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The White House releases four key Justice Department memos documenting the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods—torture—against suspected terrorists. The memos were released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The documents show that two high-level detainees were subjected to waterboarding at least 266 times between them. Al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002, contradicting earlier CIA reports that he “broke” after a single waterboarding session (see December 10, 2007). Confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was waterboarded at least 183 times in March 2003. The so-called “insect” technique—exposure to insects within an enclosed box—was approved for use on Zubaida, but apparently never used. Numerous prisoners were subjected to “walling” and “sleep deprivation,” with at least one detainee subjected to the technique for 180 hours (over seven days). Three of the memos were written by then-Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) chief Steven Bradbury in May 2005 (see May 10, 2005, May 10, 2005, and May 30, 2005), and the fourth by Bradbury’s predecessor, Jay Bybee, in August 2002 (see August 1, 2002). [American Civil Liberties Union, 4/16/2009; New York Times, 4/19/2009; BBC, 4/23/2009] Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says: “These legal memoranda demonstrate in alarming detail exactly what the Bush administration authorized for ‘high value detainees’ in US custody. The techniques are chilling. This was not an ‘abstract legal theory,’ as some former Bush administration officials have characterized it. These were specific techniques authorized to be used on real people.” [CNN, 4/17/2009] House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) agrees, saying: “This release, as well as the decision to ban the use of such techniques in the future, will strengthen both our national security and our commitment to the rule of law and help restore our country’s standing in the international community. The legal analysis and some of the techniques in these memos are truly shocking and mark a disturbing chapter in our nation’s history.” [Think Progress, 4/16/2009] Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), whose committee is conducting an investigation of abusive interrogation methods used during the Bush administration, says Bush officials “inaccurately interpreted” the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture. “I find it difficult to understand how the opinions found these interrogation techniques to be legal,” she says. “For example, waterboarding and slamming detainees head-first into walls, as described in the OLC opinions, clearly fall outside what is legally permissible.” [United Press International, 4/16/2009]
White House Condemns Methods, Opposes Investigations - Attorney General Eric Holder says of the memos: “The president has halted the use of the interrogation techniques described in these opinions, and this administration has made clear from day one that it will not condone torture. We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.” Holder adds that, according to a Justice Department statement, “intelligence community officials who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct.” Holder states, “It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.” [US Department of Justice, 4/16/2009] President Obama condemns what he calls a “dark and painful chapter in our history,” and promises that such torture techniques will never be used again. However, he restates his opposition to a lengthy investigation into the program, saying that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” In contrast, Leahy says that the memos illustrate the need for an independent investigation. Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, points out that the memos were written at a time when the CIA was working to prevent a repeat of the 9/11 attacks. “Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing,” he says. “But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos.” [New York Times, 4/19/2009] The ACLU demands criminal prosecution of Bush officials for their torture policies (see April 16, 2009). [American Civil Liberties Union, 4/16/2009]
Techniques Include Waterboarding, Insect Exposure, 'Walling' - The memos show that several techniques were approved for use, including waterboarding, exposure to insects within a “confinement box,” being slammed into a wall, sleep deprivation, stress positions, forced nudity, and others. [American Civil Liberties Union, 4/16/2009; New York Times, 4/19/2009; BBC, 4/23/2009]
Waterboarded Well beyond Allowed Procedures - Because the information about the waterboarding of Zubaida and Mohammed comes from the classified and heavily redacted CIA’s inspector general report, which has not yet been released to the public, the information is at least in part based on the videotapes of Zubaida’s interrogation sessions that were later destroyed by CIA officials (see March 6, 2009). The CIA memo explained that detainees could be waterboarded between 12 and 18 times in a single day, but only on five days during a single month—which mathematically only adds up to 90 times in a month, and thus does not explain how Mohammed could have been waterboarded 183 times in a month if these procedures were being followed. The memos also reveal that in practice, the waterboarding went far beyond the methodologies authorized by the Justice Department and used in SERE training (see December 2001 and July 2002).
Information Unearthed by Blogger - Initial media reports fail to divulge the extraordinary number of times Zubaida and Mohammed were waterboarded. It falls to a blogger, Marcy Wheeler, to unearth the information from the CIA memo and reveal it to the public (see April 18, 2009). [Marcy Wheeler, 4/18/2009]
Entity Tags: Marcy Wheeler, Central Intelligence Agency, Dennis C. Blair, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Dianne Feinstein, Jay S. Bybee, Geneva Conventions, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), John Conyers, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), US Department of Justice, American Civil Liberties Union, Steven Bradbury, Patrick J. Leahy, Abu Zubaida, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
ProPublica reporter Dafna Linzer discovers that one of the CIA torture memos released on this day by the Obama administration (see April 16, 2009) inadvertently identifies one of the so-called CIA “ghost detainees” being held in an agency “black site.” The May 30, 2005 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (see May 30, 2005) was redacted before its release, but it identifies one detainee as “Gul.” This apparently refers to Hassan Ghul, arrested in northern Iraq in early 2004 (see January 23, 2004). At the time of his capture, President Bush stated: “Just last week we made further progress in making America more secure when a fellow named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Hassan Ghul reported directly to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. He was captured in Iraq, where he was helping al-Qaeda to put pressure on our troops.” US officials, including then-CIA Director George Tenet, described Ghul as an al-Qaeda facilitator who delivered money and messages to top leaders. Those were the last references any US official made to him, except a brief reference in the 9/11 Commission report, which noted that Ghul was in “US custody.” The CIA has never acknowledged holding Ghul. In late 2006, human rights groups were surprised when Ghul was not one of a group of 14 “high-value” detainees sent from secret CIA prisons to Guantanamo (see September 2-3, 2006). Since then, Ghul has been considered a missing, or “ghost” detainee (see June 7, 2007). The May 30 memo notes that he was one of 28 CIA detainees who were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” It says that he was subjected to the following interrogation methods: “facial hold,” “facial slap,” “stress positions,” “sleep deprivation,” “walling,” and the “attention grasp.” There is no mention in the unredacted portions of the memo as to when or where Ghul was in CIA custody, or where he is today. [ProPublica, 4/16/2009] Apparently, the CIA transferred Ghul to Pakistani custody in 2006 so he would not have to join other prisoners sent to the Guantantamo prison (see (Mid-2006)), and Pakistan released him in 2007, allowing him to rejoin al-Qaeda (see (Mid-2007)).
Marcy Wheeler. [Source: Project Censored]Progressive blogger Marcy Wheeler, who posts under the moniker “emptywheel” at FireDogLake.com, finds that, upon careful perusal of the March 30, 2005 CIA torture memo just released by the Obama administration (see May 30, 2005 and April 16, 2009), two suspected terrorists, Abu Zubaida and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, were waterboarded 266 times. Initial, more cursory news reports on the memo did not reveal this fact. The next day, the New York Times will cite Wheeler in its report on the discovery. [Marcy Wheeler, 4/18/2009; New York Times, 4/19/2009] Wheeler writes: “The CIA wants you to believe waterboarding is effective. Yet somehow, it took them 183 applications of the waterboard in a one month period to get what they claimed was cooperation out of KSM. That doesn’t sound very effective to me.” [Marcy Wheeler, 4/18/2009] Days later, an unidentified “US official with knowledge of the interrogation program” will tell a Fox News reporter that the claim of 183 waterboardings for Mohammed is inaccurate and misleading. Mohammed was only waterboarded five times, the official will claim. The figure of 183 is the number of “pours” Mohammed was subjected to. “The water was poured 183 times—there were 183 pours,” the official says, adding, “[E]ach pour was a matter of seconds.” The report of five waterboardings for Mohammed comes from a 2007 Red Cross report, the official will say. [Fox News, 4/28/2009]
The Senate Armed Services Committee releases a report showing that CIA and Pentagon officials explored ways to “break” Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees in early 2002, eight months before the Justice Department issued its “golden shield” memo (see August 1, 2002) approving the use of waterboarding and nine other methods of interrogation that most legal observers believe amount to torture. The report, under Pentagon review since before its release, focuses solely on military interrogations, and not on interrogations carried out by CIA officers and contractors; it rejects claims by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials that Pentagon policies played no role in the torture of prisoners in US custody. Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) says the report shows a direct link between early Bush administration policy decisions and the torture and abuse of detainees. “Senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques,” Levin says. “Those senior officials bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses. The paper trail on abuse leads to top civilian leaders, and our report connects the dots. This report, in great detail, shows a paper trail going from that authorization” by Rumsfeld “to Guantanamo to Afghanistan and to Iraq.” [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/20/2008 ; New York Times, 4/21/2009; Agence France-Presse, 4/21/2009; Washington Post, 4/22/2009]
Torture Policies Driven from Top - One of the report’s findings is that top Bush administration officials, and not a “few bad apples” as many of that administration’s officials have claimed, are responsible for the use of torture against detainees in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Levin says in a statement that the report proves that such claims “were simply false.” He adds that the report is “a condemnation of both the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse—such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan—to low-ranking soldiers.” [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/20/2008 ; Washington Post, 4/22/2009] The report adds details to the material already released that showed Bush officials, particularly those in the Offices of the Vice President and Defense Secretary, pushed for harsher and more brutal interrogation techniques to be used during the run-up to war with Iraq, in hopes that results might prove the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda that administration officials had long touted (see December 11, 2008). Levin says: “I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link [between al-Qaeda and Iraq]. They made out links where they didn’t exist.” Senior Guantanamo interrogator David Becker confirmed that only “a couple of nebulous links” between al-Qaeda and Iraq were uncovered during interrogations of unidentified detainees. [McClatchy News, 4/21/2009]
Ignored Warnings that Torture Techniques Worthless, Illegal - The report, released in classified form in December 2008 (see December 11, 2008), also documents multiple warnings from legal sources and trained interrogation experts that the techniques could backfire, producing false and erroneous intelligence, and might violate US and international law. One Army lieutenant colonel warned in 2002 that coercion “usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain,” according to the Senate report. Another official, after being briefed on plans to use “extreme methods” on detainees, asked, “Wouldn’t that be illegal?” [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/20/2008 ; Agence France-Presse, 4/21/2009; Washington Post, 4/22/2009]
Torture Methods Became Procedures at Detention Sites - Instead of being abandoned, the methods became the basis for harsh interrogations at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and other US detention facilities around the world, including the CIA’s so-called “black sites.” [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/20/2008 ; Washington Post, 4/22/2009]
White House Officials Ignorant of SERE Techniques - The report—261 pages long and with almost 1,800 footnotes—documents how techniques from a US military training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) were adapted for use against detainees. SERE trains US soldiers to resist harsh interrogation methods if captured by an enemy that does not observe the Geneva Conventions’ ban on torture. The military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JRPA) reverse-engineered SERE methods to use against detainees (see December 2001). Other tactics, such as waterboarding, were culled from methods used by Chinese Communists against US soldiers captured during the Korean War (see July 2002). [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/20/2008 ; Agence France-Presse, 4/21/2009; Washington Post, 4/22/2009] According to the report, Bush White House officials seemed unaware of the Chinese Communist origins of the SERE tactics, and were apparently unaware that veteran SERE trainers insisted that the methods were useless for getting reliable information from a prisoner. Moreover, the former military psychologist who recommended that the CIA adopt SERE techniques “had never conducted a real interrogation.” One CIA official called the process “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm.” Bush administration officials also ignored concerns raised by military legal experts over the efficacy and legality of the techniques (see November 2002).
Torture Policies Directly Responsible for Abu Ghraib Scandal - The Armed Service Committee concludes that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were a direct result of the Bush torture policies. It writes: “The abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own.… Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials (see December 2, 2002) conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in US custody.” [Senate Armed Services Committee, 11/20/2008 ]
Ali Soufan, an FBI supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005, writes an op-ed for the New York Times about his experiences as a US interrogator. Soufan, who was one of the initial interrogators of suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida (see Late March through Early June, 2002), says he has remained silent for seven years “about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding.” Until now, he has spoken only in closed government hearings, “as these matters were classified.” But now that the Justice Department has released several memos on interrogation (see April 16, 2009), he can publicly speak out about the memos. “I’ve kept my mouth shut about all this for seven years,” Soufan says. “I was in the middle of this, and it’s not true that these techniques were effective. We were able to get the information about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a couple of days. We didn’t have to do any of this [torture]. We could have done this the right way.” [New York Times, 4/22/2009; Newsweek, 4/25/2009] In early 2002, Soufan trained Guantanamo interrogators in the use of non-coercive interrogation techniques; a colleague recalls the military intelligence officials in the session being resistant to the ideas Soufan proposed (see Early 2002). [Newsweek, 4/25/2009]
'False Premises' Underpinning Use of Torture - Soufan says the memos are based on what he calls “false premises.” One is the August 2002 memo granting retroactive authorization to use harsh interrogation methods on Zubaida on the grounds that previous methods had been ineffective (see August 1, 2002). Soufan asserts that his questioning of Zubaida had indeed been productive (contradicting earlier CIA claims—see December 10, 2007), and that he used “traditional interrogation methods” to elicit “important actionable intelligence” from the suspected operative. The harsh methods later used on Zubaida produced nothing that traditional methods could not have produced, Soufan says; moreover, those harsh techniques—torture—often “backfired” on the interrogators. Many of the methods used on detainees such as Zubaida remain classified, Soufan writes: “The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.”
False Claims 'Proving' Usefulness of Torture - Some claim that Zubaida gave up information leading to the capture of suspected terrorists Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Jose Padilla. “This is false,” Soufan writes. “The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.”
Restoring the 'Chinese Wall' - Because of the use of torture by the CIA, the two agencies will once again be separated by what Soufan calls “the so-called Chinese wall between the CIA and FBI, similar to the communications obstacles that prevented us from working together to stop the 9/11 attacks.” Since the FBI refused to torture suspects in its custody, “our agents who knew the most about the terrorists could have no part in the investigation. An FBI colleague of mine who knew more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed than anyone in the government was not allowed to speak to him.”
Targeted Investigations - Soufan writes that any investigations into the use of torture by the CIA should not seek to punish the interrogators who carried out the government’s policies. “That would be a mistake,” he writes. “Almost all the agency officials I worked with on these issues were good people who felt as I did about the use of enhanced techniques: it is un-American, ineffective, and harmful to our national security.” Soufan goes farther, adding, “It’s worth noting that when reading between the lines of the newly released memos, it seems clear that it was contractors, not CIA officers, who requested the use of these techniques.” The CIA itself must not be targeted for retribution, Soufan writes, as “[t]he agency is essential to our national security.” Instead, “[w]e must ensure that the mistakes behind the use of these techniques are never repeated.” [New York Times, 4/22/2009; Newsweek, 4/25/2009]
Rachel Maddow and Ron Suskind during their MSNBC interview. [Source: Huffington Post]MSNBC host Rachel Maddow interviews author Ron Suskind, who has written several books documenting the clandestine activities of the Bush administration. Maddow is most interested in the recent release of the Senate Armed Services Committee report documenting the use of torture against prisoners in US custody (see April 16, 2009 and April 21, 2009). Suskind notes that there were two separate but parallel tracks being followed in the administration, authorizing both the military and the CIA to torture prisoners. He believes the administration’s underlying motive was to find, or create through false confessions, a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda that would justify the invasion of Iraq. Suskind tells Maddow: “What’s fascinating here is that if you run the timelines side by side, you see for the first time… that the key thing being sent down by the policymakers, by the White House, is ‘Find a link between Saddam [Hussein] and al-Qaeda, so that we can essentially link Saddam to the 9/11 attacks and then march into Iraq with the anger of 9/11 behind us.’ That was the goal and was being passed down as the directive.… It’s often called ‘the requirement’ inside the CIA, for both agents with their sources and interrogators with their captives: ‘Here’s what we’re interested in, here’s what we, the duly elected leaders want to hear about. Tell us what you can find.’ What’s fascinating, is in the Senate report, is finally, clear confirmation that that specific thing was driving many of the activities, and, mind you, the frustration inside of the White House… as frustration built inside of the White House that there was no link that was established, because the CIA told the White House from the very start that there is no Saddam to al-Qaeda link—‘We checked it out, we did it every which way, sorry’—the White House simply wouldn’t take no for an answer, and it went with another method: torture was the method. ‘Get me a confession, I don’t care how you do it.’ And that bled all the way through the government, both on the CIA side and the Army side.” Suskind notes that the “impetus was not to foil potential al-Qaeda attacks. The impetus here was largely political and diplomatic. The White House had a political/diplomatic problem. It wanted it solved in the run up to the war.” [Huffington Post, 4/22/2009; MSNBC, 4/22/2009]
Jordan’s King Abdullah, during an interview on NBC, says the US indeed tortured prisoners during the last administration. “Well, from what we’ve seen and what we’ve heard, there are enough accounts to show that this is the case,” Abdullah says. Interviewer David Gregory says: “That’s an important point. You actually do believe that the United States engaged in torture.” Abdullah responds, “What I see on the press… shows that there were illegal ways of dealing with detainees.” [Think Progress, 4/25/2009]
Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, former intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington (see May 1998), recommends the Obama administration emulate earlier administrations and work with insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, a key Pakistan-based Taliban ally who has had ties to the ISI, CIA, and Osama bin Laden (see Early October 2001). Haqqani is “someone who could be reached out to… to negotiate and bring [the Taliban] into the fold,” Prince Turki tells a group of government and business leaders and journalists over a dinner in Washington organized by blogger Steve Clemons. Haqqani is thought to be behind recent suicide attacks in Afghanistan, and is suspected to have been behind the attempted assassination of Hamid Karzai (see April 27, 2008). Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President Gerald Ford and President George H. W. Bush, also urges the US to negotiate with some members of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan in remarks following Prince Turki’s. [Washington Times, 4/27/2009]
Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, tells editors and reporters from the Washington Times that Pakistan can survive the Taliban threat provided the military remains intact. He asserts that the army does not want to intervene in politics, but suggests a military coup is possible if the civilian government does not improve its performance. Criticizing the Pakistani government, he charges that it has not found a proper way of dealing with the Taliban. Prince Turki, who oversaw Saudi funding and support of the mujaheddin two decades ago during the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (see Early 1980), downplays concerns about Pakistan’s stability in the face of mounting security threats. “As long as the armed forces are intact, the state is not going to be at risk,” he says. [Washington Times, 4/28/2009]
An attack by CIA drones in Pakistan kills between six and ten people. One of those who dies is believed to be an al-Qaeda leader. [New Yorker, 10/26/2009]
ABC News learns that two former military officers, both psychologists, were paid $1,000 a day to design a program to torture and waterboard detainees in US custody. The psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen (see January 2002 and After, April 16, 2002, Mid-April 2002, and Between Mid-April and Mid-May 2002), were recipients of a contract awarded by the CIA to their firm, Mitchell Jessen and Associates. Mitchell and Jessen told the CIA that waterboarding was safe to use on prisoners. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Jameel Jaffer says, “It’s clear that these psychologists had an important role in developing what became the CIA’s torture program.” According to ABC, “Associates say the two made good money doing it, boasting of being paid a thousand dollars a day by the CIA to oversee the use of the techniques on top al-Qaeda suspects at CIA secret sites.” Air Force interrogator Colonel Steven Kleinman says, “The whole intense interrogation concept that we hear about is essentially their concepts.” ABC notes that “neither Mitchell nor Jessen had any experience in conducting actual interrogations before the CIA hired them.” A military officer says that the CIA “went to two individuals who had no interrogation experience. They are not interrogators.” The CIA came to believe that the waterboarding “expertise” they claimed was “misrepresented,” and therefore the claims that waterboarding was “medically safe” and “effective” were questionable. As ABC notes, “The waterboarding used on al-Qaeda detainees was far more intense than the brief sessions used on US military personnel in the training classes.” [ABC News, 4/30/2009; Raw Story, 5/1/2009]
John Durham, a special counsel appointed by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the destruction of video tapes made by the CIA of detainees’ interrogations (see January 2, 2008), summons CIA officers from overseas to testify before a grand jury. “Three legal sources familiar with the case” also say that Durham wants testimony from agency lawyers who gave advice relating to the November 2005 decision by Jose Rodriguez, then chief of the CIA’s clandestine service, to destroy the tapes (see Before November 2005 and November 2005). Newsweek will say this comes as a surprise to the CIA, whose officials have “plenty to worry about.” Previously, some lawyers on the case had thought Durham intended to wind down the probe without recommending any charges be brought. However, his recent activity has made them unsure. Newsweek will speculate that Durham “might simply be tying up loose ends.” Alternatively, he may be fixing to have charges brought. [Newsweek, 5/2/2009]
Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal. [Source: DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel/Released, via Reuters]Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen announce the nomination of controversial former special/black operations commander Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal to replace the top US commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan. At the Pentagon, Gates explains that “new leadership and fresh eyes” are needed to reverse the course of the seven-year-old war. “We have a new strategy, a new mission, and a new ambassador. I believe that new military leadership also is needed,” he says. The White House confirms that President Obama has signed off on the nomination. McChrystal is the former commander of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which during his tenure was tied to prisoner abuse and covert assassinations in Iraq, as well as controversy in the military’s handling of the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. McKiernan will remain in place until the Senate confirms the appointments of McChrystal and his designated deputy, Lieutenant General David Rodriguez, also a veteran of elite US forces. Both officers have experience in Afghanistan and have more familiarity with counterinsurgency operations than McKiernan. Gates says that McChrystal and Rodriguez will “bring a unique skill set in counterinsurgency to these issues, and I think that they will provide the kind of new leadership and fresh thinking that [Admiral Mike Mullen] and I have been talking about.” [CNN, 5/11/2009; Army Times, 5/11/2009]
Prisoner Abuse, Geneva Convention Violations - Under McChrystal’s command, the Joint Special Operations Command supplied elite troops to a secret unit known variously as Task Force 626 and Task Force 121, based at Camp Nama (an acronym for “nasty ass military area”) near Baghdad. A Human Rights Watch report found evidence that the task force engaged in prisoner torture and abuse, and that the JSOC command likely violated the Geneva Conventions (see November 2004). According to the report, which was based on soldier testimony, inmates at the camp were subjected to beatings, exposure to extreme cold, threats of death, humiliation, and various forms of psychological abuse or torture. The report’s sources claimed that written authorizations were required for abusive techniques—indicating that the use of these tactics was approved up the chain of command—and that McChrystal denied the Red Cross and other investigators access to Camp Nama, a violation of the Geneva Conventions. [New York Times, 3/19/2006; Sifton and Garlasco, 7/22/2006; Daily Telegraph, 5/17/2009]
Secret Assassinations - During McChrystal’s tenure as head of JSOC, he led campaigns to track down, capture, or kill enemies. To this end, McChrystal built a sophisticated network of soldiers and intelligence operatives to assassinate Sunni insurgent leaders and decapitate al-Qaeda in Iraq. He is also understood to have led the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, a Human Rights Watch report on the secret units under JSOC command states that although targets included Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the operations also swept up “hundreds of anonymous, and often innocent, detainees.” One senior Pentagon officer, quoted by the Washington Post, warns, “People will ask, what message are we sending when our high-value-target hunter is sent to lead in Afghanistan?” [Sifton and Garlasco, 7/22/2006; Washington Post, 5/13/2009] Newsweek has noted that JSOC is likely part of what then-Vice President Dick Cheney was referring to when he said America would have to “work the dark side” after 9/11 (see September 16, 2001). [Newsweek, 6/26/2006] Furthermore, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has reported that JSOC ran what he called an “executive assassination wing” that reported directly to Cheney’s office, which then cleared lists of people to be targeted for assassination by secret JSOC units (see March 10, 2009 and March 31, 2009).
Pat Tillman Silver Star Controversy - The Pentagon’s inspector general found McChrystal responsible for promulgating false and misleading information in the aftermath of the “friendly fire” death of Pat Tillman in 2004. In the controversy, McChrystal had approved paperwork recommending Tillman for a silver star, which stated that he died from “devastating enemy fire,” despite knowledge of internal investigations pointing to friendly fire as the cause of death (see April 29, 2004) and April 23-Late June, 2004). McChrystal then backtracked only when he learned that then-President Bush was about to quote from the misleading silver star citation in a speech. The US Army later overruled the Pentagon inspector general’s recommendation that McChrystal be held accountable for his actions. [Washington Post, 8/4/2007; Daily Telegraph, 5/17/2009]
Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Task Force 121, Robert M. Gates, Task Force 626, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, David Rodriguez, Obama administration, Camp Nama, David D. McKiernan, Human Rights Watch, Joint Special Operations Command, Michael Mullen, Pat Tillman, Stanley A. McChrystal
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his administration is investigating numerous reports of “unknown” military helicopters carrying gunmen to the northern provinces of the country amid increasing militancy in the area. At a press conference, Karzai says that his government has received information over the last five months from local residents and officials indicating that unmarked helicopters have been ferrying militants to Baghlan, Kunduz, and Samangan provinces, and have been air-dropping them at night. “Even today we received reports that the furtive process is still ongoing,” he tells journalists, though he does not share any evidence, arguing that the issue is too sensitive. Karzai adds that authorities have received similar reports in the northwest as well, and that a comprehensive investigation is underway to determine which country the helicopters belonged to, why armed men are being snuck into the region, and whether increasing insecurity in the north is linked to this. “I hope in the near future we will find out who these helicopters belong to,” he says. [Ferghana Information Agency, 10/12/2009; Press TV, 10/12/2009; Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 10/12/2009] Western officials will later deny there is any truth to the reports (see October 14 - 29, 2009). The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) notes that helicopters are almost entirely the exclusive domain of foreign forces in Afghanistan; NATO forces control Afghanistan’s air space and have a monopoly on aircraft. IWPR reports that Afghans believe the insurgency is being deliberately moved north, with international troops transporting fighters in from the volatile south to create mayhem in new locations. [Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 10/29/2009] The International Council on Security and Development has reported a dramatic rise in Taliban presence and activity in the formerly peaceful north in recent months (see Between January and September 2009), coinciding with the helicopter reports. The Asia Times reports that the Taliban now have complete control over several districts in the northern province of Kunduz. [Asia Times, 10/16/2009]
Who Are the Militants? - The majority of reports cite eyewitnesses who claim the militants are Taliban. In Kunduz province, northern Afghanistan, a soldier from the 209th Shahin Corps of the Afghan National Army tells of an incident in which helicopters intervened to rescue Taliban during a battle. “Just when the police and army managed to surround the Taliban in a village of Qala-e-Zaal district, we saw helicopters land with support teams,” he says. “They managed to rescue their friends from our encirclement, and even to inflict defeat on the Afghan National Army.” Residents in a district of Baghlan province also witness a battle in which they insist that two foreign helicopters offload Taliban fighters who then attack their district center. “I saw the helicopters with my own eyes,” says Sayed Rafiq of Baghlan-e-Markazi. “They landed near the foothills and offloaded dozens of Taliban with turbans, and wrapped in patus [a blanket-type shawl].” According to numerous media reports, the district police chief along with the head of counter-narcotics and a number of soldiers are killed in the attack. The governor of Baghlan-e-Markazi, Commander Amir Gul, insists that the Taliban fighters are delivered by helicopter. “I do not know to which country the helicopters belonged,” he tells the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. “But these are the same helicopters that are taking the Taliban from Helmand to Kandahar and from there to the north, especially to Baghlan.” According to Gul, the district department of the National Security Directorate has identified the choppers, but refuses to comment. Baghlan police chief, Mohammad Kabir Andarabi, says that his department has reported to Kabul that foreign helicopters are transporting the Taliban into Baghlan. Baghlan provincial governor, Mohammad Akbar Barikzai, tells a news conference that his intelligence and security services have discovered that unidentified helicopters have been landing at night in some parts of the province. “We are investigating,” he says. [Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 10/29/2009] Other officials say the militants are not only Taliban. The provincial governor of Kunduz claims the fighters being transported are members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Sanobar Shermatova, a Moscow-based Central Asia analyst, writes that the IMU likely comprises the bulk of Taliban-allied militants moving into northern Afghanistan. [Eurasianet, 10/13/2009; Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 11/6/2009] Afghan Lower House representative, Ms. Najia Aimaq, quotes Interior Ministry authorities who say that helicopters are transporting Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s men to the northern provinces to fight the Taliban. [Nukhost Daily via UNAMA, 10/14/2009]
Who Is Providing the Air Transport? - Unconfirmed reports are circulating that the helicopters are American, according to Iran’s Press TV. [Press TV, 10/12/2009] McClatchy suggests that although Karzai does not say which nations he suspects are providing the helicopters, his remarks stir speculation that the US is somehow involved. However, a Karzai campaign staffer will later clarify that Karzai does not mean to imply the helicopters are American (see October 14 - 29, 2009). “We believe what the American ambassador [Karl Eikenberry] has said, and that the helicopters don’t belong to America,” says Moen Marastyal, an Afghan parliament member who has worked on the Karzai re-election campaign. [McClatchy, 10/14/2009] Afghan political analyst Ghulam Haidar Haidar asserts that foreign forces led by the US are behind the increasing instability in Kunduz and that coalition forces are training and equipping the insurgents in order to spread insecurity to Central Asia. “The United States wants a base from which to threaten Russia,” he says. An unnamed resident from Chahr Dara district echoes Haidar’s analysis, insisting that the Taliban are being supported by the US. “I saw it with my own eyes,” he says. “I was bringing my cattle home in the evening, and I saw Taliban getting off American helicopters. They were also unloading motorcycles from these aircraft. Later, a local mullah whom I know very well went to talk to the Americans, and then the helicopter left.” [Asia Times, 10/16/2009] Press TV will later cite unnamed diplomats who say the British army has been relocating Taliban insurgents from southern Afghanistan to the north via its Chinook helicopters. [Press TV, 10/17/2009] According to Rahim Rahimi, a professor at Balkh University, both America and Britain are trying to undermine security in Afghanistan to justify the need for foreign forces. “They will try and destabilize the north any way they can,” he says. “It is a good excuse to expand their presence in the area, to get a grip on the gas and oil in Central Asia.” [Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 10/29/2009]
Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Sanobar Shermatova, Rahim Rahimi, Taliban, Stanley A. McChrystal, Najia Aimaq, Sayed Rafiq, Mohammad Kabir Andarabi, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Moen Marastyal, Afghan National Security Forces, Amir Gul, Mohammad Akbar Barikzai, Ghulam Haidar Haidar, International Security Assistance Force, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hamid Karzai
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
A New York Times investigation finds that some munitions procured by the Pentagon for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are leaking to the Taliban and other insurgents for use against American troops. Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents are found to be identical to ammunition the United States and other allies have provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings and interviews with American officers and arms dealers conducted by the New York Times. Military officials, arms analysts, and dealers say that poor American and Afghan controls on the vast inventory of weapons and ammunition sent to Afghanistan—as well as outright corruption among Afghan forces—may have helped insurgents stay supplied. Furthermore, military officers say that American forces do not examine all captured weapons to trace how insurgents obtain them, nor do they seek to determine whether the Afghan government, directly or indirectly, is a significant Taliban supplier. An American unit from the 26th Infantry allows the New York Times to examine the weapons it had retrieved from a raid on Taliban fighters. Examination of the Taliban’s cartridges finds telling signs of diversion in which the ammunition bears markings from an American company which sells cartridges to Afghan soldiers and police officers through middlemen. Ammo from a Czech company which has donated surplus ammo to the Afghan government is also identified.
Afghan Government and Security Forces Blamed for Weapon Diversions - The New York Times cautions that given the large number of potential weapons sources, “the probability that the Taliban and the Pentagon were sharing identical supply sources [is] small.” James Bevan, a researcher specializing in ammunition for the Geneva-based research group, Small Arms Survey, says that the munitions have most likely slipped from Afghan state custody. Mr. Bevan, who has documented ammunition diversion in Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan, surmises that interpreters, soldiers, or police officers sell ammunition for profit or pass it along for other reasons, including support for the insurgency. The American military does not dispute the possibility that theft or corruption could be steering ammunition to insurgents, but it backs Mr. Bevan’s statement that illicit diversion of arms is the fault of Afghan security forces, particularly corruption within the police. Capt. James C. Howell, commander of the unit that captured the ammunition, says the findings are unsurprising but explains that this form of corruption is not the norm, citing poor discipline and oversight in the Afghan national security forces rather than deliberate diversion. Another officer, Brig. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, the deputy commander of the transition command, cautions that insurgent use of American-procured munitions is not widespread, noting that the captured ammunition sampling was small and that munitions might have leaked to the Taliban through less nefarious means.
United States Military Also to Blame - The United States military was recently criticized by the Government Accountability Office and the Pentagon’s Inspector General, which blamed the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan for failing to account for hundreds of thousands of weapons issued to the ANSF, warning that unaccounted for weapons were at great risk of being diverted to insurgents (see February 12, 2009) and (see October 24, 2008). [New York Times, 5/19/2009]
Entity Tags: Taliban, Small Arms Survey, James C. Howell, New York Times, Afghan National Security Forces, Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army, Anthony Ierardi, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Government Accountability Office, James Bevan, Office of the Inspector General (DoD)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
Pakistan’s army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, suggests that NATO weapons are crossing the border from Afghanistan and going to the Taliban in Pakistan. In an interview with CNN, General Abbas links Afghanistan to the battle between Pakistani armed forces and the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat valley, saying that the Taliban are “very well equipped from the border area.” Abbas adds that the United States should “stop worrying about the nukes and start worrying about the weapons lost in Afghanistan.” He explains that Washington is neglecting this problem by focusing too much on the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. General Abbas further suggests, without elaborating, that the Taliban are also getting weapons and support from “foreign intelligence agencies.” [CNN, 5/29/2009]
In 2009, US intelligence locates Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti), a trusted courier working for Osama bin Laden, somewhere in northwest Pakistan. This is done by remote monitoring of his cell phone calls and e-mails, after his full real name was discovered in 2007 (see 2007). His brother Abrar, who is also involved with al-Qaeda, is discovered as well. However, their exact location in Pakistan is still unknown and will not be discovered until 2010 (see July 2010). [CNN, 5/2/2011; MSNBC, 5/4/2011]
Assistance from Pakistani Government - The Washington Post will later report that the Pakistani government has been secretly assisting US intelligence with data collection for a number of years. The US can collect wireless phone calls on its own in Pakistan, but the Pakistani government helps the US collect landline calls and e-mails as well. In 2009, the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, allegedly notices several suspicious calls spoken in Arabic to the Middle East. The phone number is discovered to belong to Ahmed. An unnamed US official will later say: “The Pakistanis indeed provided information that was useful to the US government as it collected intelligence on the bin Laden compound. That information helped fill in some gaps.” [Washington Post, 5/11/2011]
Ahmed's General Location Discovered; Exact Locale Is Still a Mystery - However, Ahmed normally drives an hour or two before inserting the battery in his cell phone, and he frequently changes the SIM cards in his phone. As a result, US intelligence concludes he is living somewhere in northwest Pakistan, but it cannot figure out exactly where. One of these calls comes from the general vicinity of Abbottabad, where Ahmed will eventually be found to be living with Osama bin Laden (see August 1, 2010). But since other calls come from other towns, intelligence analysts cannot limit their search to just Abbottabad. [Washington Post, 5/11/2011; ABC News, 5/19/2011]
Extensive Surveillance Effort Begins - A senior Obama administration official will later say the two brothers’ “extensive operational security” keeps investigators from determining exactly where they live. “The fact that they were being so careful reinforced our belief that we were on the right track.” This official will add, “We couldn’t trail [Ahmed], so we had to set up an elaborate surveillance effort.” [CNN, 5/2/2011]
The price of the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle more than doubles in Afghanistan. Time reports that the price of a Chinese-made AK-47 smuggled in from Pakistan has risen to $400 from $150 in just three months. The Independent reports that the weapons are going for $600 apiece and that a steady stream of them is heading to the north of the country. Both sources suggest that the surge in demand for the guns is due in part to mounting tensions over the disputed August presidential elections, which are widely perceived by Afghans, diplomats, and foreign observers as marred by fraud in favor of current President Hamid Karzai. “People are arming themselves,” Time quotes one Western official in Kabul as saying. In the Panjshir Valley, the heartland of the Northern Alliance and a Tajik stronghold of presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah, former Mujahedeen commander Gul Shah Mohammed tells The Independent that the Tajiks will not tolerate being deprived by a fraudulent poll. “We know how to use these weapons, we haven’t forgotten how to fight,” he declares. [Independent, 9/2/2009; Time, 9/10/2009] Such a dramatic rise in price is an ominous sign of demand in a country already awash in weapons. In addition to the demand and flow of arms to the north, also portentous is the sharp rise in Taliban presence and activity in the previously peaceful northern regions of Afghanistan (see Between January and September 2009), and reports that Taliban and other insurgents are being ferried to the north by helicopter (see May-October 12, 2009).
Al-Qaeda second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri releases a new audio tape about a visit by President Obama to Egypt, where Obama is to make an important speech to the Muslim world. The tape is around 12 minutes long and is entitled “Egypt’s Slayers and the Agents of America Welcome Obama.” Al-Zawahiri says that Obama’s message to the Muslim world has already been delivered, “when he visited the Wailing Wall, with the Jewish skullcap on his head… when he performed the Jewish prayers despite claiming that he is Christian.” He adds that Obama approves the “Zionist aggression on Gaza,” sending more troops to Afghanistan, continuing to bomb tribal areas of Pakistan, and leading a “brutal campaign” against Muslims in northwest Pakistan, as well as using secret prisons and breaching the Geneva conventions regarding terror detainees. “Obama’s bloodied messages have reached and are still reaching Muslims, and they shall not be masked by the PR campaigns, the theatrical visits, and the courteous words,” says al-Zawahiri. “As for his choice of Turkey and Egypt to be the places from which to address the Muslim world as he claims, well, this choice holds another indication that simply says that the kind of Muslims the crusader Americans would be pleased with are those who abandon Islam and embrace secularism, those who acknowledge Israel, conclude security agreements with it, and take part in its military drills.” Al-Zawahiri also criticizes the current Egyptian regime, accusing it of tightening the blockade on Palestinians in Gaza, and alleging Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is grooming his elder son, Jamal, to succeed him as president, “in order to maintain the corruption and the reliance on America, the crusaders, and the Jews.” He adds that only the corrupt “butchers and tyrants” of Egypt would welcome Obama there, not honest Egyptians. “The honorable people of Egypt despise Obama and consider him an international criminal, and an arriviste politician who serves the Zionist cause in order to get promoted to the highest levels of government.” [CBS News, 6/2/2009]
President Obama sends a memo to CIA Director Leon Panetta, which states, “in order to ensure that we have expended every effort, I direct you to provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice Osama bin Laden.” [ABC News, 6/9/2011] After becoming president in January 2009, Obama put a new focus on the hunt for bin Laden (see Shortly After January 20, 2009).
In an audio message broadcast on the Qatar-based TV channel Al Jazeera, a man thought to be Osama bin Laden accuses US President Obama of fueling hatred of America in Pakistan, and blames US pressure for a crackdown by authorities on militants in northwest Pakistan. According to the speaker, Obama is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, George W. Bush, in antagonizing Muslims. “Obama and his administration have planted seeds for hatred and revenge against America,” he says. “Let the American people prepare to continue to reap what has been planted by the heads of the White House in the coming years and decades.” The tape is released as Obama arrives in bin Laden’s native Saudi Arabia for a brief visit at the start of a Middle East tour in which he will deliver a key speech in Cairo, Egypt. The White House responds that bin Laden wants to divert attention away from that speech. [BBC, 6/3/2009]
Federal authorities launch raids and arrests in three states based on four years of evidence compiled by a confidential informant who has managed to get close to white supremacists Dennis and Daniel Mahon (see January 26, 2005 and After). The Mahons’ home in Illinois is searched, as is a Missouri farm owned by survivalist Robert Joos and an Indiana home owned by supremacist leader Tom Metzger (see 1981 and After). The Mahons are arrested on suspicion of bombing a Scottsdale federal office (see February 26, 2004 and After), and Joos on weapons charges. Metzger is not arrested. Joos is later convicted and sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison. The Mahons will go on trial in 2012 (see January 10, 2012 and After). Metzger later says that he was released because he was innocent of any crime, and that he doubts the Mahon brothers are guilty of anything, either: “I have a hard time believing that they did it. I’ve always cautioned them against going across the line.” [TPM Muckraker, 1/10/2012]
Thousands of US Marines launch Operation Khanjar (“Strike of the Sword”) in a campaign to assert control in the lower Helmand River valley, a stronghold of the Taliban and other insurgent groups and center of the world’s largest opium poppy producing region. Nearly 4,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) are deployed in the offensive, which is being called one of the biggest operations conducted by foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 1989 Soviet withdrawal. Approximately 650 Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces also participate in the mission. An adjacent operation called “Panther Claw” initiated by British-led Task Force Helmand has been under way in northern Helmand for a week. Operation Khanjar marks the beginning of a new effort by the US and its allies to assert control in Afghanistan since the arrival of commander General Stanley McChrystal, as well as the first major initiative under the Obama administration’s troop increase and counterinsurgency strategy, which it says is intended to secure and stabilize the country. US commanders say the operation is part of an effort to restore the authority of local government and security forces in Helmand and to secure the region for the presidential elections scheduled for August. “What makes Operation Khanjar different from those that have occurred before is the massive size of the force introduced, the speed at which it will insert, and the fact that where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build, and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces,” says Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of the MEB in Afghanistan. US Forces reportedly meet with very little direct resistance as insurgents blend into the local population and prepare for later attacks. [Reuters, 7/2/2009; Marines.mil, 7/2/2009]
For the first time, a top Pakistani leader admits that the Pakistani government has supported radical militants. Speaking to a group of retired senior officials, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari says: “Let us be truthful to ourselves and make a candid admission of the realities. The terrorists of today were the heroes of yesteryears until 9/11 occurred and they began to haunt us as well. They were deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives.” Zardari pledges to change this policy. “I have taken charge at a difficult time and will come up to the challenges the country is facing,” he says. [Press Trust of India, 7/8/2009]
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik says in an interview that Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders are not in Pakistan, so US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region are futile. Malik says: “If Osama was in Pakistan we would know, with all the thousands of troops we have sent into the tribal areas in recent months.… If he and all these four or five top people were in our area they would have been caught, the way we are searching.… According to our information Osama is in Afghanistan, probably Kunar, as most of the activities against Pakistan are being directed from Kunar.” He adds that US drone strikes are hitting mid-level militants at best, and are “counterproductive because they are killing civilians and turning locals against our government. We try to win people’s hearts, then one drone attack drives them away.” [London Times, 7/12/2009] Malik’s statement about bin Laden not being in Pakistan is not consistent with the facts (see January 2005, Late 2005-Early 2006, August 2007, September 2008, and May 2, 2011).
Al-Qaeda second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri releases a second English-language video (see August 10, 2008). The video lasts just under nine minutes, is released by posting at jihadi websites, and is entitled “My Muslim Brothers and Sisters in Pakistan.” In the video, al-Zawahiri urges Pakistanis to support insurgents in their battle against the US-led “crusade,” which he says threatens the country’s existence and could lead to its break-up. “The American crusader manipulation of Pakistan’s destiny has reached such an extent that it now poses a grave danger to Pakistan’s future and very existence,” says al-Zawahiri. “It is evident that Pakistan is deeply involved in a fierce internal struggle between two forces”—one representing “Islamic values” and the other being the US-led “crusade” to neutralize fighters threatening Western interests. “[If] we stand by passively without offering due support to the mujahedeen, we shall not only contribute to the destruction of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but we shall also deserve the painful punishment of Almighty Allah,” he adds. [Nation, 7/15/2009]
The July death toll for coalition troops fighting in Afghanistan reaches 47, surpassing full month highs set in August and June 2008. The record toll comes in the two weeks since the US and its allies launched a massive offensive dubbed “Operation Khanjar” in opium-ridden Helmand province as part of the Obama administration’s new escalation and counterinsurgency strategy (see Early Morning July 2, 2009). According to a CNN count based on government figures, the deaths in July so far include 23 Americans, 15 Britons, five Canadians, two Turks, an Italian, and a NATO soldier whose nationality has not been revealed. [CNN, 6/16/2009]
Surge and Death Rate Mirror Iraq War - In the two weeks coinciding with the launch of US-led “Operation Khanjar,” international troops have died at an average rate of three a day, which is almost 20 times the rate in Afghanistan from 2001-04 and approaching the death rate of the deadliest days in Iraq. “It is something we did anticipate occurring as we extend our influence in the south,” says US Rear Admiral Greg Smith, spokesman for US and NATO forces, adding that the increased violence is likely to continue for several months at minimum. The Obama administration’s escalation strategy resembles some tactics of the “surge” of additional forces that then-President Bush ordered in Iraq in 2007, which saw months of increased American casualties before violence declined (see December 30, 2007). The US military does not use the term “surge” to refer to the increase in forces in Afghanistan because the escalation is considered indefinite as opposed to the time limit the Bush administration set in Iraq. [Reuters, 6/15/2009]
Two luxury hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia, are hit by suicide bombers within five minutes of each other. Seven people are killed, plus the two bombers, and fifty people are injured. At least four of the dead are Westerners. The Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels are the targets. The Marriott was bombed in 2003 as well (see August 5, 2003). Nobody takes credit, but the al-Qaeda linked group Jemaah Islamiyah is immediately blamed. Experts also blame militant Noordin Mohammed Top, saying that the bombs used are exactly the same to the ones Top used in previous bombings. [Bloomberg, 7/19/2009] Top actually created a Jemaah Islamiyah splinter group in 2005 called Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad. These are the first significant bombings in Indonesia since 2005 (see October 1, 2005).
Author Jerome Corsi, who has made a number of disproven and debunked claims concerning President Obama’s citizenship (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, and October 9, 2008), now claims that he has “proof” Obama’s attendance and exemplary performance at Harvard Law School were engineered by a Saudi prince through the auspices of an African-American Muslim radical. He points to Obama’s decision not to release his college transcripts as circumstantial evidence (see September 11, 2008), saying that decision “prevents resolution of a continuing controversy over whether radical Islamic influences promoted his admission and financed his legal education there.” The “continuing controversy” centers on a lawyer named Percy Sutton, who claims that Islamic radical Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour, “one of the world’s wealthiest men,” asked him to write a letter of recommendation to Harvard Law School for then relatively unknown Barack Obama. Sutton says al-Mansour, a Saudi citizen, introduced him to Obama, and says al-Mansour was raising money for Obama to attend Harvard. Sutton says al-Mansour was a “principal adviser” to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who, Sutton says, actually engineered Obama’s acceptance to Harvard. According to Sutton, he was told in a letter from al-Mansour: “There’s a young man that has applied to Harvard. I know that you have a few friends left there because you used to go up there to speak. Would you please write a letter in support of him?” Sutton says he did write the letter, and told friends at Harvard, “I thought there was going to be a genius that was going to be available and I certainly hoped they would treat him kindly.” The Obama campaign denied the story during the 2008 presidential campaign. Sutton, who is in his 80s and apparently suffers from some sort of senile dementia or memory loss that precludes him being contacted by Corsi or other members of the press, has made his allegations in a YouTube video that Corsi cites as his “proof.” In 2008, Politico reporter Ben Smith contacted al-Mansour, who confirmed Sutton was “a dear friend, his health is not good” and said he’s sure Sutton wrote a letter for someone else, “and he got it confused.” Corsi has requested that the White House release all of Obama’s law school records to “resolve the issue.” Al-Mansour, Corsi claims, was originally Don Warden, a member of the 1960s Black Panthers. [WorldNetDaily, 7/21/2009]
US troop deaths in Afghanistan reach 31, the highest toll for US troops in Afghanistan in any month since the war began in late 2001, surpassing the previous record of 28 deaths in June 2008. “This is probably the new normal,” says Seth G. Jones, an analyst for the Rand Corporation and author of a new book on the war in Afghanistan. “I’d actually be shocked if casualties didn’t continue to increase.” The Washington Post notes that although thousands of US Marines are in the midst of a major operation in the southern province of Helmand (see Early Morning July 2, 2009), American troops suffer the heaviest losses in the eastern part of the country where 16 US soldiers have been killed so far this month. The majority of the fatalities are caused by roadside bombs, which have grown increasingly sophisticated. [Washington Post, 7/22/2009] By the end of the month, the death toll for US troops will reach at least 43 among 75 coalition troops killed. [Voice of America, 7/31/2009] A similar spike in US military fatalities occurred in Iraq in 2007 just after then-President George W. Bush dispatched around 30,000 additional troops to the country (see December 30, 2007). US troop levels will roughly double this year in Afghanistan, a rate of increase sharper than that of the Iraq “surge” ordered by Bush (see January 10, 2007). [Washington Post, 7/22/2009]
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]
Osama bin Laden meets a prominent Pakistani militant leader in Pakistan’s tribal region, according to a Pakistani Interior Ministry report. An account of the report will be published in the Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper, in 2010. Supposedly, bin Laden meets with Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the leader of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. The two allegedly meet to discuss militant operations against Pakistan. This is the only known recorded instance prior to bin Laden’s death in 2011 (see May 2, 2011) that the Pakistani government has evidence bin Laden is hiding somewhere inside Pakistan. [New York Times, 6/23/2011] Akhtar has been an Islamist militant leader since the 1980s, and he had personal ties with bin Laden and Taliban head Mullah Omar that predate the 9/11 attacks. In 2008, media reports named him as a suspect in the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad, Pakistan, that killed over 50. [Asia Times, 9/30/2004; Daily Telegraph, 9/22/2008] In hindsight, it will appear bin Laden lives in Abbottabad, Pakistan, at this time, outside the tribal region (see May 2, 2011). It will be unknown if he occasionally leaves his hideout to make journeys for meetings such as this.
On the eve of the Afghan elections, Hezb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaks out on the war in Afghanistan in statements to various media outlets. In a statement given to CNN, Hekmatyar says that he is willing to “help” the US and NATO forces if they announce a pullout timeline and prepare to leave Afghanistan. “We are ready to help with the United States and… other coalition forces if foreign troops announce the time frame for the pulling out their troops from Afghanistan,” he says in the statement. “I am sure Afghans will fight US forces and will continue Jihad against them like they fought against Russia before if they don’t leave the country,” he adds. Hekmatyar does not define what he means by “help,” nor is it clear if he would agree to join coalition forces against the Taliban and other insurgents. [CNN, 8/17/2009] In an interview with Sky News on the same day, Hekmatyar elaborates. He emphasizes that he is open to negotiation and a political process, but says his forces would stop fighting only if negotiations for an end to the occupation are made in good faith: “We are not against [a] political solution.… We are ready to negotiate with friends and enemies, with Afghans and non-Afghans. We will not close the door to negotiations.” However, he reaffirms his demand for an end to foreign occupation and also rules out participation in any Afghan government formed under US and NATO occupation. “We never want to take part in a puppet government under foreign dictators and to end occupation and establishing an Islamic government in a free Afghanistan via a free election,” he says. Hekmatyar also says he is open to negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, but points out that there are some Taliban who refuse to cooperate with the Hezb-i-Islami to form a united Islamic front. The United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, and the Afghan government have been engaged in negotiations with Hekmatyar representatives over the last year (see February 2009 and Early April 2009) to discuss possible arrangements in which Hekmatyar, who is wanted by the US government for terrorism, is granted immunity and a role in a future Afghan government. In the Sky News interview, Hekmatyar denies negotiations with Britain, but acknowledges having had contact with the Afghan government, which he describes as a “dirty swamp” of corruption under foreign control of which he wants no part. He indicates that Kabul is powerless and unwilling to implement the advice (and conditions) he sent it for “ending the war.” [Sky News, 8/17/2009] Hekmatyar is considered to be among the most ruthless and extreme of the Afghan warlords and has had deep ties to Osama bin Laden, the CIA, the ISI, and the drug trade (see 1984, 1983, and March 13, 1994).
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]
The Taliban’s capabilities and attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated according to US military officials who say it appears as if they have received training from elite forces. Several officials interviewed by the Washington Post say that it appears as if the insurgents attended something akin to the US Army Ranger School. “In some cases… we started to see that enhanced form of attack,” says a US Army general who previously oversaw forces in Afghanistan. He tells the Post that the insurgents have “developed the ability to do some of the things that make up what you call a disciplined force.” Another officer stationed at the Pentagon suggests that the Taliban are improving with experience by studying US forces in remote areas such as the Korengal Valley near the border with Pakistan. According to the officer, battles in this region “are a perfect lab to vet fighters and study US tactics.” Some officers conjecture that fighters are receiving professional instruction from Arab and Central Asian countries though the use of embedded trainers, a mentoring technique used by the US military. [Washington Post, 9/2/2009] Last year, Al Jazeera reported that former members of the Afghan National Police who had received training from US forces including Blackwater were defecting to the Taliban (see (August) - October 15, 2008).
A jury at Woolwich Crown Court in London, England, convicts the three alleged ringleaders of a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners (see August 10, 2006). However, some of their alleged accomplices are acquitted on some or all charges. The three men, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Tanvir Hussain, and Assad Sarwar, are convicted of plotting to kill thousands of people by blowing up planes flying from London to the US with home-made liquid bombs disguised as drinks. This is the second trial on the case. At a previous trial, the three main defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to murder, but the jury was unable to decide whether the plans included detonating the bombs on the planes. One of the accomplices, Umar Islam, is convicted of conspiracy to murder, but the jury fails to reach a verdict on whether he was involved in the plot to blow up aircraft. Three others, Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Khan, and Waheed Zaman, are found not guilty of plotting to bomb aircraft, and the jury fails to reach a verdict on more general conspiracy to murder charges against them. It is unclear whether prosecutors will request another trial for these charges. An eighth man, Donald Stewart-Whyte, is cleared of all charges, and his lawyers call for an inquiry into why he was prosecuted. [BBC, 9/7/2009]
An audio message purportedly from Osama bin Laden is released on an Islamist website. The message is called “A Statement to the American People,” is about 10 minutes long, and is accompanied by a still image of bin Laden, but no video. A voice on the tape tells President Obama that he is “powerless” to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The time has come for you to liberate yourselves from fear and the ideological terrorism of neo-conservatives and the Israeli lobby,” the voice tells Americans. “The reason for our dispute with you is your support for your ally Israel, occupying our land in Palestine.” The speaker adds: “If you stop the war, then fine. Otherwise we will have no choice but to continue our war of attrition on every front. […] If you choose safety and stopping wars, as opinion polls show you do, then we are ready to respond to this.” In addition, the speaker accuses the new US president of failing to fundamentally change foreign policy because of his decision to retain key figures from the previous administration, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “If you think about your situation well, you will know that the White House is occupied by pressure groups,” the man says. [BBC, 9/14/2009]
Noordin Mohammed Top, the most wanted Islamist militant left in Indonesia, is killed in a shootout with police in Surakarta on the island of Java, Indonesia. Top was an expert bomb maker and planner, and was wanted for a role in a series of bombings in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002), a 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta (see August 5, 2003), a 2004 Australian embassy bombing (see September 9, 2004), a 2005 Bali bombing (see October 1, 2005), and two Jakarta hotel bombings in 2009 (see July 17, 2009). He first was a leader of the al-Qaeda linked and Southeast Asia-based militant group Jemaah Islamiyah. But in 2005, he former a splinter group Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad, whose name in English means “Al-Qaeda Jihad Organization for the Malay Archipelago,” after some other Jemaah Islamiah leaders drifted away from a policy of violent attacks. Counterterrorism expert Sidney Jones says, “There isn’t another radical leader in Indonesia who has given that same [pro-Osama bin Laden] message so consistently.” She calls his death “a huge blow for the extremist organizations in Indonesia and the region.” [Reuters, 9/17/2009]
Anne Patterson, the US ambassador to Pakistan, sends a frank cable to her superiors back in the US warning that the US needs to change its policy towards Pakistan. Patterson says, “There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support” to the Taliban and other Islamist militant groups, “which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India. The only way to achieve a cessation of such support is to change the Pakistan government’s own perception of its security requirements.” She adds that “No amount of money will sever” the link between Pakistan and those groups. Instead, she says the US has to address Pakistan’s real worries about India. Pakistan is concerned that India is gaining influence in Afghanistan with its sizable foreign aid there, and the US may eventually pull its troops out. Pakistani support of militant groups allows it to have a big influence in Afghanistan if militant forces eventually take over there. The US needs to focus on Pakistan’s relationship with India to solve its support of militants, for instance by “resolving the Kashmir dispute, which lies at the core of Pakistan’s support for terrorist groups.” Pakistan and India have fought over the disputed region of Kashmir for decades. It is not known if the US follows any of Patterson’s advice. [Guardian, 11/30/2010; Guardian, 11/30/2010]
A man thought to be Osama bin Laden releases a new audio tape demanding that European nations withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. The four-minute tape, made by al-Qaeda’s media arm As-Sahab and entitled “A message to the people of Europe,” is released on the Internet with a background picture of bin Laden, and with German and English subtitles. “We are not demanding anything unjust. It is just for you to end injustice and withdraw your soldiers [from Afghanistan],” says the speaker on the tape. “One of the greatest injustices is to kill people unjustly, and this is exactly what your governments and soldiers are committing under the cover of the NATO alliance in Afghanistan.” The speaker also attacks Europe’s alliance with the US, as “an intelligent person does not waste his children and wealth for the sake of a gang in Washington,” and says, “It is shameful to be part of an alliance whose leader does not care about spilling the blood of human beings by bombing villages intentionally.” One possible reason for the German subtitles is that Germany, which has 4,200 troops in Afghanistan, is soon to hold elections. [Reuters, 9/25/2009]
US and Pakistani analysts and officials say that a series of deadly coordinated attacks this week on army and police installations in Pakistan demonstrate the increasing sophistication of a “syndicate” of militant groups who employ commando tactics and display inside knowledge of Pakistani security structures. Attacks this week on Pakistan’s army headquarters in Rawalpindi, two attacks at a police station in Kohat, and attacks at a federal investigations building and two police training centers—one of them a respected school for elite forces—in Lahore demonstrate the expanded range and effectiveness of a militant network thought to comprise Tehrik-i-Taliban, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi working together in Pakistan, possibly with al-Qaeda. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik is quoted by the New York Times as saying that a syndicate of militant groups wants to ensure Pakistan becomes a failed state. “The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jaish-e-Muhammad, al-Qaeda, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are operating jointly in Pakistan,” Malik tells journalists. [New York Times, 10/15/2009] Mehdi Hassan, the dean of the School of Media and Communications at Lahore’s Beaconhouse National University, says in a telephone interview that the commando attacks are “part of a well-planned psychological war campaign” and have helped create “a national atmosphere of crisis” in Pakistan. [Bloomberg, 10/16/2009] Last month, US military officials said the Taliban in Afghanistan were increasingly improving their capabilities and demonstrating tactics typical of specially trained elite forces (see September 2, 2009).
Days after Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that his administration is investigating reports of “unknown” military helicopters carrying gunmen to the increasingly unstable northern provinces of the country (see May-October 12, 2009), US, NATO, and Afghan officials reject the reports and insinuations that Western forces are aiding the Taliban or other militants. US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, denounces reports that the US is secretly helping Afghanistan’s enemies with weapons and helicopters as outrageous and baseless. “We would never aid the terrorists that attacked us on September 11, that are killing our soldiers, your soldiers, and innocent Afghan civilians every day,” he says. [Daily Outlook Afghanistan, 10/15/2009] A Karzai campaign staffer says that Karzai did not mean to imply the helicopters were American. “We believe what the American ambassador [Karl Eikenberry] has said, and that the helicopters don’t belong to America,” says Moen Marastyal, an Afghan parliament member who has worked on the Karzai re-election campaign. [McClatchy, 10/14/2009] According to the Ariana Television Network, the German ambassador to Afghanistan, Werner Hans Lauk, professes ignorance when asked about Karzai’s claim that helicopters are carrying armed individuals to the northern provinces. Germany is assigned command responsibility for the north. [Ariana Television Network, 10/14/2009] “This entire business with the helicopters is just a rumor,” says Brigadier General Juergen Setzer, who is the recently appointed commander for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the north, which has overall control of the air space in that region. “It has no basis in reality, according to our investigations.” Captain Tim Dark, of Britain’s Task Force Helmand, is also vehement in his denunciation. “The thought that British soldiers could be aiding and abetting the enemy is just rubbish,” he says. “We have had 85 casualties so far this year.” [Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 10/29/2009]
Said Bahaji’s passport recovered in 2009. [Source: BBC]Pakistani soldiers conducting a security sweep of Taliban strongholds in Pakistan’s tribal region find a passport belonging to Said Bahaji, a member of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg cell. Bahaji was believed to be close to Mohamed Atta and the other 9/11 hijackers in the cell. The passport is found in a mud compound in Sherawangi village, in South Waziristan, which is said to be a local Taliban command and control base. Other documents are found showing the presence of some other militants from European countries in the area. It is unclear if Bahaji was in the village, or if just his passport was. The passport is shown to journalists on October 29, 2009, and its discovery is widely reported. Bahaji is a German citizen, and his German passport was issued on August 3, 2001. Stamps show that he obtained a Pakistani tourist visa one day later, and arrived in Pakistan on September 4, 2001. Bahaji went to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan shortly thereafter (see Shortly After September 11, 2001), and investigators believe he has generally remained in Afghanistan or Pakistan ever since. He was last heard of in 2007, when he called his mother in Germany (see 2007). [Guardian, 10/29/2009; Dawn (Karachi), 10/30/2009]
Political Implications of Passport Find - The Guardian comments that if authentic, the passport provides “stark proof of what Western allies have insisted upon for years, but which Pakistani officials have only recently accepted - that the tribal belt, particularly South and North Waziristan, is the de facto headquarters of al-Qaeda, and that Osama bin Laden is most likely hiding there.” The passport also is evidence that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are working together. [Guardian, 10/29/2009]
Bahaji Officially Wanted by Spain and Germany but Not US - Bahaji is wanted in Spain and Germany on terrorism charges (see September 21, 2001). According to CNN, “A US counterterrorism official said only that Bahaji is a senior propagandist for al-Qaeda who had ties to some of the September 11 hijackers and is very much of interest to the United States.” However, the US has never put a bounty on Bahaji, or even put him on their most wanted lists. [CNN, 10/30/2009]
Timing of Passport Discovery Seems Suspicious, Authenticity Is Uncertain - The BBC comments, “The appearance of the passport raises a lot of questions - not least is it genuine? For now that is unclear.” The BBC also notes that the discovery of the passport comes just after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton harshly criticized Pakistan’s failure to find al-Qaeda figures hiding in the tribal region. [BBC, 10/31/2009] Clinton said, “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are, and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to. Maybe that’s the case. Maybe they’re not gettable. I don’t know.” [Guardian, 10/29/2009] One British analyst questions the “convenient” timing of the discovery after Clinton’s comments, and says the passport would need to be closely examined to make sure it is authentic. [BBC, 10/31/2009]
The death toll for the US military in Afghanistan reaches a record 59 total fatalities according to the independent website iCasualties.org. More US troops are killed this month than in any other since the war in Afghanistan began in October 2001. [iCasualties, 11/1/2009] This number includes one period in which 24 Americans were killed within 48 hours. [CNN, 10/28/2009] Seventy-four coalition troops are also killed this month. The Wall Street Journal notes that Afghan insurgents have killed at least 70 coalition soldiers in every month since June. The spike in coalition deaths comes as the coalition expands its war and increases troop levels. Likewise, the insurgency has been growing and militant attacks have increased in sophistication. [Wall Street Journal, 10/28/2009; iCasualties, 11/1/2009]
US Special Operations and CIA paramilitary forces more than quadruple the number of clandestine kill or capture raids they carry out in Afghanistan. The secret teams carry out 90 raids in November as compared to 20 in May, according to US officials. The Los Angeles Times reports that top commander General Stanley McChrystal orders the change in US military strategy, which intensifies Special Operations missions and shifts away from hunting al-Qaeda leaders to targeting mid-level Taliban commanders. Black operations teams involved in the missions reportedly include the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy SEALs’ Team Six, working together with CIA paramilitary units. [Los Angeles Times, 12/16/2009] These special units fall under the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a secretive structure formerly headed by McChrystal (see May 11, 2009).
Al Jazeera broadcasts footage showing Afghan insurgents in possession of American weapons and ammunition. The fighters depicted in the video brandish the weapons, including anti-personnel mines with US markings on them, in a remote district of Nuristan Province in eastern Afghanistan. The area was the site of a battle in which up to 300 fighters bombarded a joint US-Afghan army outpost with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar shells, killing eight US troops and three Afghan soldiers. The US military subsequently abandoned the post and claims that its forces had removed and accounted for their equipment. NATO spokespersons Lieutenant Colonel Todd Vician and Angela Eggman confirm that the material in the footage “appears to be US equipment” but say it is unclear how or when the insurgents got the weapons. “It’s debatable whether they got them from that location,” Vician says, referring to the mountainous zone where the nearly six-hour battle took place. “Before departing the base, the units removed all sensitive items and accounted for them,” states Eggman. However, General Mohammad Qassim Jangulbagh, provincial police chief in Nuristan, says that the US destroyed most of the ammunition, but left some of it behind only to fall into the hands of insurgents. Al Jazeera reports that the insurgents say they seized the weapons from two US remote outposts in Nuristan. General Shir Mohammad Karimi, chief of operations for the Afghan Defense Ministry, expresses skepticism. “As far as I know, nothing was left behind,” he says. The Associated Press notes that it is unclear when the video was filmed. [Associated Press, 11/10/2009; Al Jazeera, 11/11/2009]
A lawyer acting for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, one of a five high-profile defendants to be tried in New York for 9/11, says that his client and the others intend to plead not guilty. The lawyer, Scott Fenstermaker, says they will do so not in the hope of an acquittal, but to air their criticism of US foreign policy. While incarcerated at Guantanamo, the five had intended to plead guilty before a military commission (see December 8, 2008). According to Fenstermaker, the men will admit carrying out 9/11, but intend to formally plead not guilty so they can “explain what happened and why they did it.” They will give “their assessment of American foreign policy,” which is “negative.” Fenstermaker recently met with his client, but has not met with the other four defendants, although he says the five have discussed the issue among themselves. In response, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd says that while the men may attempt to use the trial to express their views, “we have full confidence in the ability of the courts and in particular the federal judge who may preside over the trial to ensure that the proceeding is conducted appropriately and with minimal disruption, as federal courts have done in the past.” [Associated Press, 11/22/2009]
Former Bush administration press secretary Dana Perino tells a Fox News audience that no terrorist attacks took place on American soil during President Bush’s two terms. Perino is forgetting, or ignoring, the 9/11 attacks, the most lethal and costly attacks in US history. On Sean Hannity’s Fox show, Hannity asks Perino if President Obama “really understand[s]” that the US has a national security concern about terrorism. Perino begins by denying that her remarks are political, then says that the US recently suffered “a terrorist attack on our country,” obviously referring to the 9/11 attacks. The Obama administration is loath to call the US’s involvement a “war on terror,” Perino says, when it should be labeled as such “because we need to face up to it so we can prevent it from happening again.” She says she does not know what thinking is going on in the Obama administration, “but we did not have an attack on our country during President Bush’s term. I hope they’re not looking at this politically. I do think we owe it to the American people to call it what it is.” Neither Hannity nor his other guest, Fox Business personality Stuart Varney, correct Perino’s statement; instead Varney begins questioning Obama’s commitment to fighting terrorism. [Media Matters, 11/24/2009] Perino had not yet joined the Bush administration in 2001, but was working as a public relations representative for a high-tech firm in San Diego. [Austin Chronicle, 9/21/2007]
According to a US government diplomatic document, senior Tajik counterterrorism official General Abdullo Sadulloevich Nazarov tells US officials that Pakistani officials are tipping off al-Qaeda militants about raids. The document states, “In Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden wasn’t an invisible man, and many knew his whereabouts in North Waziristan, but whenever security forces attempted a raid on his hideouts, the enemy received warning of their approach from sources in the [Pakistani] security forces.” The document will be made public by Wikileaks prior to the US raid that kills bin Laden (see May 2, 2011). [Daily Telegraph, 5/2/2011] The warning may not be entirely accurate, since it appears bin Laden was hiding for years in Abbottabad, not North Waziristan.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton circulates a diplomatic cable that states Pakistani intelligence continues to support some Islamist militant groups. The cable is sent to US ambassadors and other US diplomats, and contains “talking points” to raise with host governments. In Pakistan, the diplomats are told to press the Pakistani government to take action against the Haqqani network, a semi-autonomous part of the Taliban operating in Pakistan, and to enforce sanctions against Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistani militant group linked to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India. The cable reads, “Although Pakistani senior officials have publicly disavowed support for these groups, some officials from the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) continue to maintain ties with a wide array of extremist organizations, in particular the Taliban, [Lashkar-e-Toiba], and other extremist organizations. These extremist organizations continue to find refuge in Pakistan and exploit Pakistan’s extensive network of charities, NGOs, and madrassas.” (A madrassa is an Islamic boarding school.) The contents of the cable will be made public by Wikileaks, a non-profit whistleblower group, in 2010. [Daily Telegraph, 5/31/2011]
On a visit to London, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani says he thinks Osama bin Laden is not in Pakistan. The statement is made against a background of Western demands that Afghanistan and Pakistan take more action against militants, including stepping up their efforts to find bin Laden, to accompany the surge in Western troops to Afghanistan. “I doubt the information which you are giving is correct because I don’t think Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan,” says Gillani in response to a question. The New York Times observes, “The Pakistani leader did not indicate where Mr. bin Laden might be if he is not in Pakistan.” [New York Times, 12/3/2009] The next day, the BBC will run an article brokered by a Pakistani intelligence service in which a detainee claims he recently received information bin Laden was in Afghanistan (see Before December 4, 2009). Gillani’s statement is not accurate (see May 2, 2011).
A detainee claims that he received information concerning the location of Osama bin Laden in January or February. The detainee says he met bin Laden several times before 9/11, and, according to Pakistani security officials, has close ties with Pakistan and Afghan Taliban leaders.
Detainee's Story - Earlier in the year, the detainee met a trusted contact who said he had seen bin Laden in the eastern Afghani town of Ghazni 15 to 20 days earlier. “He [the contact] said he had come from meeting Sheikh Osama, and he could arrange for me to meet him,” says the detainee. “He helps al-Qaeda people coming from other countries to get to the sheikh, so he can advise them on whatever they are planning for Europe or other places. The sheikh doesn’t stay in any one place. That guy came from Ghazni, so I think that’s where the sheikh was.” The detainee is interviewed twice by the BBC in the presence of Pakistani officials, although Western interrogators are not allowed to talk to him. He is not named publicly for legal reasons, and says he declined the invitation to travel to meet bin Laden because he was afraid of compromising bin Laden’s security, if he was captured by the police or the army, stating, “If I had met him, the first question they would have asked would be where have you met him, and I would have had more problems and it would have created problems for them [al-Qaeda].” The BBC will point out that the detainee’s claims cannot be verified.
Comment by Counterterrorism Expert - However, US counterterrorism expert Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst, says the detainee’s story is “a very important lead, that ought to be tracked down,” adding, “The entire Western intelligence community, CIA, and MI6, have been looking for [bin Laden] for the last seven years, and haven’t come upon a source of information like this.”
Bin Laden 'Fresh' - The detainee also claims that bin Laden is well, active, and even training instructors. “What my associate told me was that he is fresh, and doing well,” he says. “The information I have is that he provides training to special people. There are training centres in homes, and all the teachers are first trained by the Sheikh. Then they go and teach the classes.”
Militants Allegedly Avoiding Pakistan - The detainee also says militants are avoiding Pakistani territory because of the risk of US drone attacks. “Pakistan at this time is not convenient for us to stay in because a lot of our senior people are being martyred in drone attacks,” he says.
Skepticism - The BBC will point out that “his account suits Pakistan, which maintains that bin Laden is not on its soil (see December 3, 2009), though Britain and the US think otherwise.” It adds, “The detainee’s account raises a lot of questions—among them, what were his motives for talking.” [BBC, 12/4/2009]
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the US has had no good intelligence about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden for “years.” Asked by ABC host George Stephanopoulus about bin Laden’s whereabouts, Gates first says: “Well, we don’t know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is. If we did, we’d go get him.” Stephanopoulus follows up, asking, “What was the last time we had any good intelligence on where he was?” Gates replies, “I think it’s been years,” and then confirms this when Stephanopoulus seems incredulous. [ABC News, 12/5/2009]
A CIA officer who hunted Osama bin Laden after 9/11 says that the al-Qaeda leader must be dead, according to former CIA officer and journalist Robert Baer. The officer adds, “No wonder there’s no intelligence on him.” When Baer asks him about the numerous audio and videotapes that appear to have been released by bin Laden over the past few years, the officer says they easily could have been digitally mastered from old recordings. However, he admits that the CIA has no evidence bin Laden died and his comments are only based on a hunch. Baer will say this theory is not popular in Washington because “it veers off into the realm of conspiracies,” and people are scared that “the moment they air their view, bin Laden will reappear.” Nevertheless, according to Baer: “[I]t’s a real possibility that bin Laden was killed at Tora Bora in late 2001 and is now buried under tons of rock, never to be found. Or that he died of ill health in the intervening years.” [Time, 12/8/2009] Baer will later be proven incorrect (see May 2, 2011).
President Obama asks the Pakistani government for permission to launch raids on the ground against strongholds of militant leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, but the request is refused. Haqqani has become the de facto leader of the Haqqani network, a semi-autonomous branch of the Taliban. Although it is based in Pakistan’s tribal region, it launches attacks on US troops in Afghanistan. The US has put a $5 million bounty on Haqqani’s head, and attempts to kill him with drone strikes have been unsuccessful (see for instance September 8, 2008). Obama makes the request in a letter to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, which is hand delivered by National Security Adviser General Jim Jones. General David Petraeus, head of US forces in the region, follows up with a meeting with General Ashfaq Kayani, head of Pakistan’s military. However, Pakistan says no. A senior Pakistani official says that a fight with the Haqqani network would create too many problems for Pakistan’s over-stretched army. “We have drawn a red line and would not accept any cross-border strikes by US forces,” he says. However, US intelligence believes that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, is actually allied with the Haqqani network and has been for over 20 years. [Daily Beast, 1/6/2010] US intelligence believes that in 2008, the Haqqani network and the ISI worked together to bomb the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan (see July 7, 2008 and August 1, 2008). Later in the month, a suicide bomber will kill nine people at a CIA base in Afghanistan, and US intelligence will suspect that the Haqqani network was involved in the attack (see December 30, 2009) and the ISI may have played a role as well (see January 6, 2010).
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]
US-operated drones kill 708 civilians in 44 Predator attacks targeting Pakistan’s tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009, according to statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities. Dawn reports that for each key al-Qaeda and Taliban militant killed by US drones, 140 Pakistani civilians also die. On average, 58 civilians are reportedly killed in drone attacks every month—about two people per day. [Dawn (Karachi), 1/2/2010] Other estimates of civilian-to-militant deaths over a longer time span vary greatly. Daniel L. Byman of the Brookings Institution, citing analysis by journalist Peter Bergen and Pakistani terrorism expert Amir Mir, estimates that since 2004, drones may have killed 10 civilians for every militant killed in Pakistan. [New Republic, 6/3/2009; Brookings, 7/14/2009] Counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen cites even more alarming statistics, acknowledging earlier Pakistani estimates that 98 civilians are killed for every two targeted individuals. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1/6/2009; New York Times, 5/16/2009] Bergen and Katherine Tiedmann will later report that new analyses of drone strike deaths in Pakistan from 2004 to March 2010 indicate that the civilian fatality rate is only 32 percent. Their study estimates that of the 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to the early months of 2010, between 834 and 1,216 people are killed, of whom around 549 to 849 are described as militants in press accounts. [Bergen and Tiedemann, 2/24/2010 ] Apart from the statistics, the controversial weapons are regarded by human rights and legal experts as legally-dubious instruments of extrajudicial killing. [CBS News, 7/21/2009]
It is reported that a preliminary investigation into the suicide bombing that killed nine at a CIA base in Afghanistan (see December 30, 2009) suggests that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, may have played a role. The Jordanian triple agent who blew himself up in the bombing used an unusually compact and powerful type of bomb. According to senior Afghan sources, a preliminary US investigation shows that a chemical fingerprint of the bomb matches a type of explosive used by the ISI. One senior government source says, “It is not possible that the [bomber] received that type of explosive without the help of ISI.” US and Pakistani officials have refused to publicly comment on any suggestions of ISI involvement. [Daily Beast, 1/6/2010]
A Wichita, Kansas, jury convicts Scott Roeder of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country to perform late-term abortions (see May 31, 2009 and May 31, 2009). The jury only deliberates for 37 minutes before handing down its verdict. Roeder admitted shooting Tiller during the trial, said he felt no remorse whatsoever for his actions, and instead justified them by saying he saw no other way to prevent abortions. Roeder will receive a sentence of life in prison; prosecutors say they hope to add restrictions to his sentence that will prevent him from coming up for parole for 50 years. Dr. Tiller’s widow, Jeanne Tiller, says in a statement, “At this time, we hope that George can be remembered for his legacy of service to women (see January 20, 2010), the help he provided for those who needed it, and the love and happiness he provided us as a husband, father, and grandfather.” [New York Times, 1/29/2010; AlterNet, 1/29/2010]
Roeder Traced Belief to Conservative Televangelist - During the trial, Roeder said that he became a fervent Christian in 1992 after watching televangelist Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. He said he fell to his knees at the end of the show, during the customary appeal to viewers to “commit your life to Christ.” From then on, Roeder said, his Christian views went “hand in hand” with his opposition to abortion. Reporter Adele Stan writes, “The interesting thing in all this is not that Roeder converted to Christianity, but that he did so via a ministry whose definition of Christianity is the demonization of those who oppose the views of those who embrace one particular theological strain of Christianity.” [AlterNet, 1/29/2010]
Abortion Rights Organizations Say Roeder's Conviction Sends Powerful Message to Perpetrators of Violence - Abortion-rights organizations applaud Roeder’s conviction, saying it sends a clear and powerful message to those who would commit violence against abortion providers, and add that it also points up the need for more intensive law enforcement and investigations into those conspiring to commit such violence (see May 31, 2009). “They need to take this investigation to the next stage,” says Katherine Spillar of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We don’t have rigorous enough enforcement.”
Anti-Abortion Organizations Split on Verdict - Some anti-abortion organizations call the trial unfair, and say that the guilty verdict will breed more violence. Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986), denounces Roeder as a “cold, calculated, and despicable” killer, and says Roeder does not represent the anti-abortion movement. However, Randall Terry, the former head of OR, calls the trial a “scam” and contends that Roeder had never been allowed to “really tell his side of the story.” Terry, who now leads a far-right anti-abortion organization called Insurrecta Nex, says Roeder should have been allowed to use descriptions and images of aborted fetuses to help jurors understand why he felt compelled to kill Tiller. Others take Terry’s position even further. “People had said if he were acquitted it would be open season on doctors,” says convicted clinic bomber Michael Bray (see September 1994). “But if you want to see what’s going to stimulate people to do something, you’re inviting more of the same by not giving him a fair trial.” Bray and other abortion opponents say Judge Warren Wilbert erred in not allowing the jury to consider a charge of voluntary manslaughter if it decided that, under Kansas law, “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.” The judge refused to allow that charge to be considered. [New York Times, 1/29/2010; AlterNet, 1/29/2010]
Entity Tags: Adele M. Stan, George Tiller, Michael Bray, Pat Robertson, Katherine Spillar, Warren Wilbert, Randall Terry, Scott Roeder, Troy Newman, Jeanne Tiller
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism
Sirajuddin Haqqani. [Source: State Department]The US fires a missile from a Predator drone aimed at Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, but fails to kill him. Haqqani is believed to hold major responsibilities for the Haqqani network, a semi-autonomous part of the Taliban. His father Jalaluddin Haqqani still technically leads the network, but is over 60 years old and ill. The US blames the Haqqani network for a role in a suicide bombing against a CIA base in Afghanistan in December 2009 (see December 30, 2009), as well as other attacks. Sirajuddin’s younger brother is killed, but this brother is believed to have little to no role in the network. Three others are also killed by the strike, which hits a village in North Waziristan. The Haqqani network is believed to have many fighters in Afghanistan combating US-led forces. It is also said to be closely linked to the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. [New York Times, 2/19/2010]
The Echelon Building in Austin, Texas, in the aftermath of Andrew Joseph Stack’s suicide crash. [Source: Jack Plunkett / Associated Press]Andrew Joseph Stack, a software engineer and pilot in Austin, Texas, burns his house down, then takes to the air in his Piper Dakota plane and crashes it into an Austin office building in an apparent attempt to destroy the large IRS office inside. Stack dies in the crash, as does IRS manager Vernon Hunter. Thirteen others are wounded, two critically. IRS revenue officer Peggy Walker, who is sitting at her desk when Stack’s plane crashes into the building, will later tell a reporter: “It felt like a bomb blew off. The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran.” IRS agent William Winnie says he was on the third floor of the building when he saw a light-colored, single engine plane coming toward the building. “It looked like it was coming right in my window,” Winne tells reporters. He says the plane veered down and smashed into the lower floors. “I didn’t lose my footing, but it was enough to knock people who were sitting to the floor,” he recalls. Two days before his flight, Stack, a software engineer, posted an angry rant on his personal Web site. “Nothing changes unless there is a body count,” he said, and went on to blast corporations, the Catholic Church, and bailouts for Wall Street. Stack wrote about the “storm raging in my head” and railed against taxation without representation. “Anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a ‘crackpot,’ traitor, and worse,” he wrote. He expressed his anger at the “handful of thugs and plunderers [that] can commit unthinkable atrocities,” including bailed-out General Motors executives and the drug and insurance companies who “are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple.” He hopes that “the American zombies wake up and revolt.” He concluded: “Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand.… I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well. The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” The note was signed, “Joe Stack (1956-2010).” Before the attack is determined not to be foreign terrorism, at least two Texas Air National Guard F-16 fighter jets are scrambled in Houston, and President Obama is briefed. [New York Daily News, 2/18/2010; CBS News, 2/18/2010; CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010; Your News Now, 2/25/2010] The press soon reprints the entire posting, which the Associated Press calls “a rambling anti-government manifesto.” [CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010] Federal authorities find a note in Stack’s car, parked at the Georgetown Airport where he took off; the note says there is a bomb in the airport. The FBI investigates and finds no bomb. [CBS News, 2/18/2010] Stack used to play in a rock band; Pam Parker, whose husband leads the band, says Stack is usually “easy-going,” and though he “talked politics like everyone[, he] didn’t show any obsession.” The Web posting “sounded like his voice, but it was nothing I ever heard him say. Clearly there was crazy in him but it must have been way in the back of his head, it wasn’t who Joe was.” Patrick Beach, who also played in the band with Stack, tells a reporter, “I talked to a lot of people who knew him better than I did, and no one saw anything like this coming.” Beach says it is hard to comprehend how Stack, whom Beach says loved his wife and stepdaughter, could be the same person who wanted to “commit mass murder.” [CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010] According to Stack’s father-in-law Jack Cook, Stack has a “hang-up” about the IRS, and his marriage to his wife Sheryl is strained; Cook says the night before Stack’s attack on the IRS building, his wife had taken her daughter to a hotel to get away from Stack. [Associated Press, 2/19/2010] The press later learns that Stack is in the middle of an audit for failing to report income, in a case centered around his “Universal Life Church,” a “home church” founded by Stack and his wife. Stack had declared the church a tax shelter in violation of federal law, and had been ordered by the court to pay over $14,000 in back taxes along with an undisclosed amount in penalties, fines, and interest. [Your News Now, 2/25/2010]
Entity Tags: Andrew Joseph Stack, Pam Parker, Internal Revenue Service, Jack Cook, Barack Obama, William Winnie, Associated Press, Universal Life Church, Peggy Walker, Vernon Hunter, Sheryl Stack, Texas Air National Guard, Patrick Beach
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Representative Steve King. [Source: The Iowa Republican (.com)]Some on the political right label Andrew Joseph Stack, who killed himself and an IRS manager by crashing his private plane into an Austin, Texas, office building (see February 18, 2010), a hero. The labeling begins when Stack’s adult daughter, Samantha Bells, calls him a hero because of his antigovernment views on an ABC morning talk show. While his suicide attack was “inappropriate,” she says, “[m]aybe now people will listen.” White supremacist Web sites and forums fill up with expressions of approval and support, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). One poster on the neo-Nazi Web site Stormfront calls Stack “a true HERO!!!” While Stack had no apparent connections to white supremacist or other hate groups, the SPLC’s Mark Potok says, many of those groups’ members have become excited by Stack’s action. “A few other white supremacists suggested that lionizing Stack could be a bad thing for the radical right, but they appeared to be in a minority,” Potok observes. Ken Hunter, who lost his father Vernon Hunter in the crash, says he is alarmed by the fact that some people are portraying Stack as noble and courageous. “How can you call someone a hero who after he burns down his house, he gets into his plane… and flies it into a building to kill people?” he asks on the same ABC broadcast. “My dad, Vernon, did tours of duty in Vietnam. My dad’s a hero.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/22/2010] The controversy intensifies when Representative Steve King (R-IA) blames the IRS for Stack’s actions. He refuses to condemn the attack, or Hunter’s murder, saying instead: “I think if we’d abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn’t have a target for his airplane. And I’m still for abolishing the IRS, I’ve been for it for 30 years and I’m for a national sales tax.… It’s sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’s going to be a happy day for America.” Asked if Stack’s grievances against the IRS were legitimate, King responds: “I don’t know if his grievances were legitimate, I’ve read part of the material. I can tell you I’ve been audited by the IRS and I’ve had the sense of ‘Why is the IRS in my kitchen? Why do they have their thumb in the middle of my back?‘… It is intrusive and we can do a better job without them entirely.” [Think Progress, 2/22/2010]
Logo of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks the activities of so-called ‘hate groups’ around the US. [Source: GuideStar]The number of extremist militia and “patriot” groups has expanded dramatically since the election of President Obama, according to a report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization that tracks “hate groups” and other, similar organizations. The number has expanded from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009—a 244 percent increase. “That is a lot of change in a short period of time,” says SPLC research director Heidi Beirich. The SPLC report says the number has “exploded in 2009 as militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream.” While many of these groups do not espouse violence and are not considered a direct threat to government officials, government property, or citizens, some of them do advocate violent strikes against government organizations and/or “liberal” groups or individuals. The number dwindled during the eight years of the Bush presidency, the SPLC reports, but since the election of a black, Democratic president, along with a poorly performing economy and a female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as catalyzing factors, the number has increased, and continues to grow. “The country is becoming more diverse,” Beirich says. “Some people find it hard to handle.… These are extreme stressors for people.” Chip Berlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, writes: “We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history. We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage.” The SPLC tracked 42 armed and potentially violent militias in 2008; that number has grown by over 300 percent, to 127, since then. The SPLC writes: “Patriot groups have been fueled by anger over the changing demographics of the country, the soaring public debt, the troubled economy, and an array of initiatives by President Obama and the Democrats that have been branded ‘socialist’ or even ‘fascist’ by his political opponents (see August 1, 2008 and After, October 10, 2008, October 27, 2008, January 2009, March 4-6, 2009, March 17, 2009, March 25, 2009, March 29, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, April 3-7, 2009, April 9-22, 2009, May 13, 2009, May 28, 2009, July 24, 2009, Late July, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 18, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 17, 2009, November 5, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 7, 2010, May 19, 2010, May 25, 2010, July 3-4, 2010, September 13, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 21, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 29, 2010, October 3, 2010, October 14, 2010, October 26, 2010, November 16, 2010, and April 27, 2011). Report editor Mark Potok says: “This extraordinary growth is a cause for grave concern. The people associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Moreover, the report finds, the “patriot” movement has made common cause with the “tea party” political movement, and the two are becoming more and more entwined. The report finds, “The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories, and racism.” The “patriot” movement’s central ideas are being promoted by national figures, such as Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck and lawmakers such as House member Michele Bachmann (R-MN). The number of identified “racist hate groups” has not increased significantly from 2008 from 2009, the report finds, growing from 926 to 932. However, the growth rate would have been far higher if it were not for the collapse of the American National Socialist Workers Party, a key neo-Nazi network whose founder was arrested in October 2008 (see December 18, 2009). So-called “nativist extremist” groups, vigilante organizations that go beyond advocating strict immigration policy and actually confront or harass suspected immigrants, have also grown in number, from 173 in 2008 to 309 in 2009, a rise of nearly 80 percent. The SPLC reports: “These three strands of the radical right—the hate groups, the nativist extremist groups, and the Patriot organizations—are the most volatile elements on the American political landscape. Taken together, their numbers increased by more than 40 percent, rising from 1,248 groups in 2008 to 1,753 last year.” The report warns that the number and intensity of violence from these groups, and from “lone wolf” extremists perhaps triggered by these groups’ rhetoric and actions, is increasing. Since Obama took office in January 2009, six law enforcement officers have been murdered by right-wing extremists. There are large and increasing numbers of arrests of racist “skinheads” for plotting to assassinate Obama, and an increasing number of anti-government extremists have been arrested for fomenting bomb plots. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2/2010; Detroit Free Press, 3/31/2010] A Detroit Free Press report will directly tie the Michigan Hutaree, a radical Christian group arrested for planning the murder of local police officers (see March 27-30, 2010), to the growing trend of militant activity documented in the SPLC report. Political science professor Michael Barkun, an expert on extremist religious groups, says of the Hutaree arrests: “I don’t think this is the last we’re going to see of these groups. The number of such groups has increased fairly dramatically in the last couple of years.” Beirich will note that the Hutaree were not isolated from other militias: “They were part of the broader militia movement,” she says. However, her conclusion is disputed by Michigan militia member Michael Lackomar. “They more closely fit the definition of a cult,” Lackomar will say. “They believe the world is about to end according to how it was written in the Bible, and their job is to stand up and clear the way for Jesus and fight alongside him against the forces of darkness.” While “[a] lot of people are upset at an ever-growing government that is overreaching,” Lackomar will say, most militias do not go to the Hutaree’s extremes. He will call the Hutaree’s plans to attack police officers “despicable.” [Detroit Free Press, 3/31/2010]
Entity Tags: Michael Barkun, Glenn Beck, Chip Berlet, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, American National Socialist Workers Party, Heidi Beirich, Hutaree, Mark Potok, Michele Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi, Southern Poverty Law Center, Michael Lackomar
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Dulmatin, one of the most wanted Islamist militants in Indonesia, is killed by police in Jakarta, Indonesia. He was considered one of the leaders of the 2002 Bali bombings, and other bombings in Southeast Asia. In 2005, the US put out a $10 million bounty on him (see October 6, 2005 and After). An explosives expert, he was a long-time leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaeda linked militant group. In recent months, he had tried to set up a new militant camp in the Indonesian province of Aceh. But police arrested most of the participants and then traced Dulmatin to Jakarta, where he is killed in an Internet cafe. [London Times, 3/9/2010]
Some of the armed militia members gathering in support of Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul. The two depicted are wearing pro-Paul stickers. [Source: Think Progress (.org)]US Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) is a featured speaker at an “open carry” rally held in Frankfort. “Open carry” advocates claim the right to openly carry firearms in public places. The rally includes groups like the Ohio Valley Freedom Fighters, an organization that has openly worked with and defended the Michigan-based Hutaree militia (see March 27-30, 2010). During his address to the rally, Paul calls the armed attendees, many of whom are wearing “I’m A Rand Fan” stickers, his “private security detail.” [Joe Sonka, 3/29/2010; Think Progress, 5/17/2010] (Note: progressive news Web site Think Progress misidentifies the militia organization at the Paul rally as the “Ohio Valley Freedom Fights.”) [Think Progress, 5/17/2010]
A Hutaree logo depicted on a shoulder patch. The initials CCR stand for ‘Colonial Christian Republic.’ [Source: BBC]Nine members of the “Hutaree,” a radical-right Christian militia organization, are charged with conspiring to kill police officers and wage war against the US. The FBI has arrested the nine members—eight men and one women—from locations throughout the Midwest, and are still searching for a tenth member, and charge them with “seditious conspiracy” and other crimes. The FBI alleges that the Hutaree members planned to kill a police officer in Michigan and then stage a second attack on the funeral, using landmines and roadside bombs or IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The arrests come after an 18-month investigation and a series of FBI raids on properties in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, after concluding that the group was planning a reconnaissance exercise. Attorney General Eric Holder says: “The indictment… outlines an insidious plan by anti-government extremists to murder a law enforcement officer in order to lure police from across the nation to the funeral where they would be attacked with explosive devices. Thankfully, this alleged plot has been thwarted and a severe blow has been dealt to a dangerous organisation that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States.” [CNN, 3/28/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010; BBC, 3/30/2010; Newsweek, 4/12/2010] The nine arrested are David Brian Stone of Clayton, Michigan, the leader of the group; David Brian Stone Jr. of Adrian, Michigan; Joshua Matthew Stone of Clayton; Tina Mae Stone of Clayton; Joshua John Clough of Blissfield, Michigan; Michael David Meeks of Manchester, Michigan; Kristopher T. Sickles of Sandusky, Ohio; Jacob J. Ward of Huron, Ohio; and Thomas W. Piatek of Hammond, Indiana. The FBI recovers 46 guns, two .50-caliber rifles, and 13,000 rounds of ammunition from Piatek’s home. All are denied bail in federal court. [Indiana Post-Tribune, 4/4/2010]
FBI Alerted of 'Trouble' in 2009 - The indictment cites “a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent”; the Detroit News reports that one of the nine defendants, through her lawyer, says she believes a member of another militia group reported the Hutaree’s plans to the FBI. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/2010] It will later emerge that in 2009, residents of Adrian, Michigan, contacted the FBI over their concerns that Stone was planning something violent. Even local militia members were worried, and one militia member decided to infiltrate the group on behalf of the FBI. In the fall of 2009, the FBI learned that the Hutarees were building bombs, and the bureau sent its own undercover agent inside the group. The undercover agent actually offered to make the bombs; senior FBI agent Andrew Arena says that the benefit of that offer was in placing the FBI in charge of the explosives. “We were very fortunate to be able to insert an individual who was able to kind of take that role,” Arena says. “It certainly let me sleep a little better at night.” The agent went to meetings with surveillance devices to make audio recordings of the proceedings, and taped a February 2010 conversation in which Stone declared that he was sure local police “would fight right alongside some Chinese trooper. Heck, yeah. It’s all about power. It’s about the authority. They see us as the little people.” Stone and the other members of his group believe that the US government is planning on using foreign troops to impose martial law and tyranny on American citizens. During the same conversation, in which Stone read a speech he planned to give at an upcoming militia gathering in Kentucky, Stone said: “Now, we need to quit playing this game with these elitist terrorists and actually get serious, because this war will come whether we are ready or not. A war of this magnitude will not be easy. But like the rattlesnake on the Gadsden flag, we have rattled and warned the new world order (see September 11, 1990). Now it’s time to strike and take our nation back.” Arena says that while Stone has the constitutional right to say such things, “when you start taking action towards that government,” a citizen crosses the line into conspiracy to commit a crime. “In this case, we’re defining it as they started to plan how they were going to ignite the war.” When another Hutaree member asked for the help of a local militia headed by David Servino in building bombs and planning attacks, Servino says, “[w]e talked about it, and we decided as a group to go to the State Police Department—this local here—and talk to them, tell them what little information we had.” A day after Servino’s group informed the state police, the FBI began making its arrests. [National Public Radio, 4/12/2010]
Extremist, Violent Ideology - A Hutaree Web site shows video footage of military-style training exercises and describes the members as “Christian warriors.” The site tells visitors that the Hutaree are preparing to defend themselves upon the arrival of the Antichrist, “for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.… The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so God wills it.” The FBI describes the Hutaree as an “anti-government extremist organization” advocating violence against the police in its indictment of the members; the group perceives the police as an arm of the US government [CNN, 3/28/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010; BBC, 3/30/2010] , which it calls ZOG—the “Zionist Occupied Government.” There is some dispute in the media as to the origin of the name “Hutaree.” One source believes it may originate from the word “Hutriel,” which translates to “rod of God.” Hutriel is one of the seven angels of punishment and helps in the “punishment of the 10 nations,” according to tradition. [Basil and Spice (.com), 4/6/2010] They label the police “the Brotherhood.” According to the Michigan Hutaree theology, which they call “the doctrine of the Hutaree,” former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is the Antichrist. The Hutaree’s exalted commander is called a “radok”; deputies and lieutenants are known as “boromanders” and “zulifs.” [Newsweek, 4/12/2010] Stone’s ex-fiancee, Andrea March, recalls Stone as a “Ron Paul fanatic,” referring to Ron Paul (R-TX) the libertarian House member whom many see as an ideological “father” of many “tea party” organizations. Appearing on Fox News, March tells an interviewer that Stone is a fanatical Paul supporter who feared that President Obama intended to take away his guns. “When Obama took the presidency is when he lost it because he was a Ron Paul fanatic,” she says. Asked what Paul has to do with Stone’s thinking and actions, she replies: “To tell you the truth I don’t know. I never really understood why Ron Paul was so much different, but [Stone] thought he could get away with anything and he wanted more freedoms than what he had and he was trying to do it through the violence.… [H]e clearly believed in guns and having them and he didn’t think. He didn’t want to have a driver’s license, he didn’t want to fill out any census papers. He wanted to own guns unregistered.” [Crooks and Liars, 3/30/2010]
Leader, Group Well Known for Violent Expressions - The group leader, Stone, is called “Captain Hutaree” by his colleagues, or, cryptically, “RD.” The indictment names Stone as the “principal leader” of the organization. According to media reports, Stone has a strong affinity for the most violent of the far-right fringes of the American militia movement. His first wife, Donna Stone, tells reporters she left him because he “got carried away.” Federal authorities say that he researched how to build IEDs and roadside bombs on the Internet, and emailed diagrams of the devices to someone he believed could actually build such devices. And one neighbor, Phyllis Bruger, says she and others learned not to “mess with” Stone and his group. They liked to conduct “military exercises” and shoot guns, usually wearing camouflage outfits. “Everybody knew they were militia,” she says. Donna Stone tells reporters: “It started out as a Christian thing. You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far. He dragged a lot of people with him. When he got carried away, when he went from handguns to big guns, I was done.” Her son, Joshua Stone, who was adopted by David Stone, was arrested with David Stone after helping him gather materials necessary for making the bombs. Donna Stone adds: “He dragged a lot of innocent people down with him. It started to get worse when they were talking about the world’s gonna end in the Bible.” The indictment says, “Stone taught other Hutaree members how to make and use explosive devices intending or knowing that the information would be used to further a crime of violence.”
Too Far for Other Militia Groups - Other militia organizations in Michigan kept their distance from the local Hutaree, says Jim Gulliksen of the Lenawee Volunteer Michigan Militia (the same group that Servino founded and that informed police of the Hutaree plot). “I’ve met him,” Gulliksen says. “He’s an opinionated man who likes to share those opinions. The Hutaree is a nationwide group, but I have met a couple of the members here, and I can say they all belong to one specific church. Our concern is the protection of our nation. Religion appears to be a big part of what they are doing.” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center says the SPLC is aware of two Hutaree chapters, one in Utah and Stone’s chapter in Michigan. She notes Hutaree has more than 350 friends on its MySpace page, dozens of whom are members of other militias, and says that Stone was planning to attend a summit in Kentucky with other militias next month. “Hutaree is not an isolated crew,” she notes. Beinrich says that Stone and his colleagues see “the end of times” occurring today: “They have extreme antigovernment beliefs. They have rage and hatred for the federal government. They fear being put in FEMA concentration camps. They’re really paramilitary organizations.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010] William Flatt, a founder of the Indiana Militia, is also aware of Stone and the Hutaree. He is not surprised at the arrests. “We had a strong suspicion that groups like this would be getting some rather substantial bad press fairly quickly,” Flatt tells a reporter. Flatt says that unlike the Hutaree, his and most militia groups support and defend the US Constitution. “The whole militia movement is supposed to be a goal-line defense against tyranny,” Flatt says. “If all else fails, the people still have the means to shoehorn [the government] back into the constitutional mold.” The Michigan Hutaree’s plans to kill police officers, Flatt says, is abhorrent to his group, and he warns that it is a mistake to lump all American militias in with extremist, violent groups such as Stone’s. Flatt disliked Stone’s views, which he says focus on his interpretation of Christianity and also express bigotry against others. However, he is skeptical of the charges against some of Stone’s followers. “The charges they’re putting out there, it only ends one way,” he says. “You might as well put yourself in the Alamo; nobody wants to do that.” [Indiana Post-Tribune, 4/4/2010] Arena says that while Stone’s group might have considered itself a part of a larger, sympathetic coterie of like-minded organizations, it was mistaken. “These guys may have felt in their mind that they were a part of this brotherhood,” he says. “The reality is I don’t think they’ve got a whole lot of support.” [Associated Press, 4/2/2010]
Lawyer Insists No Crime Committed - Stone’s lawyer, William Swor, says there is no evidence the group ever took steps to implement any of the alleged plots. Instead, he says, the group is being persecuted over the exercise of constitutionally protected speech. “This is still America and people can say whatever they want,” he says. [Newsweek, 4/12/2010]
Entity Tags: Tina Mae Stone, Thomas W. Piatek, Southern Poverty Law Center, William Flatt, William Swor, Detroit News, Andrea March, David Brian Stone, Ron Paul, David Servino, Andrew Arena, Barack Obama, Phyllis Bruger, David Brian Stone, Jr, Lenawee Volunteer Michigan Militia, Heidi Beirich, Hutaree, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Donna Stone, Michael David Meeks, Indiana Militia, Eric Holder, Jacob J. Ward, Joshua John Clough, Kristopher T. Sickles, Joshua Matthew Stone, Javier Solana, Jim Gulliksen
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Christian Science Monitor reporter Mark Guarino delves into some of the reasons why Michigan has such a high concentration of militia, anti-government, and other extremist groups within its borders. The analysis comes in the aftermath of the arrest of nine members of the Hutaree, a violent Christian group whom the FBI says were planning on murdering one or more police officers (see March 27-30, 2010). Michigan has 47 known militia or “patriot” groups, second in the nation behind Texas (which contains 57 such groups). These numbers come from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization that tracks hate group activity. The SPLC says dozens of new militia and “patriot” groups have begun since the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president; between 2008 and 2009, the SPLC says, the number of groups throughout the country has grown from 149 to 512 (see March 2, 2010). The Michigan branch of the Hutaree is one of the most violent and far-right of these groups, the SPLC says, but Michigan and the entire Upper Midwest has become a hotbed of “patriot” activity. Chip Berlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, says: “There are a number of regional factors that, over time and at various moments, helped the militia movement take hold in different parts of the country. It certainly has emerged strongly in the upper Midwest.” Indiana has 21 such groups, Wisconsin and Ohio 13 each, and Illnois 10, according to SPLC figures. Michigan has a long history of such activity, according to SPLC official Heidi Beirich. Many of Michigan’s most prominent militia groups, including the Michigan Militia, came into being during the term in office of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. The Michigan Militia gained notoriety when the media found ties between it and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, January 1995, 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, and April 21, 1995). Militia activity in Michigan dwindled during the Bush presidency, but with Obama as president, has risen sharply. The Hutaree members were able to attract some members of less openly violent groups such as the Michigan Militia, though spokesmen for that group say that their organization rejects the Christian survivalist doctrine of the Hutaree. Beirich says, “The roots of militia activity are there [in Michigan], so if you want to organize something you know who to call.” Experts say a combination of factors contribute to the rise in militias: a troubled economy, changing roles within the traditional family structure, and shifts in the racial makeup of the country’s population. Berlet notes that shared anxiety among lower-to-middle-class people is often a catalyst for generating conspiracy theories, which have the potency to provoke people to take up arms and commit violence. “The candidacy of Obama—when it looked to become serious—prompted a lot of anxiety, and the anxiety continued to rise up to the inauguration,” says Berlet. “This is really getting out of hand,” Berlet says. “It’s a serious problem when people decide the solution to political problems lies in arming themselves and going underground.” He concludes: “While you can look at the Republicans and right wing and say, ‘You let things go too far,’ the Democrats use very demonizing language and aren’t interested in a policy debate, either. They’ve been interested in bashing the Republicans and right wing as crazy and ignorant. So it’s a mess.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/30/2010] Former federal prosecutor Aitan Goelman, who helped convict McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombing, suggests that the true danger of groups like the Hutaree and other militias is not from the groups themselves, but from the risk of these groups’ inflammatory declarations and actions sparking violence from so-called “lone wolves,” who like McVeigh are not necessarily active members of any such groups, but whose actions go farther than most groups ever intend. Goelman notes that in 1995, a Democrat was president, just as today; Clinton pushed through a controversial federal assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) and Obama has successfully implemented an equally controversial health care reform package; and, both then and now, extremists on the right are warning of an impending government takeover. “On the edges” of political discourse today, Goelman says, “you have rhetoric that carries over to extreme factions.” He continues, “Anytime you have group-think and this churning of ridiculous ideas back and forth, eventually you’ll get someone like McVeigh who’s going to say, ‘I’m going to take the mantle of leadership and fire the shot heard around the world and start the second American revolution.’” McVeigh considered the Michigan Militia “too moderate” and himself as a “man of action” who wanted to go farther than these groups. “I think [his associations with militias] put a battery in the pack,” Goelman says. “Some of this is fantasy. I think the idea that it is kind of fun to talk about a UN tank on your front lawn and the New World Order (see September 11, 1990)… but when someone blows up a building and kills 19 kids in a day-care center, it’s not so glamorous anymore,” he says, referring to the Oklahoma City incident. “The reality of murdering innocent people ends up far less glorious than striking the blow.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/2010]
Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Chip Berlet, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, Aitan Goelman, Christian Science Monitor, Michigan Militia, Clinton administration, Hutaree, Heidi Beirich, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Guarino
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The documentary uses an actor and computer effects to simulate McVeigh’s actions during the interviews, which were recorded on audio tape, and of his carrying out the bombing. [Source: MSNBC]MSNBC airs a documentary about convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), who before his execution (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) confessed to bombing the Murrah Federal Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) to Buffalo News reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck. Michel and Herbeck went on to write a 2001 biography of McVeigh, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, based on their interviews with McVeigh. The MSNBC documentary, The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist, features excerpts drawn from the 45 hours of audio recordings made by Michel. The documentary will be broadcast on April 19, the 15th anniversary of the bombing, and features film of the bombing and its aftermath; computer-generated recreations to augment the actual audio recordings (with an actor playing McVeigh); and interviews with survivors of the bombing and family members of the slain. McVeigh told of his childhood in upstate New York (see 1987-1988), his experiences in the 1991 Gulf War (see January - March 1991 and After), his relationship with convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 23, 1997, and June 4, 1998), and of the meticulous planning and execution of the bombing. [MSNBC, 4/15/1995; MSNBC, 4/15/1995] One of the few moments when McVeigh’s voice became animated was when he described the moments before the bomb went off, saying, “I lit the two-minute fuse at the stoplight, and I swear to God that was the longest stoplight I’ve ever sat at in my life.” [New York Times, 4/18/1995] The documentary is narrated by MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow. Herbeck says he understands that the documentary will evoke strong feelings. “Some people will say they don’t want to hear anything about Timothy McVeigh and we respect their feelings on that,” he says. “But others are interested in hearing what made a terrorist tick.” Michel says, “[It’s an] oral blueprint of what turned one young man into one of the worst mass-murderers and terrorists in American history.” Herbeck says their book drew similar mixed reactions: “A few of the victims were outraged by our book, and they went public with their feelings. They felt it was wrong to tell the story of a terrorist.” Maddow says she is not worried that the documentary will somehow glamorize McVeigh or make him into a martyr figure: “McVeigh is profoundly unsympathetic—even repugnant—on his own terms, you don’t need to work to make him seem that way. There’s a huge distance between the hero he is in his own mind, and how basely unheroic he seems to anyone hearing the tapes now. I personally am not a supporter of the death penalty… but hearing him talk, it’s hard not to wish him gone.” In the documentary, Jannie Coverdale, who lost her two young grandchildren in the blast, says: “I was glad when he died. I will never forgive Timothy McVeigh.” Oklahoma City Police Department official Jennifer Rodgers, one of the first responders to the bombing (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995), says her feelings are “still raw.… It just doesn’t seem like it was really that long ago.” Maddow says the story is important even 15 years later: “The Murrah Building bombing is the worst incident of domestic terrorism we’ve ever experienced as a nation. We owe pure remembrance of the date, and commemoration of the lives lost and changed. I think it’s also an appropriate occasion to talk about the threat of domestic terrorism. How strong is the threat now, 15 years after McVeigh? Are we heeding warning signs that may be out there now?” Former President Clinton, who oversaw the federal efforts to respond to the bombing, has recently warned that ugly and frightening parallels exist between the current political tensions and the anti-government rage that preceded McVeigh’s attack, saying: “We can disagree with them [elected officials], we can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, we increase the number of threats.” Michel says: “There’s no question that the militia movement is on the rise again. Some of the same factors that caused McVeigh to believe he had become disenfranchised from mainstream society are again in the mix: growing government regulations, lack of employment. Those are things McVeigh would cite if he were alive.” [MSNBC, 4/15/1995; MSNBC, 4/15/1995] In the documentary, Maddow says of the date of the airing: “On this date, which holds great meaning for the anti-government movement, the McVeigh tapes are a can’t-turn-away, riveting reminder.” Washington Post reviewer Hank Steuver calls the documentary “chilling” and McVeigh’s demeanor “arrogan[t]” and unrepentant. “Maddow and company wisely decline to draw too straight a line from 1995 to 2010, but, as she indicates, it might be helpful in crazy times to study this sort of crazy head-on,” he writes. “Watching this, it’s easy to feel like that fuse is still lit.” [Washington Post, 4/18/2010] New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley says the use of an actor and computer effects “blunts its impact by relying on stagy computer graphics.… Scenes of this domestic terrorist in shackles during a prison interview or lighting a fuse inside a rented Ryder truck look neither real nor completely fake, but certainly cheesy: a violent video game with McVeigh as a methodical, murderous avatar.” [New York Times, 4/18/1995] The documentary is later made available on YouTube. [911Blogger (.com), 4/20/2010]
Infowars (.com) logo. [Source: The Jeenyus Corner (.com]Kurt Nimmo, writing for the right-wing conspiracy Web site Infowars (.com), calls the recent MSNBC documentary featuring the confession of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 15-18, 2010) a “fairy tale.” Nimmo writes: “On the fifteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, MSNBC ran a documentary supposedly detailing Timothy McVeigh’s death row ‘confession.’ The documentary—actually a fairy tale of easily debunked government propaganda hosted by the ‘progressive’ Rachel Maddow—employs alleged tape recordings of McVeigh coupled with cheesy computer simulations intended to dredge up the government version of events and thus rekindle hysteria manufactured in the 1990s concerning the threat posed by militias and patriot groups.” Nimmo says the documentary “omits a large amount of evidence that seriously undermines the government version repeated and amplified by the corporate media (see (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, and Before 9:00 A.M. April 19, 1995), and recounts a number of oddities surrounding the bombing that have not yet been explained, such as the “inexplicable” absence of FBI and BATF agents in the Murrah Building the day of the bombing (eight federal agents were killed in the blast—see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), allegations that judicial and FBI officials were warned about the bombing ahead of time, and a raft of unexplained information about other possible conspirators (see April 15, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Nimmo calls the documentary “crude propaganda” designed to conceal what he calls the likelihood that the bombing was a government operation designed to demonize militia and anti-government organizations. He says the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an anti-hate organization that tracks violent anti-government organizations, is one of the organizations behind the documentary, and calls the SPLC’s Mark Potok, who appears in the documentary, the organization’s “propaganda minister.” He concludes: “The OK City bombing was a false flag attack perpetuated by the government ‘to gain a political end’ and that end was to demonize political opposition. It is an effort that continues today and will expand as the political opposition gains popular support.” [Kurt Nimmo, 4/25/2010]
Shahab Dashti holding a large sword in a 2009 militant propaganda video. [Source: Public domain via Der Spiegel]Two members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell before 9/11 allegedly have a reunion in Pakistan’s tribal region. In March 2009, three Islamist militants—Naamen Meziche, Ahmad Sidiqi, and Shahab Dashti—left their homes in Germany and went together to al-Qaeda linked training camps in Pakistan (see March 5, 2009). Meziche was an apparent member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, but the German government was never able to charge him with any crime despite investigating him for years (see Shortly After September 11, 2001-March 5, 2009). The three militants live in Mir Ali, a town in Pakistan’s tribal region controlled by tribes allied with al-Qaeda. Sidiqi will be arrested in early July 2010, and is held at the US military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/11/2010]
Happy Reunion of Hamburg Cell Members - He will tell his interrogators that in May or June 2010, Said Bahaji visits Mir Ali. Bahaji is another known member of the Hamburg cell, and has been wanted by Germany since shortly after 9/11. Bahaji comes with his wife and children (apparently a new wife he met while on the run in Pakistan). According to Sidiqi, Bahaji and Meziche are happy to see each other again after many years. The two of them talk for hours until Bahaji leaves later that same day.
Story Is Based on Two Eyewitnesses - It is not known how trustworthy Sidiqi’s confession is, or how he is treated by US interrogators. German intelligence officials will be able to visit him in early October 2010, and he will tell them the same story about Bahaji. Sidiqi also reveals details of a plot to attack targets in Germany that he, Meziche, Dashti, and others were involved in. Rami Makanesi, a German of Syrian descent, will be arrested in Pakistan in June 2010 and quickly deported back to Germany. He also independently gives an account describing the same meeting between Meziche and Bahaji. Makanesi is sentenced to four years in prison. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/11/2010; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/29/2011]
Significance - Der Spiegel will later comment that Sidiqi’s confession shows that “Bahaji is obviously still alive.… And he is apparently still involved with a group of radical Islamists in [Pakistan’s tribal] region.” Furthermore, “Even today, the German citizen is one of the most wanted people in the world.” However, the US government has still not put Bahaji on any most wanted lists. The reunion also strengthens evidence that Merziche was part of the Hamburg cell with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others. However, Merziche is not put on any public wanted list either. In October 2010, a US drone strike will kill Meziche, Dashti, and a third German militant known as Bunyamin E. (see October 5, 2010), but Bahaji survives. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/11/2010]
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accuses the Pakistani government of knowing where Osama bin Laden and other top militant leaders are hiding. She says, “I’m not saying that they’re at the highest levels, but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is, and we expect more co-operation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill those who attacked us on 9/11.” A Pakistani government spokesperson dismisses Clinton’s claim. [Daily Telegraph, 5/11/2010] In March 2011, a US strike force will assault a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and kill bin Laden (see May 2, 2011).
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) urges the US State Department to blacklist the Tehrik-i-Taliban (also known as the Pakistani Taliban) and the Haqqani network, but this does not happen. Both the Tehrik-i-Taliban and the Haqqani network are militant groups closely linked with the Taliban, but are mainly based in Pakistan. Feinstein, the chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claims that the US blacklists foreign groups that engage in terrorism and threaten US citizens and US national security, and both groups “clearly meet” the criteria to be blacklisted. Agence France-Presse reports that the US “has hesitated” to blacklist these groups “in part out of consideration for relations with Pakistan, where anti-Americanism runs rife and whose government is keen to be seen as fighting the Taliban on its own terms.” The Haqqani network is believed to have taken part in a number of terrorist attacks (see January 14, 2008, April 27, 2008, July 7, 2008, December 30, 2009), and in 2009, the US put a $5 million bounty on leader Sirajuddin Haqqani (see March 25, 2009). The Haqqani network is also believed to be a strategic asset of the Pakistani government (see May 2008). Tehrik-i-Taliban was recently implicated in a failed bombing in Times Square in New York City. [Agence France-Presse, 5/13/2010]
Al-Qaeda’s latest alleged number three leader, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, is apparently killed in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal region. Media reports say nine others are killed in the village of Boya near Miran Shah, North Waziristan. A statement posted on an al-Qaeda website will later confirm al-Yazid’s death along with that of his wife, three daughters, and others. Al-Yazid, an Egyptian also often called Sheik Saiid al-Masri, was one of the founding members of al-Qaeda, and a member of the group’s Shura Council ever since then. He was al-Qaeda’s chief financial officer while living with Osama bin Laden in Sudan and then Afghanistan in the 1990s. In 2007, he emerged after years of hiding and revealed in a released video that he was in charge of al-Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan. A US official says he was “the group’s chief operating officer, with a hand in everything from finances to operational planning. He was also the organization’s prime conduit to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. He was key to al-Qaeda’s command and control.” Former National Security Council counterterrorism official Roger Cressey even says: “In some respects, [his] death is more important for al-Qaeda operations than if bin Laden or al-Zawahiri was killed. Any al-Qaeda operation of any consequence would run through him.” [MSNBC, 6/1/2010]
CIA Director Leon Panetta tells ABC News that there are on 50 to 100 al-Qaeda operatives left in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan’s tribal region. He says that the number of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan is “relatively small.… At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.” He also says that bin Laden “is in an area of the tribal areas of Pakistan.” He concedes that the CIA has not had good intelligence on bin Laden’s location for a long time. “It’s been a while. I think it goes back almost to the early 2000s, you know in terms of actually when [bin Laden] was leaving from Afghanistan to Pakistan that we had the last precise information about where he might be located. Since then it has been very difficult to get any intelligence on his exact location.” [ABC News, 6/27/2010] Almost a year later, bin Laden will be assassinated in his Pakistan hideout (see May 2, 2011).
In an interview, CIA Director Leon Panetta says Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan’s tribal region. Bin Laden, Panetta says, is in “very deep hiding. He’s in an area of the tribal areas of Pakistan, that is very difficult. The terrain is probably the most difficult in the world.” Asked when the CIA last had good information on bin Laden’s location, Panetta says: “It’s been a while. I think it almost goes back to the early 2000s in terms of actually when he was moving from Afghanistan to Pakistan that we had the last precise information about where he might be located. Since then, it’s been very difficult to get any intelligence on his exact location.” [ABC News, 6/27/2010] Almost a year later, bin Laden will be assassinated in his Pakistan hideout (see May 2, 2011).
A key mistake by Osama bin Laden’s courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti) lead US intelligence to exact location of bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan (see May 2, 2011). US intelligence already had a good idea that Ahmed was a courier working for bin Laden, and in the summer of 2009, he used a cell phone that allowed analysts to determine he was living somewhere in northwest Pakistan (see Summer 2009). But he drove an hour or two before making his calls, and he changed the SIM cards in his phone, making it impossible to pinpoint his exact location. After a flurry of calls in the summer of 2009, he did not use his phone for nearly a year. [ABC News, 5/19/2011]
Phone Call Is Key Mistake - But then, around July 2010, he accepts a call that provides the key intelligence breakthrough. The call is from an unnamed old friend, but the friend’s calls are already being monitored by US intelligence for his al-Qaeda links. The friend asks Ahmed innocuous questions, like where have you been and what are you doing now. Ahmed vaguely replies, “I’m back with the people I was with before.” Bob Woodward of the Washington Post will later report, “There was a pause, as if the friend knew that [Ahmed’s] words meant he had returned to bin Laden’s inner circle, and was perhaps at the side of the al-Qaeda leader himself. The friend replied, ‘May God facilitate.’” [Washington Post, 5/6/2011]
Exact Neighborhood Is Located - According to one account, when Ahmed takes this call, apparently he is in or near the town of Peshawar (about 120 miles from Abbottabad). He is soon spotted there, and then continually monitored. It will take several weeks before he returns to Abbottabad, and the exact location of bin Laden’s hideout there is discovered. [New York Times, 5/2/2011] According to another account, Ahmed is either inside bin Laden’s compound or very close to it when he takes the call, because the NSA is quickly able to determine the exact neighborhood where the call was received. From there, the CIA and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency search aerial satellite photographs and deduce which house in the neighborhood likely belongs to bin Laden. [ABC News, 5/19/2011] Either way, apparently his hideout will be discovered by US intelligence on August 1 (see August 1, 2010).
Bin Laden's Compound Already Known to CIA? - According to the Associated Press, the CIA had already known “for years” that bin Laden’s compound was linked to al-Qaeda, but they had dismissed it as not very important since there were no security guards patrolling it. In any case, the compound is located (or relocated), and US intelligence starts to monitor it. [Associated Press, 5/2/2011]
The location of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, allegedly is revealed by a captured German militant. After bin Laden is killed in May 2011 (see May 2, 2011), both the Washington Times and London Times will claim that a militant named Ahmed Siddiqui is captured in Afghanistan in July 2010, and quickly tells US interrogators that bin Laden is hiding in a compound in Abbottabad (although apparently he does not mention the exact location, just the town). Both articles will also claim that US intelligence tracks bin Laden’s courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed to bin Laden’s compound at nearly the exact same time (see July 2010 and August 1, 2010). The Washington Times will mention that different sources name Siddiqui or Ahmed as the key intelligence breakthrough. [Washington Times, 5/2/2011; London Times, 5/8/2011] In September 2010, Der Spiegel will report that the 36-year-old Siddiqui is arrested in early July by US forces in Afghanistan, and he confesses about attack plots in Germany and other countries. He is a German of Afghan descent, and is believed to be part of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). He is thought to have gone to Pakistan and Afghanistan in early 2009. He attended the same mosque in Hamburg as some of the 9/11 hijackers such as Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Siddiqui also has links to Mounir El Motassadeq, who was given a 15-year sentence in Germany for a role in the 9/11 attacks (see January 8, 2007). For instance, Siddiqui worked at the Hamburg airport like El Motassadeq did, drove El Motassadeq’s father to jail to visit El Motassadeq, and went on vacation with El Motassadeq’s family in Morocco in 2002. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/6/2010]
Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard makes some phone calls that help US intelligence to conclude bin Laden is living in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In July 2010, Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti) accepts a phone call on his cell phone from a friend who is already being monitored by US intelligence, and this leads investigators to the exact compound in Abbottabad where Ahmed and bin Laden live (see July 2010). Investigators determine there is no land line or Internet in the compound. However, there is a satellite phone that apparently is used by bin Laden’s bodyguard.
Calls to Known Associates - In July and August 2010, US intelligence tracks calls from this bodyguard to al-Qaeda associates in the towns of Charsada and Kohat in the same province. Further details are unknown, such as who is called or if the bodyguard continues to make calls after August 2010. But these calls help US analysts decide that bin Laden is probably living inside the compound.
Who Is the Bodyguard? - The name of this bodyguard will not be made public, but apparently he is Kuwaiti. When bin Laden is killed in 2011 (see May 2, 2011) there will be no bodyguards with him. However, Ahmed and his brother Abrar could be considered Kuwaiti, as they were originally Pakistani, but raised in Kuwait. [Christian Science Monitor, 5/2/2011] So perhaps the bodyguard is actually one of them.
US officials privately brief British Prime Minister David Cameron. In his first visit to Washington, DC, as prime minister, Cameron is briefed by General James Cartwright, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to a later account by the Guardian, Cartwright tells Cameron that the ISI, Pakistani’s intelligence agency, is at least tolerating terrorism, and may be promoting it. The Guardian will add that Cameron “was not just told in Washington that organizations like Lashkar-e-Toiba were able to launch attacks on India and Britain from Pakistan. Cameron was also warned that Pakistan was providing a haven for al-Qaeda leaders, possibly including Osama bin Laden.” [Guardian, 5/2/2011] Exactly one week after this briefing, Cameron will publicly accuse Pakistan of supporting and exporting terrorism (see July 28, 2010). This briefing takes place the same month US intelligence makes a key intelligence breakthrough that soon leads to bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan (see July 2010 and May 2, 2011).
A Washington Post article suggests that Hamid Gul, head of the ISI from 1987 to 1989, has been frequently linked to recent Islamist militant activity. The ISI is Pakistan’s intelligence agency, and in the 1980s Gul worked closely with the US to support the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and defeat the Soviets there (see April 1987). The Post article states that “more than two decades later, it appears that General Gul is still at work. [Newly leaked] documents indicate that he has worked tirelessly to reactivate his old networks, employing familiar allies like Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose networks of thousands of fighters are responsible for waves of violence in Afghanistan.” The Post is referring to thousands of classified US government documents made public by WikiLeaks, a non-profit whistleblower group. The documents often appear to be raw intelligence that sometimes turns out to be inaccurate. But nonetheless, the Post notes that “General Gul is mentioned so many times in the reports, if they are to be believed, that it seems unlikely that Pakistan’s current military and intelligence officials could not know of at least some of his wide-ranging activities.”
Link to Recent Taliban and Al-Qaeda Activity - For example, according to one intelligence report, Gul met with a group of militants in South Waziristan (in Pakistan’s tribal region), on January 5, 2009. He allegedly met with Taliban and al-Qaeda figures, and planned an attack to avenge the death of al-Qaeda leader Usama al-Kini (a.k.a. Fahid Muhammad Ally Msalam), who had been killed several days earlier by a US drone strike (see January 1, 2009). The group discussed driving a truck rigged with explosives into Afghanistan to be used against US forces there. According to another report, in January 2008, Gul directed the Taliban to kidnap high-level United Nations personnel in Afghanistan to trade for captured Pakistani soldiers. [Washington Post, 7/26/2010]
Gul Frequently Mentioned in Intelligence Reports - Gul lives openly in an exclusive district of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, and he frequently shares his pro-Taliban views with reporters. But a Der Spiegel article published on this day notes that the nearly 92,000 documents recently published by WikiLeaks “suggest that Gul is more than just a garrulous old man. If the accusations are true, Gul isn’t just an ally of the Taliban in spirit, but is also supplying them with weapons and thereby actively taking part in the fight against Western forces. Gul is effectively being accused of being an important helper of the Taliban, and possibly even one of their leaders.” In fact, “The name Hamid Gul appears more often than virtually any other” in the documents. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 7/26/2010]
Gul Still Linked to Pakistani Government? - Gul denies all the allegations. Pakistani officials also deny that Gul still works with the ISI in any way. But the Post reports: “Despite his denials, General Gul keeps close ties to his former employers. When a reporter visited General Gul this spring for an interview at his home, the former spy master canceled the appointment. According to his son, he had to attend meetings at army headquarters.” [Washington Post, 7/26/2010] In late 2008, the US government attempted to put Gul on a United Nations list of terrorist supporters, but apparently that move has been blocked by other countries (see December 7, 2008).
Speaking publicly in India, British Prime Minister David Cameron claims that the Pakistani government is exporting terrorism. He says, “We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that [Pakistan] is allowed to look both ways and is able to promote the export of terror, whether to India or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. That is why this relationship is important. But it should be a relationship based on a very clear message: that it is not right to have any relationship with groups that are promoting terror. Democratic states that want to be part of the developed world cannot do that. The message to Pakistan from the US and from [Britain] is very clear on that point.” He also says that “[G]roups like the Taliban, the Haqqani network, or Lakshar-e-Taiba should not be allowed to launch attacks on Indian and British citizens in India or in Britain.” All three militant groups mentioned have been accused of terrorist bombings and there are claims the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, has been backing them.
Cameron Does Not Back Down - Later in the day, Cameron is asked in an interview if Pakistan exports terrorism. He replies, “I choose my words very carefully. It is unacceptable for anything to happen within Pakistan that is about supporting terrorism elsewhere. It is well-documented that that has been the case in the past, and we have to make sure that the Pakistan authorities are not looking two ways.”
Diplomatic Row Ensues - Pakistani officials immediately take offense and reject the validity of Cameron’s statement. The Guardian reports that Cameron’s unusually blunt comments spark a “furious diplomatic row” between Britain and Pakistan. Cameron’s comments appear to be based on a briefing he was given by US officials one week earlier (see July 21, 2010). [Guardian, 7/28/2010]
Pakistani intelligence begins monitoring Tahir Shehzad, an apparent al-Qaeda facilitator who lives in the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan. Shehzad lives only about two miles away from where Osama bin Laden is hiding, but apparently Pakistani investigators are not aware of bin Laden’s hideout at this time.
Who Is Shehzad? - Shehzad works as a clerk in Abbottabad’s main post office. One relative will later say that Shehzad was “a jihadist through and through.” According to an article published in April 2011, shortly before the US raid on bin Laden’s hideout, Shehzad is first suspected in 2010 when he is spotted with an “Arab terror suspect.” The name of this suspect has not yet been made public. [Associated Press, 4/14/2011; News (Islamabad), 5/3/2011; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 5/18/2011] Another account will claim that Shehzad was monitored after he was received suspiciously large cash transfers. [London Times, 5/23/2011] Shehzad will be arrested in January 2011 after he leaves Abbottabad to meet two suspected militants from France in a nearby town. He will then confess the location of Indonesian militant leader Umar Patek, who is arrested in Abbottabad that same month (see January 25, 2011).
Alternate Account for Bin Laden Intel? - The News, a Pakistani newspaper, will later report that anonymous Pakistani government sources claim the surveillance and then arrest of Shehzad led Pakistani investigators to bin Laden’s hideout before the US raid that kills bin Laden in May 2011 (see May 2, 2011). Furthermore, these same sources claim that the Shehzad lead is the real intelligence coup that led to the US raid. [News (Islamabad), 5/3/2011] An unnamed CIA official will later say, “It is quite possible a false or partial narrative was given of how bin Laden was found. … Intelligence can only function in silence and in the dark - protecting source and method is very important.” [London Times, 5/23/2011]
An illustration of the Abbottabad compound. [Source: CIA]US intelligence officials come to believe more strongly that they have found Osama bin Laden. US intelligence officials have tracked al-Qaeda courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti) to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in August 2010 (see July 2010), and by September they are so convinced that bin Laden is hiding there that they inform President Obama about this (see September 1, 2010). Bin Laden is not directly seen by surveillance, but there are many clues suggesting he could be there:
Most importantly, Ahmed fits the profile of an ideal courier for bin Laden, and Ahmed lives at the compound.
The compound is surrounded by 12- to 18-foot high walls topped with barbed wire.
However, there is no telephone or Internet in the compound. This would seem to be an unusual security precaution, but it also makes the compound hard to monitor.
The compound sits on a large plot of land and is about eight times larger than the other homes in the neighborhood.
The people in the compound burn their trash instead of leaving it out for collection, like the other neighbors.
The main three-story building in the compound has few outside windows.
Ahmed and the others known to live in the compound have no known source of wealth that could explain how they pay the expenses of running the compound. [CNN, 5/2/2011]
There are no balconies, except for those covered with more high walls. Balconies are a standard feature for wealthy houses like this one in Pakistan. One neighbor will later comment: “It’s not a proper house. It’s more like a warehouse. It’s not like a home where anyone would want to live.” [Daily Telegraph, 5/3/2011]
A senior Obama administration official will later say, “When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw—an extraordinarily unique compound.” He adds that intelligence analysts conclude the compound was “custom-built to hide someone of significance.… Everything we saw… was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hideout to look like.” [CNN, 5/2/2011] However, according to the Associated Press, US intelligence has known about the compound “for years,” but it did not think bin Laden would live there because there were no security guards. [Associated Press, 5/2/2011] Months later, a US strike force will assault the compound and kill bin Laden (see May 2, 2011).
Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. [Source: Aqeel Ahmed / Associated Press] (click image to enlarge)US intelligence finally learns the exact location of Osama bin Laden’s secret compound, in Abbottabad, Pakistan. [New York Times, 5/3/2011] The compound is discovered by US intelligence tracking bin Laden’s courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed. US intelligence was already aware of Ahmed’s general location in northwest Pakistan and was aggressively searching for him in the hopes he could show the way to bin Laden’s location (see Summer 2009). According to one account, Ahmed accepts a phone call while in Peshawar, about 120 miles from Abbottabad, and is tracked when he returns to the compound. According to another account, he accepts the call in or near the compound (see July 2010). In any case, once the compound is discovered, US intelligence begins heavily monitoring it (see August-September 2010).
US intelligence begins intensively spying on the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound where they strongly suspect Osama bin Laden is hiding (see August-September 2010). The compound was discovered on August 1, 2010 (see August 1, 2010). The Washington Post will later report that “virtually every category of [intelligence] collection in the US arsenal” is used, including satellite imagery and attempts to record voices inside the compound.
CIA Safehouse - The efforts include a CIA safehouse located somewhere near the compound. Abbottabad is a tourist town with pleasant weather and colonial era charm, enabling strangers to easily come and go without attracting suspicion. The CIA takes advantage of that atmosphere to send CIA operatives and informants into the town to gather information. A former US official will say, “The [main compound building] was three stories high, and you could watch it from a variety of angles.” Moving there “was his biggest mistake.” [Washington Post, 5/6/2011]
Escape Tunnel? - Analysts even study the water tables in the area in an attempt to figure out if bin Laden could have an escape tunnel. They conclude the soil is too wet to build a tunnel. [ABC News, 5/19/2011]
Intelligence Allegedly Still Lacking - The surveillance is so extensive that in December 2010, the CIA has to secretly get Congress to reallocate tens of millions of dollars within various agency budgets to help fund it. But US intelligence is allegedly unable to get a clearly identifiable picture or voice recording of bin Laden before the raid that eventually kills him. The CIA safehouse is abandoned shortly after the May 2, 2011 raid that kills bin Laden (see May 2, 2011), since it has served its purpose. [Washington Post, 5/6/2011]
Shortly after US intelligence begins monitoring the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound where it suspects Osama bin Laden is hiding out (see August 1, 2010 and August 2010-May 2, 2011), a man who fits bin Laden’s description is seen walking around outside almost every day, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward will later report. The man leaves the main compound building but stays within the compound walls to walk around a courtyard for an hour or two. Analysts eventually start calling him “the pacer.” Satellite imagery suggests the pacer has the height and gait of a tall man (and bin Laden is at least six foot four inches tall). However, the satellite imagery is reportedly not clear enough to get a good view of his face. This tall person is never seen leaving the compound. An analysis of the daily routine of this person suggests he is living there almost like a prisoner. Allegedly, CIA Director Leon Panetta tells President Obama and other top US officials that it is too risky to send in a human spy or move electronic equipment closer to confirm if the pacer is bin Laden or not. As a result, US intelligence will still not be 100 percent that bin Laden is living in the compound when US Special Forces raid it in May 2011 (see May 2, 2011). [Washington Post, 5/6/2011] The London Times will publish a later story claiming that US intelligence was aware of the type of clothes bin Laden wore before the raid (see May 23, 2011). That would support these claims about bin Laden’s walks.
The Al-Quds mosque, which was attended by three 9/11 hijackers for several years (see Early 1996), is closed down. The mosque in Hamburg, Germany, has long been known as a gathering place for radical Islamists. In recent years, it changed its name to the Taiba mosque. Police raid the mosque and shut it down, ban the cultural society linked to it, and confiscate its assets and documents. However, there are no arrests. There was a long legal battle before the police were given permission to close the mosque. Der Spiegel comments: “Every Muslim visitor must have known that he was under close scrutiny from police authorities as soon as he set foot in the building. In fact, it proved quite helpful for the Hamburg intelligence service because all the city’s Islamists would congregate here.” However, not only was the mosque associated with the 9/11 attacks, but the imam at the mosque for most of the 1990s, Mohammed Fazazi, was convicted of involvement in the 2003 bombings in Casablanca, Morocco (see 1993-Late 2001 and May 16, 2003). Furthermore, in 2009, a group of 10 radical Islamists who had attended the mosque left Hamburg for Pakistan’s tribal region in an attempt to attend militant training camps (see March 5, 2009). Some were arrested and revealed they were part of a plot to attack targets in Europe, and they also linked up with members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell (see May 2010). One of them, Naamen Meziche, who will be killed in a US drone strike in 2010, is the son-in-law of Fazazi, the former imam at the mosque (see October 5, 2010). In recent years, the imam at the mosque has been Mamoun Darkazanli, who was linked to many in the al-Qaeda cell with the 9/11 hijackers, and was suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda well before 9/11 (see Late 1998 and October 9, 1999). Spain has filed a request for his extradition on terrorism charges, but Germany has refused to extradite him (see (see Late April 2007). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/9/2010] Some German officials believe he is still involved in al-Qaeda, but he apparently is careful not to break any German laws (see November 11, 2010).
CIA Director Leon Panetta informs President Obama that Osama bin Laden may be living in a certain compound in Pakistan that is being monitored. (Some accounts say Obama is informed in August, but most say September, and one account specifies September 1.) [Associated Press, 5/2/2011; CNN, 5/2/2011; New York Times, 5/3/2011; ABC News, 5/19/2011; Wall Street Journal, 5/23/2011] Many of Obama’s top aides are at the top secret meeting as well, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Panetta describes the compound and the intelligence leading to it in great detail. An unnamed administration official at the meeting will later say: “It was electric.… For so long, we’d been trying to get a handle on this guy. And all of a sudden, it was like, wow, there he is.” [New York Times, 5/2/2011] The evidence is so tantalizing that the US decides not to say anything about the compound to the Pakistani government, or to even close US allies like Britain or Canada, for fear that intelligence leaks could let bin Laden slip away. [Associated Press, 5/2/2011]
An unknown assailant firebombs a Planned Parenthood women’s clinic in Madera, California. The assailant throws a Molotov cocktail, essentially a homemade gasoline bomb, through a clinic window. The FBI believes the bombing may be related to a recent attack on a local mosque, the Madera Islamic Center. Planned Parenthood director Patsy Montgomery says she believes the bombing is the work of “extremists who are, want to make a statement.” The Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR)‘s Basim Elkarra says of the two attacks, “[T]his is a message to those bigots, that anytime you attack a community we all come together united as one.” Shortly after the clinic bombing, a group calling itself the American Nationalist Brotherhood takes responsibility for both the clinic and the mosque attacks. The clinic, which offers abortions as one of its services, will remain closed for approximately a week. Madera County Sheriff John Anderson will ask the Brotherhood to contact his office. While the group has a constitutional right to express an opinion, he will say, “when it turns to crimes of arson or vandalism, it concerns us.… The fact that there have been numerous messages directed at several organizations makes it difficult to interpret ANB’s true message. I would like for ANB or a representative to contact me directly by whatever means is most comfortable.… I promise to listen to ANB’s message. This is the groundwork needed for us to have dialogue.” [KSFN-TV, 9/2/2010; Fresno Bee, 9/11/2010; Women's Rights, 9/17/2010]
News reports indicate that former al-Qaeda spokesperson Suliman abu Ghaith has been released after years of house arrest in Iran. Abu Ghaith had been held in Iran with other al-Qaeda leaders under a kind of secret house arrest since early 2002 (see Spring 2002). Sometime earlier in the year, abu Ghaith was allegedly sent to Afghanistan as part of a deal with the Taliban in exchange for the release of an Iranian diplomat named Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, who was kidnapped in 2008. [United Press International, 9/29/2010]
Rami Makanesi. [Source: DAPD]In June 2010, Rami Makanesi, a German militant of Syrian descent, is arrested in Pakistan and quickly deported to Germany. He becomes a key source of information on recent al-Qaeda activity, and in return gets only a four-year sentence in Germany. In October 2010, he is shown photographs of al-Qaeda suspects, and he recognizes Said Bahaji in one of them. Bahaji is a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, and fled to Pakistan shortly before the 9/11 attacks (see September 3-5, 2001). He has been wanted in Germany ever since (see September 21, 2001). Makanesi reveals that he spoke to Bahaji in May 2010, in Pakistan’s tribal region. Makanesi says that Bahaji “now looks completely different. He has a long beard and longer hair.” Bahaji is not considered a high ranking al-Qaeda leader, but he is respected because he has been involved so long. Bahaji now works for As-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s propaganda and media effort. He is responsible for As-Sahab’s technical infrastructure. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/29/2011]
Bahaji Still Not on Any US Wanted List - However, despite this news that Bahaji is not only still alive but continues to have an important al-Qaeda role, the US government has yet to publicly charge Bahaji or put him on any of their most wanted lists, nor has any bounty been announced for him. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/13/2011] Bahaji is not even on the FBI’s “Seeking Information—War on Terrorism” list. A person does not have to be formally charged to be on that list. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 6/5/2011]
A US drone strike kills some suspected militants in Pakistan tied to an alleged plot to strike Europe, including an apparent member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg that was involved in the 9/11 attacks. The strike kills eight people in Pakistan’s tribal region. Naamen Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian descent and longtime German resident, is one of those killed. He had been under investigation since shortly after 9/11 for his connections to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh, al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui, and others, but the German government was never able to get enough evidence to charge him with any crime. In March 2009, Meziche joined a group of Islamist extremists traveling from Hamburg to Pakistan for military training (see March 5, 2009). Two other men from the group, Bunyamin E. and Shahab Dashti, are reportedly killed in the drone strike as well. [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010]
An unnamed senior NATO official says that Osama bin Laden is hiding in a house somewhere in northwest Pakistan. Al-Qaeda number two leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is also hiding in a house somewhere nearby, but not in the same place as bin Laden. The official says, “Nobody in al-Qaeda is living in a cave.” This person adds that al-Qaeda’s top leadership is likely living in relative comfort, protected by locals and some members of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Additionally, top Taliban leader Mullah Omar lives in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Karachi. It is unknown how the NATO official would know all this, but CNN says the person has access to classified information. [CNN, 10/18/2010] When a US raid kills bin Laden in May 2011, he will be found in a house in northwest Pakistan (see May 2, 2011), and there will be accusations that the ISI must have protected him there (see May 2, 2011 and After).
Manfred Murck. [Source: DPA]Manfred Murck, the head of intelligence in Hamburg, Germany, expresses frustration that Mamoun Darkazanli is still not imprisoned. In an interview with CNN, Murck says, “We knew him even before 9/11… we still believe that he was, and maybe still is, a kind of representative of al-Qaeda in Hamburg.” Darkazanli was linked to many members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell that included a few of the 9/11 hijackers (see October 9, 1999), and he was suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda since the early 1990s (see 1993 and Late 1998), but the German government never developed enough evidence to charge him. He is wanted in Spain, but the German government has refused to extradite him (see Late April 2007). In recent years, Darkazanli became the imam to the Al-Quds mosque, the same mosque attended by Mohamed Atta and others involved in the 9/11 plot who knew Darkazanli. In March 2009, a group of young men who attended Al-Quds left Hamburg for training camps in Pakistan (see March 5, 2009). Some of them were later arrested and confessed to being involved in a plot to attack targets in Europe. German intelligence officials say that Darkazanli was closely tied to Ahmad Sidiqi and Naamen Meziche, two leaders of the group. (And Meziche appears to have been part of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell before 9/11, but he was never charged with any crime.) Murck believes Darkazanli inspired this latest group of militant recruits, but carefully did so in a way that did not break any laws. He says: “When it comes to the last speeches [Darkazanli] gave them, he told them, ‘Allah help to kill our enemies…’ so it was very general, it was not, ‘Let’s kill that one, or destroy that city.’ It was more a general cry for help to Allah to help the brothers against the enemies, but it was not enough for our police to open an investigation against him.” The Al-Quds mosque was shut down in August 2010 (see August 9, 2010), but German officials are worried that Darkazanli may start preaching at another mosque, which could start a new legal battle. [CNN, 11/11/2010]
State Representative Paul Hackbarth (R-MN) is filmed outside a women’s health clinic carrying a pistol. [Source: WCCO-TV]Minnesota Republican State Representative Tom Hackbarth is handcuffed and detained by police after coming to a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul with a revolver on his hip. Hackbarth is not arrested, but police temporarily confiscate his gun. Hackbarth is caught on video surveillance cameras parking his pickup truck in the clinic parking lot, exiting the vehicle with a loaded .38 Smith and Wesson in a holster, and walking down a dark alley behind the clinic. A clinic security guard spots Hackbarth “loitering” behind the clinic, and calls the police; they detain Hackbarth shortly after he drives away from the clinic. A search of the vehicle turns up a map of the area and a clip for another weapon, a .357 pistol. Hackbarth, the new chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, is stripped of his leadership position after the incident. He says he had no intention of inciting any violence at the clinic, and denies even being aware that he had driven to a women’s health clinic. Instead, he says he was attempting to meet a woman whom he met via an online dating service, and admits that he and his wife are separated. “She gave me some line of baloney, and I thought, ‘well, she’s fibbing to me,’” Hackbarth explains. “You could tell, and I thought, ‘well, I’m going to check it out,’ and I went there to see if she was around and her vehicle was not there. And I was just checking on her.… Sure enough, she lied to me and I’m done with it.” The police report says Hackbarth may have been jealous over another man, an explanation he denies, though he tells police he is “jealous” about his “girlfriend.” The police report also says Hackbarth exhibited the behavior of a stalker: angry, looking for a woman, carrying a loaded weapon, and the police cite him for “stalking-like behavior” and borderline “harassment or terroristic threats.” Hackbarth says: “I have a permit to carry legally. I carry my gun all the time. I have never had an incident and everything is perfectly legal and above board.… What did I do that was so bad? According to me, all I did was go to an empty parking lot and parked my truck… walked around the block, and picked up the car and left.” He calls the police allegations “insane.” Neither the police nor the local press can confirm the identity of the woman Hackbarth says he went to meet; Hackbarth claims he has no contact information on her, cannot remember the Web site on which he says he met her, and only identifies her as “Linda.” He claims they have dated “one or two times.” Police state they consider the case closed. [WCCO-TV, 11/24/2010; Raw Story, 11/24/2010; St. Paul Pioneer-Press, 11/24/2010; KARE-11, 11/24/2010]
CIA Director Leon Panetta briefs President Obama about the intelligence on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Obama first learned about the compound in September (see September 1, 2010), but now Panetta gives his most persuasive argument on why bin Laden is likely to be hiding in the compound. Obama asks Panetta to come up with a plan for action. [Wall Street Journal, 5/23/2011]
Some leaders of US Congress are briefed about intelligence on Osama bin Laden’s secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will later say: “We were briefed about suspicions about the size, about the structure of the compound, about the absence of people going in or out. We were actually shown overhead long distance photos from the air and we were essentially told that there were suspicions, serious suspicions, that this may be the place where Osama bin Laden was and that there was a 24/7 oversight of this compound.” [Time, 5/3/2011] It is likely that all of the “Big 8”—the leaders of each party in the House and Senate and the top lawmakers from each party on the House and Senate intelligence committees—are informed about the intelligence. They will continue to receive periodic updates up until the raid that kills bin Laden on May 2, 2011 (see May 2, 2011). They will get calls from CIA Director Leon Panetta two days before the raid saying that the action against bin Laden is likely to take place soon. [Time, 5/3/2011; Politico, 5/3/2011]
Vice Admiral William McRaven. [Source: CBS News]Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, commander of Joint Special Operations Command, meets with intelligence officials at CIA headquarters and is shown photographs and maps of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. McRaven is one of the first military officers to be told the highly classified intelligence. He begins planning options on how the US could kill or capture bin Laden (if bin Laden is in the compound). McRaven assigns an unnamed Navy captain from SEAL Team 6 to work on the options. The captain will work daily with CIA officials on the plans. McRaven and his associates will come up with three main options on how to raid the compound (see March 14, 2011). [Wall Street Journal, 5/23/2011; ABC News, 6/9/2011]
Craig Cobb, a white supremacist (see October 31, 2005) hiding from a Canadian arrest warrant somewhere in the United States, calls on his supporters to launch violent attacks against Jews and US government installations, according to information from the SITE Intelligence Group, a terrorism monitoring group in Washington State. Cobb, whom authorities belive is in Montana, writes that he prefers his followers decide on “doing something they haven’t yet done before” for the white supremacist cause rather than offer him help. He cites three instances of violence as examples of the kind of action he is calling for: Joe Stack, who in 2010 crashed his Piper Dakota plane into a federal building in Austin, Texas, killing himself and an IRS manager (see February 18, 2010); James von Brunn, who shot a guard at the US Holocaust Museum (see June 10, 2009 and After); and Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer motivated by his hatred of African-Americans and Jews (see 1980). “History may turn” if a few more people conduct such attacks, Cobb writes. Terry Wilson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) says of Cobb, “Money doesn’t motivate him at all; he only wants money to survive.” Cobb, through an intermediary, posts his message on the extremist Vanguard News Network. In other messages, he has taunted Wilson, telling the RCMP officer he could find Cobb “in the orange easy chair near the elevator at Flathead County Library, Kalispell, MT, 10-8 M-Th, or 11-5 Fridays and Saturdays, Terry.” Cobb operated his own “hate Web site” from Vancouver between mid-2009 and his arrest at the Vancouver Public Library in June 2010. Cobb fled to the United states hours after his arrest, as the RCMP was forced to release him because of a delay in filing federal hate-crime charges. He has been a fugitive from Canadian justice since them. Cobb was born in Missouri, gained dual Canadian citizenship after living in Canada in the 1970s, and began his white supremacist activities on the Internet in 2005, while living in Estonia. He was deported by Estonian authorities in August 2009, and then returned to Canada. Cobb has also encouraged his followers to join the Creativity Movement, another violent white supremacist organization (see 2009). He calls himself “The Orson Welles/Julian Assange of White Nationalism.” [CTV, 1/7/2011; Vancouver Sun, 1/26/2011]
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