President George Bush issues an Executive Order on the “War on Terrorism” authorizing the military “to find and finish” terrorist targets, including certain al-Qaeda network members, the al-Qaeda senior leadership, and other high-value targets. The order was cleared by the national-security bureaucracy. This gives more responsibility to the Defense Department that was previously given to the CIA. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed pentagon consultant]
President Bush signs the 2004 Defense Authorization Act which contains a provision giving the Pentagon authority for US special operations to give cash, equipment, and weapons to foreign fighters and groups who are willing to ally themselves with the US on certain military operations. Under the new piece of legislation, US Special Operations Command will have as much as $25 million a year to spend on supporting “foreign forces, irregular forces, groups or individuals.” Commenting on Congress’ generous appropriation, retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing tells the Associated Press, “For the kind of stuff they want to do—buy AK-47s, pick-up trucks, stuff like that—this is a lot of money. If they can slip someone $100,000 to buy information or buy support (from foreign individuals or groups), then that would be very useful.” Until now, these types of operations were restricted to the CIA—but only when authorized by a presidential directive. This new provision imposes no such restrictions on the Pentagon’s special operations. Some observers have expressed concern that this will lead to problems. They fear that special operations will end up funding and arming unsavory foreign elements that later turn against the US, as has happened on countless occasions during the last half-century. Others say the measure is part of Rumsfeld’s strategy to make the defense department more autonomous so its activities will not be subject to the oversight of other agencies. [Associated Press, 10/30/2005]
The Defense Department considers plans to create a Pentagon-controlled espionage school, which would duplicate the CIA’s own Field Tradecraft Course at Camp Perry, Va. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and tells them that George Bush’s reelection demonstrates the American public’s approval of the administration’s neoconservative policies. He also makes it clear that the administration will keep US troops in Iraq and that there will be no second-guessing. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
President George Bush issues a presidential directive establishing an interagency group to consider whether it “would best serve the nation” to give the Pentagon complete control over the CIA’s elite paramilitary units. [Associated Press, 11/22/2004; New York Times, 11/23/2004; New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed pentagon consultant] The units carry out the government’s most sensitive covert operations including “training rebel forces; destabilizing governments and organizations through violence; and directly attacking enemy targets and individuals.” [Associated Press, 11/22/2004] CIA paramilitary activities are conducted under presidential directives called “findings.” [New York Times, 11/23/2004] The panel will consist of representatives from the State and Justice Departments, the Pentagon, and the CIA. Critics of the proposal, including veteran members of special operations branches, note that CIA units operate “under a different set of findings and carry different legal protections than the military, in particular for cases in which they are ordered to conduct the most extreme clandestine operations,” the New York Times reports. Other critics say the move, which is based on a recommendation by the 911 Commission, is part of a Pentagon strategy to wrest control of covert operations from the CIA. Thomas W. O’Connell, the assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, denies this, telling the New York Times, “I have heard it said that there is a conspiracy within the Department of Defense to go and rip off the agency’s capabilities, and I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.” [New York Times, 11/23/2004] Apparently in February 2005 the decision is made not to give control of the CIA’s units to the Pentagon (see February 4, 2005).
Intelligence Brief, a newsletter published by former CIA officers Vince Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi, reports that the White House has given the Pentagon permission “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat,” including Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia, and Tunisia. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] The operations’ chain of command will include Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and two of his deputies, Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin. Under these new arrangements, “US military operatives would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign businessmen seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons systems,” New Yorker magazine reports. “In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or even terrorist activities.” Describing how the operations would be conducted, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker reports: “The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls ‘action teams’ in the target countries overseas which can be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. ‘Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?‘… [a] former high-level intelligence official asked me… ‘We founded them and we financed them,’ he said. ‘The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.’ A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon’s commando capabilities, said, ‘We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.’” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
President Bush signs into law the 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act 2005 setting a $338 billion budget for “Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs.” Section 574 of the Act (see August 2, 2002) blocks the distribution of economic aid to countries that are party to the Rome Statute (see July 17, 1998) and have not signed “Article 98” agreements (see August 2002-July 1, 2003) with the US. The provision states: “None of the funds made available in this Act in title II under the heading `Economic Support Fund’ may be used to provide assistance to the government of a country that is a party to the International Criminal Court and has not entered into an agreement with the United States pursuant to Article 98 of the Rome Statute preventing the International Criminal Court from proceeding against United States personnel present in such country.” [Washington Post, 11/26/2002; US Congress, 11/20/2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/3/2004]
The second Chechen war has been ongoing since late September 1999 (see September 29, 1999). But around 2005, the intensity of the fighting lessens as Russia tightens its control over Chechnya. Tony Wood, a journalist who has written extensively about Chechnya, later estimates that in 2005 there are about 60,000 Russian soldiers in Chechnya, but this drops down to 8,000 in 2007. By 2008, independent analysts will say there are no more than 2,000 separatists still fighting. An average of two or three Russian soldiers are killed every week. One important reason for the decline in violence is that many rebel leaders have been killed. Most notably, Shamil Basayev, long-time leader of the Islamist faction of fighters, is killed in 2006 (see July 10, 2006). [Reuters, 8/4/2008] In 2004, Basayev reportedly led a number of attacks, culminating in September in the seizing of a public school in Beslan, a town in the neighboring region of North Ossetia. The Russian government soon attacked those holding the school, and over 300 people were killed, most of them children. The New York Times will later report, [T]he school siege became a turning point on many levels. Public sympathy for Chechen separatism, never broad in Russia and limited in the West, began to dry up.” [New York Times, 7/11/2006]
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone issues a set of new guidelines reinterpreting the Pentagon’s reporting requirements to Congress on its covert operations. The new guidelines were drafted by the Pentagon’s legal counsel at the insistence of Donald Rumsfeld. The Washington Post reports: “Under Title 10, for example, the Defense Department must report to Congress all ‘deployment orders,’ or formal instructions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to position US forces for combat. But [the guidelines]… state that special operations forces may ‘conduct clandestine HUMINT operations… before publication’ of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary. Pentagon lawyers also define the ‘war on terror’ as ongoing, indefinite and global in scope. That analysis effectively discards the limitation of the defense secretary’s war powers to times and places of imminent combat. Under Title 50, all departments of the executive branch are obliged to keep Congress ‘fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities.’ The law exempts ‘traditional… military activities’ and their ‘routine support.’ [The set of new guidelines]… interprets ‘traditional’ and ‘routine’ more expansively than his predecessors.” Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas O’Connell, who oversees special operations policy, explains to the Washington Post, “Many of the restrictions imposed on the Defense Department were imposed by tradition, by legislation, and by interpretations of various leaders and legal advisors.” He then asserts that over time these mechanisms unnecessarily watered down the Pentagon’s authority. “The interpretations take on the force of law and may preclude activities that are legal. In my view, many of the authorities inherent to [the Defense Department]… were winnowed away over the years,” he says. In addition to its efforts to evade congressional oversight, the Pentagon also seeks to diminish its dependency on the CIA. According to written guidelines acquired by the Washington Post, the Defense Department will no longer await consent from the agency’s headquarters for the human intelligence missions it “coordinates” with the CIA, instead it will work directly with agency officers in the field. The Pentagon will consider a mission “coordinated” after it has given the agency 72 hours. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005; Washington Post, 1/25/2005]
A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon tells investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the Bush administration has been consolidating control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations, and transforming the role of the CIA into mere “facilitators” of the administration’s policies. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed source interviewed by Seymour Hersh]
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a former high-level intelligence official on the topic of the military’s increased control over US covert operations, the waning power of the CIA, and the administration’s plans to act militarily against Iran. According to the former official, the Defense Department has almost a free reign in the covert activities it oversees. “The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the official says. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the CIA phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs [the regional American military commanders-in-chief].” On Iran, the former official is clear about the administration’s intent. “This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign,” the former official says. “The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.” He says an invasion is not conditional in any way. “It’s not if we’re going to do anything against Iran. They’re doing it.” The source suggests that the administration will present its intentions to the public much differently than it did in the case of Iraq. “We’ve got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants,” explains the former official. “No loose ends, and that’s why the CIA is out of there.” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
The Washington Post reports that according to “[f]our people with firsthand knowledge” the Strategic Support Branch (see October 2001-April 2002) has “begun operating under Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium ‘non-official cover’ overseas, using false names and nationalities” in missions that “skirt the line between clandestine and covert operations.” Under US law, “clandestine” operations are conducted in secret, while “covert” operations are more sensitive and are denied by the government if revealed. Covert actions require a written “finding” by the president affirming its necessity with prompt notification of senior congressional leaders of both parties. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005]
Senior defense officials say that a preliminary study commissioned by the Pentagon has concluded that authority over the CIA’s paramilitary units should not be transferred to the Pentagon. The study, conducted by the Booz Allen Hamilton law firm in McLean, Virginia, reviewed the 9/11 commission’s recommendation that CIA paramilitary operations be consolidated under Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. Booz Allen Hamilton’s conclusions were based on a series of tabletop war games in which veteran CIA officers and Special Operations soldiers “explored how each agency’s paramilitary units would respond to different contingencies, including threats involving terrorists and weapons of mass destruction and missions to train indigenous fighters or gain control of ungoverned territory,” the Washington Post reports. A senior defense official familiar with the study tells the newspaper, “If you take the very small paramilitary capabilities away from the CIA, in my view, it would limit their ability to conduct foreign intelligence activities which they are required by law to do.” Furthermore, he adds, “we don’t have the legal authorities to be doing what the CIA does, so getting all those assets doesn’t make any sense.” [Washington Post, 2/5/2005]
Venezuelan Navy Commander Armando Laguna announces that the Navy has detected a small fleet of US military vessels off the coast of Curacao in the Caribbean. The Venezuelan Armed Forces are monitoring the vessels, but Laguna says that the US vessels are conducting routine procedures and there is no reason to be alarmed. The presence of the US military has led to rumours about a US invasion, and another coup. William Lara, National Assembly Deputy, and leader of Chavez’s MVR party, says that the US vessels are part of “a plan to intimidate and provoke.” Concern for the vessels is sparked by the fact that the US military did not notify the Venezuelan Navy of their presence as Laguna says they “traditionally have been doing.” [Venezuela Analysis, 3/1/2005]
In a 233-page ruling, District Judge Jack B. Weinstein dismisses a lawsuit against US chemical companies that supplied the military with Agent Orange during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The lawsuit was filed by a group of lawyers on behalf of a million or so Vietnamese, seeking compensation for the effects of the toxic defoliant, which was sprayed on at least 3,181 villages during the Vietnam War (see 1960-1973). Agent Orange has been linked to cancer, diabetes and birth defects among Vietnamese soldiers, civilians and American veterans. Lawyers for Monsanto Co., Dow Chemical Co., Hercules Inc., and more than a dozen other companies argued that they were just following the legal orders of the commander-in-chief. “We’ve said all along that any issues regarding wartime activities should be resolved by the US and Vietnamese governments,” Scot Wheeler, a spokesman for Dow Chemical, claimed. “We believe that defoliants saved lives by protecting allied forces from enemy ambush and did not create adverse health effects.” Coming to the defense of the chemical companies, the Justice Department filed a brief asserting that a ruling against the firms could cripple the president’s powers to direct US armed forces in wartime. In his ruling Judge Weinstein concludes that the plaintiffs did not prove that Agent Orange had caused their illnesses. “The fact that diseases were experienced by some people after spraying does not suffice to provide general or specific causation,” Weinstein writes. “There is no basis for any of the claims of plaintiffs under the domestic law of any nation or state or under any form of international law. The case is dismissed.” [BBC, 3/10/2005; Associated Press, 3/10/2005]
The Washington Post reports that during the summer of 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a top secret Interim Global Strike Alert Order (see July 2004), code-named CONPLAN 8022, “directing the military to assume and maintain readiness to attack hostile countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction, specifically Iran and North Korea.” [Tribune (Chandigarh), 9/8/2004; Washington Post, 5/15/2005]
A report is secretly delivered to Congress by the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General, regarding the inaccuracy of statements made by Defense Department officials on the military’s response to the September 11 hijackings. The 9/11 Commission made a formal request in summer 2004 for the inspector general to investigate the matter, because military officials had given testimony that was later proved to have been false (see Shortly before July 22, 2004). For example, they claimed that NORAD had been tracking Flight 93 on 9/11 and was ready to shoot it down if it threatened Washington (see Shortly Before 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:36 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Yet audiotapes obtained under subpoena showed NORAD was unaware of this flight until after it crashed. In its report, the inspector general’s office states that it found “the inaccuracies, in part, resulted because of inadequate forensic capabilities.” It says that commanders found it difficult to create an accurate timeline of the events of 9/11 due to the lack of a well-coordinated system in logging information about air defense operations. At the time, air defense watch centers had used handwritten logs, and these could be unreliable. Following the attacks, the report claims, commanders failed to press hard enough for an accurate timeline to be produced for the benefit of investigations, like the 9/11 Commission. Yet, as some of the Commission’s staff will later point out, the military had already reviewed the NORAD audiotapes chronicling the events of 9/11 prior to its officials giving their incorrect testimonies. In response to a freedom of information request by the New York Times, the inspector general’s report will be publicly released in August 2006, but the equivalent of several pages will be blacked out on national security grounds. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Washington Post, 8/2/2006; New York Times, 8/5/2006; Reuters, 8/5/2006; US Department of Defense, 9/12/2006 ]
9/11 Staff Member Criticizes Report - In his 2009 book The Ground Truth, John Farmer, who served as senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will criticize the inspector general’s report. Farmer says the report mischaracterizes the 9/11 Commission’s referral by saying the Commission had alleged officials knowingly made false statements, when instead it had simply “documented the facts concerning what occurred on 9/11, the disparity between those facts and what the government had been telling the public with total assurance since 9/11, and the relative ease with which anyone looking could have uncovered those facts.” He faults the inspector general for interpreting the issue narrowly, by focusing on statements made to the 9/11 Commission; ignoring the larger context in which the events of 9/11 were extremely significant and so it should have been extremely important for the military to understand the truth of what happened, in order to correct any problems, as well as to be able to present an accurate account to the White House and to the public; and failing to address the question of whether the false accounts had served anyone’s interests. The inspector general’s report affirms the claims of top NORAD commanders that, in Farmer’s words, they had been “simply too busy fixing the system and fighting the war on terror to concern themselves with piecing together the facts of 9/11.” Farmer will ask, “[H]ow… could the Department of Defense identify and correct operational weaknesses without knowing precisely what had occurred that morning?” He will question the report’s determination that the Defense Department lacked the forensic capabilities for maintaining logs, video and audio recordings, and storing radar information, and had not coordinated with the FAA on reconstructing the events of 9/11, as the Commission had documented evidence that the two agencies had indeed coordinated while developing their reconstructions of events. Farmer will write that “it is impossible to conclude honestly, from the two inspector general reports, that the official version of the events of 9/11 was the result of mere administrative incompetence; too many questions remain unanswered.” He will add, “History should record that whether through unprecedented administrative incompetence or orchestrated mendacity, the American people were misled about the nation’s response to the 9/11 attacks.” [Farmer, 2009, pp. 283-289]
The Chicago Tribune publishes a multi-part series titled, “Pipeline to Peril,” summarizing its investigation of the human trafficking network that is supplying US military bases and private contractors in Iraq with cheap labor. The articles detail how Halliburton subsidiaries such as KBR are making use of over 200 illicit international human trafficking brokers for supplying cheap labor for the Iraq war effort, mainly from impoverished Asians. The brokers are often deceitful in their recruiting practices. For instance, they are reported to have promised jobs in luxury hotels in Jordan for the potential workers. The workers are required to pay hefty broker fees up front, and once trapped at halfway points in Jordan by those initial fees, they are informed that that they will be working in Iraq and their passports are confiscated. The article gives an example of twelve Nepalese workers who were kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents at gunpoint and later killed while traveling in an unprotected caravan across Iraq. [Chicago Tribune, 10/9/2005]
The US lifts an arms embargo on Indonesia. The US imposed a limited arms ban in 1991 after the Indonesian military massacred civilians in East Timor. The arms ban was strengthened in 1999 after the Indonesian military committed more massacres as East Timor voted for independence. The Bush administration had long desired closer ties with the Indonesian military, but was held back by Congress, which imposed conditions before military relations could be reestablished. In particular, the Indonesian military was required to account for some atrocities, especially the alleged killing of several US teachers by Indonesian soldiers in the province of West Papua in 2002 (see August 31, 2002). Indonesia had yet to fulfill these conditions, but earlier in the month Congress inserted a loophole in the law, allowing the restrictions to be waived by the Bush administration if it was found necessary for national security reasons. The Bush administration uses the loophole during Thanksgiving vacation while Congress is out of session, despite the lack of any new national security reason to do so. The lifting of restrictions still falls short of full military relations the US has with most other countries in the region. The US also renewed training and educational exchanges with the Indonesian military earlier in the year. [International Herald Tribune, 11/24/2005] The killing of US teachers in Papua remains unresolved. In January 2006, the New York Times will report that Indonesian police have concluded that the Indonesian military committed the killings but are unwilling to officially report this because of diplomatic sensitivities between the US and Indonesia. [New York Times, 1/27/2006]
Blackwater Vice Chairman Cofer Black suggests that Blackwater troops be deployed to trouble spots around the world where there are humanitarian crises, such as the massacres in the Darfur region of Sudan. “Blackwater spends a lot of time thinking, ‘How can we contribute to the common good?’” Black tells the Special Operations Forces Exhibition in Jordan. He argues that big military operations tend to get mired in NATO’s bureaucracy and that Blackwater could easily send “a brigade-sized peacekeeping unit,” typically about 5,000 troops, “for a fraction of the cost of NATO operations.” [Boston Globe, 11/2/2007]
A frame from the poor-quality security video footage released by the US Department of Defense, showing the attack on the Pentagon. [Source: US Department of Defense]For the first time, the US Department of Defense officially releases video footage of the Pentagon attack. Two security cameras outside the building recorded the footage the morning of 9/11. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 5/17/2006; Washington Post, 5/17/2006] The digital cameras positioned north of the crash site had recently been installed on 9/11, and were still undergoing testing at that time. They were part of a security system that enabled a guard in a booth to identify drivers heading toward the parking lot for the Pentagon Mall Entrance. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] The Pentagon releases the two videos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and related lawsuit by the public interest group Judicial Watch. It previously refused to do so because, it said, the tapes were “part of an ongoing investigation involving Zacarias Moussaoui.” [Judicial Watch, 5/16/2006] Both tapes were played as evidence during Moussaoui’s recent death penalty trial. [Washington Post, 5/17/2006] However, the footage is of poor quality and several still images from one of the tapes have in fact already been released unofficially (see March 7, 2002). [Associated Press, 5/17/2006] Furthermore, Judicial Watch had sought all recordings of the Pentagon attack, including those taken by cameras at the nearby Sheraton Hotel and Citgo gas station, and Virginia Department of Transportation traffic cameras (see (After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Judicial Watch, 5/16/2006] According to CNN’s Jamie McIntyre: “there are at least 80 other tapes that the government is holding onto. We’re told that they don’t really show much, but sources have told us that at least one of the tapes from a security camera at a nearby hotel may have captured the plane in the air.” [CNN, 5/20/2006] So far, none of these tapes have been made public, though the FBI will release the footage from the Citgo gas station and video taken from the Doubletree Hotel in Arlington later this year (see September 13, 2006-Early December 2006). Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton says he hopes the newly released Pentagon security camera footage “will put to rest the conspiracy theories involving American Airlines Flight 77.” For example, some suggest a missile hit the Pentagon on 9/11. [BBC, 5/16/2006] However, it appears to have the opposite effect, causing Internet traffic to 9/11 conspiracy sites to soar. James Fetzer, co-chair of the group Scholars for 9/11 Truth, says of the videos: “There is no new information here whatsoever… You can’t tell what in the world is hitting the Pentagon.” [CanWest News Service, 5/18/2006]
Map showing concentrations of US-allied troops after the NATO redeployment. [Source: BBC]Beginning in July 2006, NATO troops begin taking control of the leadership of military operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. By October 2006, NATO assumes responsibility for security across all of Afghanistan, taking command from a US-led coalition force. Previously, NATO only controlled security around the capital of Kabul (see August 2003). [BBC, 5/15/2007] There are about 37,000 NATO troops from 37 countries. Most of the fighting is done by troops from the US (17,000), Britain (7,000), Canada (2,500), and the Netherlands (2,000). Troops deployed to safer areas include those from Germany (3,000), Italy (2,000), Turkey, Poland, and France (1,000 each). In addition, the US-led coalition under the banner of “Operation Enduring Freedom” continues a counterterrorism mission involving an additional 8,000 soldiers, mainly Special Forces. [BBC, 6/23/2007; BBC, 7/10/2007]
Vanity Fair magazine publishes for the first time transcripts of audiotapes from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which captured the activities at its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) during the course of the 9/11 attacks. NEADS had four multi-channel tape recorders in a corner of its operations floor, recording every radio channel along with time stamps. Nearly 30 hours of audio, covering six-and-a-half hours of real time, have been released by the Pentagon to journalist Michael Bronner, who’d been a producer on the recent movie United 93. Previously, the tapes had been provided under subpoena to the 9/11 Commission, but only a few short clips were played during its public hearings. Bronner, who describes the recordings in detail in his Vanity Fair article, calls them “the authentic military history of 9/11.” They reveal “in stark detail” that parts of the testimony given by NORAD officials to the 9/11 Commission “were misleading, and others simply false.” For example, they show that at 9:16 a.m. on 9/11, when NORAD originally claimed it had begun tracking Flight 93, “the plane had not yet been hijacked. In fact, NEADS wouldn’t get word about United 93 for another 51 minutes.” The New York Times says, “The tapes demonstrate that for most of the morning of Sept. 11, the airspace over New York and Washington was essentially undefended, and that jet fighters scrambled to intercept the hijacked planes were involved in a fruitless chase for planes that had already crashed.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; New York Times, 8/3/2006]
A Central Intelligence Agency assessment conducted before Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Washington in late September 2006 warns that Karzai’s government is increasingly weak and unpopular, and is failing to exert authority and security beyond Kabul. [New York Times, 11/5/2006]
Ronald Neumann, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, discusses the worsening security situation in Afghanistan in separate interviews. Neumann is quoted in the New York Times as saying that the United States faces “stark choices” in Afghanistan, adding to the recent chorus of dire warnings being expressed by US officials in Washington on the deteriorating security situation there and the failure of the government in Kabul to project authority. Neumann says that plans drafted in 2002 to train the Afghan army and police force needed to be revamped, and that the country’s security forces need to be expanded, better supplied, and better equipped. He says that the overall effort would take “multiple years” and “multiple billions,” warning that failure to do so would lead to fragmentation of the country. In an interview with Der Speigel, Neumann states that efforts to extend security beyond Kabul and push back the insurgency will “easily” take 10 years. When asked about the next steps to be taken, he replies: “We have to put more guns in the field. Afghans have to believe they can survive in their home at night.” [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/26/2006; New York Times, 11/5/2006]
The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael V. Hayden, appearing before a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee to address the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, states that the Afghan government’s outreach and provision of security to the country is inadequate. Hayden stresses that the key to making progress in Afghanistan is bolstering security, stating, “The capacity of the government needs to be strengthened to deliver basic services to the population—especially security.” He notes that there are not enough properly trained, equipped, or well-paid security forces in Afghanistan. “Even though the Afghan National Army continues to become larger, stronger, and more experienced, progress has been slow and little progress has been made in constructing an effective Afghan National Police force,” reads his prepared statement. [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/15/2006 ]
Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani. [Source: Reuters]Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, a high ranking Taliban leader, is reportedly killed in Afghanistan by a US air strike. Osmani is easily the highest-ranking Taliban leader to have killed or captured since 9/11. He was in charge of Taliban operations in six provinces in Afghanistan. A Taliban official confirms his death a few days later. According to news reports, British and US forces tracked him by his satellite phone signal and bombed his vehicle once he was in an unpopulated area. [London Times, 12/24/2006; CBC News, 12/27/2006] Osmani was captured in 2002 but then apparently accidentally released a short time later (see Late July 2002).
Mullah Dadullah Akhund. [Source: Reuters]Mullah Dadullah Akhund, the Taliban’s top military commander, is killed in Afghanistan. The Telegraph claims that, “Since the Taliban’s ousting in late 2001, Dadullah emerged as probably the militant group’s most prominent and feared commander.” He often appeared in videos and media interviews. [Daily Telegraph, 5/14/2007] He is only the second high-ranking Taliban leader captured or killed since 9/11 (see December 19, 2006). ABC News claims that 36 hours before he was killed, Dadullah said in a videotaped interview that he was training US and British citizens to carry out suicide missions in their home countries. US officials claim to have tracked him from this interview in Quetta, Pakistan, back to a Taliban hiding base in Afghanistan, then carried out a helicopter assault against his base. [ABC News, 5/14/2007] The Taliban immediately announce that his younger brother, Mullah Bakht Mohammed, will be his replacement as the chief military strategist (see June 5, 2007). [CBC News, 5/14/2007]
Blackwater’s Bagdad manager gets the blame for the death of four Blackwater employees in Fallujah in 2004 (see March 31, 2004). Memos show that Blackwater sent two teams out, named Bravo 2 and November 1. Both were sent out with four men instead of the usual six. Bravo 2 protested that they weren’t ready for the mission, which was guarding empty flatbed trucks and picking up a food service company executive. They had no maps and had no time to prepare their weapons, but both teams were commanded to go anyway. Bravo 2 refused to follow their directions to drive through Fallujah, and instead drove around it and returned safely to Baghdad that evening. The four members of November 1 followed orders, went into Fallujah, and were massacred. Bravo 2 team memos blame Blackwater’s Baghdad site manager Tom Powell for giving these orders. For instance, team member Daniel Browne will later write in a memo that “we all want to kill him.” Memos about the incident will surface in mid-July 2007 after Congress opens an inquiry into Blackwater’s activities in Iraq. Like other private security firms, Blackwater has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts, with little or no oversight from Congress until 2007. Had a military officer sent four lightly armed soldiers into Fallujah and had them killed in such a brutal and public manner, that officer likely would have faced public scrutiny and a military inquiry. But Blackwater has never conducted such a public probe, and for years will refuse to provide documents such as the Bravo 2 memos to Congress. The families of the four members of November 1 have sued Blackwater in an effort to find out what happened. [The News Observer, 7/8/2007]
An explosion at the Red Mosque during the government raid. [Source: Inter Services Public Relations]Prior to the Pakistani Army’s raid on the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) from July 3-11, 2007, the Pakistani government had generally maintained an uneasy alliance with Pakistani Islamist militants, although these militants sometimes launched violent attacks on the government. But in the immediate aftermath of the Red Mosque raid (see July 3-11, 2007), Pakistani militants and government forces openly war with each other. In 2005 and 2006, the government made peace deals with militants in the tribal regions of South Waziristan and North Waziristan (see February 7, 2005 and September 5, 2006). But these deals immediately collapse. On July 11, the last day of the mosque raid, al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri apparently condemns the raid and calls for Pakistanis to overthrow their government (see July 11, 2007). On July 12, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf vows in a nationally televised address that he will crush extremists throughout Pakistan. He says, “Terrorism and extremism has not ended in Pakistan. But it is our resolve that we will eliminate extremism and terrorism wherever it exists. Extremism and terrorism will be defeated in every corner of the country.” He also says that over the next few months, security forces will retake the tribal regions near the Afghanistan border now controlled by a mix of Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other militants. On the same day, Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi, who ran the Red Mosque along with his brother but was arrested during the raid, is allowed to speak at the funeral of his brother. He says, “God willing, Pakistan will have an Islamic revolution soon. The blood of martyrs will bear fruit.” Also on July 12, the first retaliatory suicide bombings take place. [Associated Press, 7/12/2007; London Times, 7/16/2007] Over the next three weeks, 167 people, including 120 soldiers and police, are killed in 21 militant attacks, many of them suicide bombings. Most of these take place in the North-West Frontier Province and the tribal regions, both of which have a strong militant presence. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “The government’s inept handling of the [Red Mosque] crisis was a turning point for al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, and other extremist groups, who now joined together and vowed to topple the government and create an Islamic state.” Hundreds of potential new suicide bombers vowed revenge and began training in the tribal regions. Al-Qaeda’s focus “shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where it saw a demoralized army, a terrified citizenry, and an opportunity to destabilize the state. For the first time, senior Pakistani officials told me, the army’s corps commanders accepted that the situation had radically changed and the state was under threat from Islamic extremism. In fact, the Pakistan army was now fighting a civil war.” [Rashid, 2008]
In the wake of the Pakistani government’s attack on the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in early July 2007 (see July 3-11, 2007), peace deals between the government and militant groups in Pakistan completely break down (see July 11-Late July, 2007). Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf fires Ali Jan Orakzai, a regional military commander sympathetic to the Taliban who had been promoted to governor of the North-West Frontier Province. Then, on July 19, 2007, the Pakistani army formally launches an offensive in Pakistan’s tribal region. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are believed to have their central leaderships there. There is no quick resolution, and fighting rages for months. Militants divert the army’s attention by launching suicide bombings and other attacks in other parts of the country. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 385]
Baitullah Mahsud. [Source: Associated Press]On August 30, 2007, Pakistani militants led by Baitullah Mahsud surround a convoy of more than 270 soldiers belonging to Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. The militants are vastly outnumbered, but get the soldiers to surrender without firing a shot. In the following days, dozens more soldiers surrender or even desert to Mahsud. This is a humiliating debacle for the Pakistani army and a reflection of low morale. The Washington Post comments: “The troops’ surrender has called into question the army’s commitment to fighting an unpopular war that requires Pakistanis to kill their countrymen. It has also exposed the army to ridicule.” [Washington Post, 10/3/2007] Mahsud demands the release of 30 jailed militants and the end of Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan, the tribal region where Mahsud is the de facto ruler. After weeks of slow negotiations, he orders the beheading of three of his hostages. On November 3, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declares a state of emergency throughout Pakistan (see November 3-December 15, 2007). Musharraf claims that his emergency powers will give him a stronger hand to fight militants like Mahsud, but the next day he releases 28 jailed militants in return for the release of the nearly 300 soldiers still held. Eight of the released militants are would-be suicide bombers. For instance, one of them had just been sentenced to 24 years in prison after being caught carrying two suicide belts. The incident propels Mahsud into becoming the figurehead of Pakistan’s militant movement, and from this time on many violent incidents are blamed on him, although his forces are probably not linked to them all. Mahsud had strong ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He fought with the Taliban in the 1990s and helped al-Qaeda leaders escape the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001. [Washington Post, 10/3/2007; Rashid, 2008, pp. 385-388; Newsweek, 1/7/2008]
Randy Papadopoulos, Nancy Berlage, and Diane Putney, three of the authors of Pentagon 9/11. [Source: Samantha L. Quigley / US Department of Defense]Defense Department historians release a book chronicling the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. The 250-page book includes the accounts of survivors, rescuers, and emergency responders, and includes previously unpublished photos of the wreckage, aircraft parts, and rescue efforts. [Fayetteville Observer, 9/13/2007; Washington Post, 9/27/2007] Titled Pentagon 9/11, it is published by the Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in collaboration with the Naval Historical Center, and with the assistance of the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps historical offices. [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2007] More than 1,300 interviews were collected for it (see October 2001-September 11, 2002), of which the authors used more than 300 in putting together their account. [Washington Post, 9/27/2007] Randy Papadopoulos, a historian with the Naval Historical Center who co-authored Pentagon 9/11, calls it “the first scholarly study of what happened at the Pentagon on 11 September 2001.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2007] Reportedly, one reason for writing the book was to counter skepticism and alternative theories that suggest the US government was behind the attack, and a missile rather than a hijacked aircraft hit the Pentagon (see Early March 2002). [Washington Post, 9/27/2007] Diane Putney, one of the book’s authors says, “I have no doubt it was American Airlines Flight 77 [that hit the building].” Her conclusion is reportedly based on a piece of the plane that was discovered, which bore the American Airlines logo. [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2007]
An eight year old boy killed by a drone strike in Makeen, South Waziristan. He is covered in flowers for his funeral. [Source: Noor Behram / Associated Press]Noor Behram, a local photographer, begins to document the effects of the US campaign of drone attacks in North and South Warizistan in 2008. His work involves arriving at the site of an attack, helping any search for survivors, and then documenting what has happened by photographing bodies or their remains. According to Behram, who has reached the sites of 60 attacks, the amount of civilian casualties is high. “For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant,” he will say in a 2011 interview with The Guardian. “I don’t go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed.” This number is in conflict with claims made by US and Pakistani authorities. Behram adds that the strikes are radicalizing the locals, saying: “There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can’t find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims. The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they’re doing is far greater.” An exhibition of Behram’s work will be put on in London in mid-2011. [Guardian, 7/11/2011]
An attack by a CIA-controlled drone kills an unidentified person in the town of Makeen in South Warizistan, Pakistan. Makeen is home to Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mahsud. [New Yorker, 10/26/2009]
A US drone strike kills al-Qaeda leader Midhat Mursi (a.k.a. Abu Khabab al-Masri). He is one of six people killed in the strike on a compound in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal region. Mursi, an Egyptian, was considered a poisons and explosives expert, and was accused of training the suicide bombers in the 2000 USS Cole bombing. He also is believed to have run the Darunta training camp in eastern Afghanistan until it was abandoned during the US invasion in late 2001. The US had put a $5 million bounty on him. A statement by al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid posted on the Internet about a week later will confirm his death. [Associated Press, 8/3/2008]
The US dramatically increases the number of CIA drone attacks on Islamist militant targets in Pakistan, and no longer relies on permission from the Pakistani government before striking. Bush administration officials had been increasingly concerned about al-Qaeda’s resurgence in Pakistan’s tribal region. A 2006 peace deal between Islamist militants and the Pakistani government gave al-Qaeda and other militant groups a chance to recover from earlier pressures (see September 5, 2006). However, the Bush administration had close ties with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who did not want more aggressive US action. But Musharraf resigns on August 18, 2008 (see August 18, 2008), and within days, President Bush signs a secret new policy.
More Drone Strikes - From August 31, 2008, until late March 2009, the CIA carries out at least 38 drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region. By contrast there were only 10 known drone strikes in 2006 and 2007 combined. There were three strikes in 2006, seven strikes in 2007, and 36 in 2008 (all but seven of those took place after Musharraf resigned in August). Drone capabilities and intelligence collection has improved, but the change mainly has to do with politics. A former CIA official who oversaw Predator drone operations in Pakistan will later say: “We had the data all along. Finally we took off the gloves.”
Permission No Longer Needed - Additionally, the US no longer requires the Pakistani government’s permission before ordering a drone strike. US officials had suspected that many of their targets were tipped off by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Now this is no longer a concern. Getting permission from Pakistan could take a day or more. Sometimes this caused the CIA to lose track of its target (see for instance 2006). [Los Angeles Times, 3/22/2009]
From September to December 2008, a team of US Special Forces trainers is based in Abbottabad, Pakistan, ironically less than one mile from the compound Osama bin Laden is hiding in at the time. The trainers are in Abbottabad as part of an unpublicized mission to train Pakistani Frontier Corps forces. The training takes place in Kakul Military Academy, Pakistan’s equivalent of the US’s famous West Point military academy. The training is later moved to Warsak, Pakistan. [Radio Free Europe, 5/6/2011; Washington Post, 5/11/2011]
Jalaluddin Haqqani. [Source: New York Times]A US drone attack targets the Haqqani network in the tribal region of Pakistan. Pakistani officials will say that five missiles kill 23 people and wound 18 more. The missiles hit a compound in North Waziristan run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani. It appears they are targeted, since family members arrived at the compound just a half hour before. However, neither Haqqani network leader is killed. Officials say one of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s two wives, his sister, sister-in-law, and eight of his grandchildren are killed. The Haqqani network is considered a semi-autonomous part of the Taliban. The US believes the Haqqani network has been involved in recent attacks in Afghanistan, including the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul (see July 7, 2008) and a failed assassination attempt against Afghan President Hamid Karzai (see April 27, 2008). The Haqqani network is widely believed to be closely linked to the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. [New York Times, 9/10/2008]
Rashid Rauf, a leading British-Pakistani militant involved with a liquid bomb plot to destroy transatlantic airliners (see August 10, 2006), is reported to have been killed in Pakistan. Rauf is allegedly killed in a US airstrike by a pilotless drone in North Warizistan, a region associated with Pakistani militants. He is allegedly one of five people killed, along with a wanted Egyptian militant named Abu Zubair al-Masri. [BBC, 11/22/2009] However, the reports of his death are unconfirmed, and doubts will persist. [BBC, 11/22/2009; BBC, 11/26/2009] Rauf’s family disbelieve the claim. Speaking through Rauf’s lawyer Hashmat Malik, the family of Rauf’s wife in Pakistan says that the body had not been handed over to them, and the authorities are not responding to their questions. “It’s all a concocted story,” says Malik. “We’re sure that it is not Rashid Rauf.” He adds, “There was no reason for him to be in North Waziristan, he has no link with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.” Malik also comments that if Rauf is dead, then he did not die in this strike, but was murdered by Pakistan’s security services after he escaped from custody in mysterious circumstances the previous year (see December 14, 2007). [Guardian, 11/25/2008]
A CIA-controlled Predator drone operating in Pakistan mistakenly attacks the residence of a pro-government tribal leader six miles outside the town of Wana, South Waziristan. Its missiles kill the tribal leader’s entire family, including three children, one of whom is only five. [New Yorker, 10/26/2009]
More than 30 people are killed in a CIA drone attack in Pakistan. According to reporter Jane Mayer, 25 of them are “apparently members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, though none [are] identified as major leaders.” [New Yorker, 10/26/2009]
One of the intellectual godfathers of President Barack Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy and an influential authority on counterinsurgency strategy warns that the White House is dangerously shortchanging efforts to create a viable Afghan Army. Retired Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security think tank, says he is worried that the Obama administration’s commitment to building local forces to secure the country wasn’t given enough emphasis in the president’s AFPAK strategy announcement speech a few days earlier (see March 27, 2009). Speaking at a seminar sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative think tank in Washington, Nagl asserts, “The long-term answer has to be an expanded Afghan National Army, and this is the policy I hoped to hear [at the speech] but did not.” He adds that the Afghan National Army, as the country’s most respected institution, must be expanded to 250,000 troops, which closely resembles a reported Pentagon plan to expand the Afghan National Army to 260,000 troops (see March 18, 2009). Nagl refers to Obama’s troop increase and trainer push as a “down payment” on what’s needed to prevent Taliban re-infiltration of the population and keep extremists from taking over Afghanistan. [Military.com, 4/3/2009]
A strike by a CIA-controlled Predator drone near the town of Makeen in South Warizistan, Pakistan, kills between two and six people. According to reporter Jane Mayer, the men are “unidentified militants.” Makeen is home to Baitullah Mahsud, a key Pakistan Taliban leader. [New Yorker, 10/26/2009] CIA drones will also attack the funeral for these men later in the day, killing dozens (see June 23, 2009).
CIA-controlled drones attack a funeral in Makeen, a town in South Warizistan, Pakistan, that is home to Tehrik-i-Taliban (Pakistani Taliban) leader Baitullah Mahsud. Deaths number in the dozens, possibly as many as 86, and an account in the Pakistani News says they include 10 children and four tribal elders. The funeral is for two locals killed by CIA drones earlier in the day (see June 23, 2009), and is attacked because of intelligence Mahsud would be present. One eyewitness, who loses his right leg during the bombing, tells Agence France-Presse that the mourners suspected what was coming, saying, “After the prayers ended, people were asking each other to leave the area, as drones were hovering.” Before the mourners could clear out, the eyewitness says, two drones start firing into the crowd. “It created havoc,” he says. “There was smoke and dust everywhere. Injured people were crying and asking for help.” Then a third missile hits. Sections of Pakistani society express their unhappiness with the attack. For example, an editorial in The News denounces the strike as sinking to the level of the terrorists, and the Urdu newspaper Jang declares that US President Barack Obama is “shutting his ears to the screams of thousands of women whom your drones have turned into dust.” Many in Pakistan are also upset that the Pakistani government gave approval for the US to strike a funeral. [New Yorker, 10/26/2009]
National Public Radio reports that Saad bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden, has probably been assassinated by the US in Pakistan. The assassination was performed by a Predator drone, using Hellfire missiles. Saad was not the intended target of the missiles and was not a missile target at all, but was just “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” according to a counterterrorism official. [National Public Radio, 7/22/2009] US drones are operated by the CIA in Pakistan. [New Yorker, 10/26/2009]
Uncertainty about Death and Role - The exact date of Saad’s death is unclear, and it is reported only as “sometime this year.” The death is also not completely certain, as the US does not obtain a body to conduct tests on. However, a senior US counterterrorism official will say the US is “80 to 85 percent” certain that Saad is dead. Saad had escaped from house arrest in Iran around December 2008 or January 2009 (see (Between December 2008 and January 2009)). [National Public Radio, 7/22/2009] The relatives with whom he was imprisoned in Iran will indicate he had no involvement with terrorism during the seven years he was held in Iran. [Times (London), 12/23/2009] However, the counterterrorism official says Saad was active in al-Qaeda, but was not a major player. “We make a big deal out of him because of his last name,” he adds. [National Public Radio, 7/22/2009]
Missed Intelligence Opportunity - Others point out that Saad might have been much more valuable if he’d been captured alive, if only because of what he knew about his father. Hillary Mann Leverett, a former adviser to the National Security Council, claims that the US had several opportunities to interrogate Saad during the years he was in Iran (see Spring 2002 and Mid-May 2003). She says, “The Iranians offered to work out an international framework for transferring terror suspects, but the Bush administration refused.” She adds: “We absolutely did not get the most we could. Saad bin Laden would have been very, very valuable in terms of what he knew. He probably would have been a gold mine.” [New Yorker, 10/26/2009]
A CIA-controlled Predator drone kills Tehrik-i-Taliban (Pakistani Taliban) leader Baitullah Mahsud in the hamlet of Zanghara, South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal region. Prior to the attack, officials at CIA headquarters watched a live video feed from the drone showing Mahsud reclining on the rooftop of his father-in-law’s house with his wife and his uncle, a medic; at one point, the images showed that Mahsud, who suffers from diabetes and a kidney ailment, was receiving an intravenous drip. After the attack, all that remains of him is a detached torso. Eleven others die: his wife, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, a lieutenant, and seven bodyguards. According to a CNN report, the strike was authorized by President Obama. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik will later see the footage and comment: “It was a perfect picture. We used to see James Bond movies where he talked into his shoe or his watch. We thought it was a fairy tale. But this was fact!” According to reporter Jane Mayer: “It appears to have taken 16 missile strikes, and 14 months, before the CIA succeeded in killing [Mahsud]. During this hunt, between 207 and 321 additional people were killed, depending on which news accounts you rely upon.” [New Yorker, 10/26/2009]
A US drone strike kills Tahir Yuldashev, the top leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an al-Qaeda-linked militant group based in nearby Uzbekistan. The strike apparently hits the town of Kanigoram, South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal region. Yuldashev may initially survive the strike but slowly dies of his injuries afterwards. Pakistani officials confirm his death several weeks later. The IMU confirms his death nearly a year later, and names his successor, Usmon Odil. [News (Islamabad), 9/30/2009; BBC, 10/9/2009; Daily Times (Lahore), 8/19/2010] In the late 1990s, most IMU operatives fled Uzbekistan when the government cracked down on the group. Under Yuldashev’s leadership, they resettled in Afghanistan and developed close ties to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Yuldashev appears to have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see Late July 2001). After the US conquest of Afghanistan in late 2001, Yuldashev and most of the IMU appear to have resettled in Pakistan’s tribal region, and they became a powerful force there. For instance, a Pakistani army offensive in 2004 targeted Yuldashev (see March 18- April 24, 2004). [BBC, 10/2/2009; BBC, 10/9/2009]
Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer ignores orders to remain in place and leads five forays into a ravine outside the village of Ganjigal, Afghanistan, after members of his column are ambushed by Taliban while attempting a meeting with the village elders. Meyer and Staff Sergeant Juan J. Rodriguez-Chavez, who are off to a flank and not inside the ambush, rush in and rescue several trapped American and Afghan soldiers after Captain Will Swenson of the US Army calls for artillery support and the request is denied. Meyer, Rodriguez-Chavez, Swenson, and others also retrieve the remains of three fallen Marines and one Navy corpsman. [New York Times, 9/15/2011] Meyer will later be given the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions (see September 15, 2011) [New York Times, 9/15/2011] and Rodriguez-Chavez will receive the Navy Cross. [CNN, 6/10/2011]
Limits and Dangers of Counterinsurgency Theory - The event will later be examined and used as an example of the problems that can occur with the counterinsurgency theory that has been pressed upon the troops by the Pentagon. The villagers’ betrayal to the Taliban, ambiguous lines of command, and refusal of help from nearby units will all been documented as the kinds of problems that enlisted soldiers typically face in Afghanistan. [New York Times, 9/15/2011]
A man on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit is subdued by passengers after attempting to detonate a makeshift bomb hidden in his undergarments. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old man from Nigeria, tries to ignite a mixture of plastic and liquid explosives sewn into his underwear as the Airbus 330 makes its final descent into Detroit. Abdulmutallab is set afire and suffers serious burns along with two other passengers, is detained by passengers and crew, and is arrested after landing. The suspect previously flew on a KLM flight from Lagos to Amsterdam. MI5 and US intelligence officials begin an investigation into his social ties and background. Abdulmutallab is the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker and studied engineering at University College London for three years until June 2008. His father claims to have informed Nigerian and American officials of his son’s increasingly unusual behavior and activities. US officials allegedly placed the 23-year-old on a list of suspected extremists, yet he possesses a US visa valid from June 2008 to June 2010, and appears on no lists prohibiting air travel to the US. Following the event, the US government will request that all passengers traveling from Britain to the US be subjected to additional personal and baggage searches. Security measures at US airports will also be heightened. [The Telegraph, 12/26/2009; New York Times, 12/26/2009]
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