Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bin Laden, Seals, Significant Information Cache, Echoes of the Bush Years, Fake Bin Laden Photo, Geronimo

In Bin Laden’s Compound, Seals’ All-Star Team

WASHINGTON — There were 79 people on the assault team that killed Osama bin Laden, but in the end, the success of the mission turned on some two dozen men who landed inside the Qaeda leader’s compound, made their way to his bedroom and shot him at close range — all while knowing that the president of the United States was keeping watch from Washington.
John Moore/Getty Images
A Seal member preparing to capture top insurgents in 2007 near Fallujah, Iraq. Members of Team 6 are the elite of the elite.

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The men, hailed as heroes across the country, will march in no parades. They serve in what is unofficially called Seal Team 6, a unit so secretive that the White House and the Defense Department do not directly acknowledge its existence. Its members have hunted down war criminals in Bosnia, fought in some of the bloodiest battles in Afghanistan andshot three Somali pirates dead on a bobbing lifeboat during the rescue of an American hostage in 2009.
The raid early Monday in Pakistan has nonetheless put a spotlight on a unit that has been involved in some of the American military’s most dangerous missions of recent decades.
Leon E. Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said the Seal commandos went into the mission with only a 60 percent to 80 percent certainty that Bin Laden was in the compound. Mr. Panetta said the commandos made the “split-second decision” to shoot him — the unarmed Qaeda founder had a rifle within reach, an American official said Wednesday — when they found him in his third-floor bedroom.
There was no debate among former Seal members that whoever had shot Bin Laden had done the right thing.
“It’s dark; there’s been a lot of bullets flying around, a lot of bodies dropping; your mission is to capture or kill Bin Laden; who knows what he’s got tucked in his shirt?” said Don Shipley, 49, a former Seal member who runs Extreme Seal Experience, a private training school in Chesapeake, Va. Mr. Shipley was reacting to earlier Obama administration accounts of an extended firefight at the compound, but on Wednesday, administration officials revised the narrative, saying that the only shots fired came at the beginning of the raid, from a courier.
“It happens in an absolute blink of an eye for these guys,” Mr. Shipley said. “And there’s that target in front of you. Second chances cost lives.”
Lalo Roberti, 27, a former Seal member who teaches at Mr. Shipley’s school and took part in a gruesome rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2005, concurred. “For us to take a shot, it has to be bad,” Mr. Roberti said. “Especially for the ‘6’ guys.”
Inside the Navy, there are regular unclassified Seal members, organized into Teams 1 to 5 and 7 to 10. Then there is Seal Team 6, the elite of the elite, or, as Mr. Roberti put it, “the all-star team.”
Former Seal members said this week that the unit — officially renamed the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or Devgru — was chosen for the bloody Bin Laden raid, the most high-profile operation in the history of the Seals, because of the group’s skills in using lethal force intelligently in complex, ambiguous conditions.

Bin Laden raid nets 'significant' information cache

By Kevin Johnson and Mimi Hall, USA TODAY

Updated 24m ago |
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WASHINGTON — The cache of information seized from the Pakistani compound of Osama bin Laden and his reliance on couriers suggests that the terror leader — despite nearly a decade spent in hiding — still sought to provide strategic guidance to terrorists within the organization, a U.S. government official said Wednesday.
  • Attorney General Eric Holder said he has serious concerns about national security from possible revenge attacks for Osama bin Laden's death.
    By Mark Wilson, Getty Images
    Attorney General Eric Holder said he has serious concerns about national security from possible revenge attacks for Osama bin Laden's death.
By Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Attorney General Eric Holder said he has serious concerns about national security from possible revenge attacks for Osama bin Laden's death.
The official, who declined to be identified because the person is not authorized to speak publicly, said the material contained on about five computers, 100 remote electronic storage devices, such as flash drives, and 10 hard drives is one of the "most significant in the history of the war on terror."
An initial review of the information already has produced some potential threat information, but the official did not elaborate, saying the review was in its early stages.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in testimony Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said there was no "specific or credible" intelligence worthy of a national terror alert.
On Capitol Hill, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that teams of federal officials gathered from across the government are reviewing the information in the hope that it will offer fresh leads about plots and the whereabouts of surviving terrorists.
Holder, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he fully expected that the information analysis, overseen by the CIA, would yield new names that will be added to the nation's terror watch lists.
Former CIA director Michael Hayden, who directed the spy agency and the hunt for bin Laden between 2006 and 2009, described the seizure as a "vast quantity of digital material."
"That's really good news," Hayden said in an interview with USA TODAY, adding that some of the information may be encrypted and require additional analysis.
"Fundamentally, you do a first cut (review of the information) to make sure there's not imminent threat information," Hayden said. "Then you parcel it out among experts to do a deep dive into it.
"Every individual piece (of information) has to be held up to the light," the former director said.

In bin Laden victory, echoes of the Bush years

As President Obama celebrates the signature national-security success of his tenure, he has a long list of people to thank. On the list: George W. Bush.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have forged a military so skilled that it carried out a complicated covert raid with only a minor complication. Public tolerance for military operations over the past decade has shifted to the degree that a mission carried out deep inside a sovereign country has raised little domestic protest.
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And a detention and interrogation system that Obama once condemned as contrary to American values produced one early lead that, years later, brought U.S. forces to the high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and a fatal encounter with an unarmed Osama bin Laden.
But the bridge connecting the two administrations has also led Obama to the same contested legal terrain over how to fight against stateless enemies and whether values should be sacrificed in the pursuit of security.
“We, in the Obama administration, absolutely benefitted from an enormous body of work and effort that went into understanding al-Qaeda and pursuing bin Laden,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
“There’s also a broader set of legal questions that we’ve been wrestling with, and some have not been resolved,” Rhodes said, such as the closing of the military brig at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where some of the al-Qaeda leaders who provided the early clues that led to bin Laden’s hideout were held. “The reason is that there’s is no consensus in this country for how to do so.”
Obama invited Bush to join him Thursday at the former site of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, where the president plans to lay a wreath and meet with families of those who lost relatives in the attacks. Bush declined the invitation.
Obama campaigned against the ends-justify-the-means legal system adopted by the Bush administration to capture, detain, question and try terrorist suspects, including those at the center of bin Laden’s pursuit.
After pledging to close Guantanamo within a year of taking office, Obama has failed to do so, and he has chosen to alter, rather than scrap, the Bush-era military commission system to try terrorist suspects. Human rights groups have called the changes improvements.
Obama has abolished the use of harsh interrogation techniques, which some Bush administration officials say produced essential intelligence in the hunt for bin Laden.

When Extreme Interrogation Tactics Work Is It Time To Rethink Torture?

May. 4 2011 - 9:06 pm | 48 views | 0 recommendations | comments
Just three days following the successful mission that killed Osama bin Laden, the discussion has moved on to an argument over whether extreme interrogation tactics -such as waterboarding – produced the intelligence that made it all possible.
There is growing evidence that information gained from two high value targets, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, may have gotten the ball rolling on gathering the intelligence required to identify the bin Laden couriers who ultimately led us to Osama. And while the information extracted from KSM, possibly by means involving torture, was but a small piece of the puzzle that solved the riddle – it may well have been the beginning of the process that paid off in two bullets being pumped into the world’s public enemy number one.
As might have been expected, the two sides of the torture debate are now at one another’s throats attempting to either minimize or maximize the impact of the methods employed, depending on one’s ideological position.
While I have never supported the use of torture for a number of reasons, it seems fair to now take another look at this extremely tricky question for the purpose of determining the most appropriate way to go forward in a world where terror has become a primary concern and threat.
To begin, let’s face a few realities when it comes to the morality of torture.
Let’s also be honest with one another.
Most of us who disagree with the use of torture in any circumstance – whether on ethical or legal grounds or simply because we don’t believe it works – are likely not shedding many tears over the use of waterboarding on KSM if it accomplished even a little of the information that played a role in Osama’s demise. I know I am not.
We should also acknowledge that if the life of someone we loved were on the line, few of us would hesitate to use any means available, including the most sordid methods of torture, if we believed there was a chance it might save that individual. And if the life of an entire city were on the line, I think we can all agree that none of us would object to the use of the most extreme forms of torture if it might provide the needed information to stop a nuclear explosion or some other weapon of mass destruction.
Still, we are able to recognize that, in the overwhelming majority of situations, taking the short cut of using extreme interrogation – thereby denying Constitutional due process – could easily lead to some incredibly terrible results to our system of justice.
As for those who would use the possible benefits of extreme interrogation as applied in the ending of bin Laden as an example of why all the liberals or others who oppose torture are wrong, you are trivializing a far more complicated issue and, in many cases, doing so because you simply want to win an argument when more important matters are at stake.
To you I say ‘knock it off.’
This is a tough issue and it deserves an open and meaningful examination conducted by grown-ups – not ideological mimics.
On the legal front, there are many prohibitions against using the type of interrogation methods that were employed during the Bush Administration in the effort to uncover critical intelligence in the war on terror.
The United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) prohibits the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Geneva Conventions –agreements to which the United States is a signatory- provide protection for people who fall into enemy hands. The Conventions do not clearly divide people into combatant and non-combatant roles, leaving an argument as to whether those captured in the ‘war on terror’ are included.
If you prefer to classify people like KSM as those who have committed a capital crime on American soil and are, as a result, better defined as criminals rather than enemy combatants, the result is no different. Torture is not a legal tool in the effort to gain information in the United States of America.
Finally, US law prohibits the use of evidence gained from torture in a court of law. This is why many see the benefits of a war tribunal for terror suspects rather than the U.S. criminal court system.
Thus, the legal barriers to the use of torture are significant – although it certainly did not stop the use of extreme interrogation during the Bush years.
As to whether or not torture is an effective tool, I do not pretend to know. Many knowledgeable people argue that it simply does not result in high quality intelligence because people being subjected to torture will say anything to make it stop.
And yet, if it turns out to be true that extreme techniques played even a small role in leading us to bin Laden, such a fact would seem to contradict the experts who argue that is has little benefit.
The bottom line here is that this is an incredibly difficult issue to resolve- and defaulting to our ideological sides will do little or nothing to bring it into focus.
So, has the time come to take a look at whether we should alter our policy on extreme interrogation in certain, very limited circumstances?
Might it make sense to choose a panel of judges, made up of representaives of all sides to this question, to determine when the circumstances require the use of these methods?
And were we to make adjustments to permit the use of torture in these rare situations, how would these decisions stand up under international law?
These are issues that now appear ripe for discussion. The question is whether or not we can do so in a thoughtful manner or is such a consideration doomed to fall into an ideological pit of stupidity and politics?
As you consider the morality, legality and ultimate benefit of such a system, remember that it goes without saying that if we use torture methods, we clear the way for our enemies to use the same on our combatants.
One final note.
Can we please stop this ridiculous argument over whom deserves credit for taking down bin Laden?
We’ve had everyone from Rush Limbaugh going out of his way to demean the President to Chris Matthews spending virtually his entire show today arguing over why Obama deserves all the credit.
Those who despise President Obama will never give him the credit he deserves just as those who dislike President Bush will do all in their power to deny his administration any of the kudos.
I think we all know that anyone in either category is not likely to change their mind.
This is a stupid, schoolyard argument that has no value whatsoever. If you believe that the lion’s share of credit goes to Obama, take heart in the knowledge that it is the President who will be on the ballot in 2012, not George Bush. And if you believe that Bush did it all by himself, then nobody is likely to dissuade you to the contrary, despite the fact that President Bush has more than acknowledged the important actions taken by the current president.

Senators Seemingly Fooled By Fake Bin Laden Photo

May 04, 2011 10:06 PM
ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports:
For much of Wednesday, the debate raged in Washington: should the Obama administration release photos of a dead Osama bin Laden?
Ultimately President Obama said no. But that didn't keep a handful of senators from getting duped by what they thought was one of the Bin Laden photos.
It all started Wednesday morning as senators left a closed-door classified meeting with CIA boss Leon Panetta.
The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., told reporters that he had seen photos of Bin Laden after the world's most wanted man had been shot in the head. Chambliss wasn't the only one.
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., told Fox-25 TV that he had seen one of the photos too.
“Listen, I've seen the picture," Brown said in an interview. “He’s definitely dead."
A third senator, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, emerged from the Panetta briefing to tell reporters that she, too, had seen the image of a dead Bin Laden.
Asked if she had seen any of the Bin Laden photos, Ayotte replied, “I have seen one of them.”
She added that it was “clearly his features.”
At the time the claims seemed a bit odd since a number of top senators were telling reporters at the same time they had not seen any photos. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the Intelligence panel, said she had not seen the photos. Same with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, the top Republican on the Armed Services panel.
The confusion grew when Ayotte returned to the Capitol an hour later for a vote, saying that she had been shown the photo by an unnamed colleague on the Armed Services Committee.
Since numerous lawmakers said no Bin Laden photos had been shown at the Panetta briefings -- and since a slew of fake Bin Laden photos were circulating on the internet -- could the senators have been duped?

Congress to discuss use of Geronimo's name in Bin Laden mission

GeronimoA congressional oversight hearing originally scheduled to discuss, among other things, how indigenous-themed sports mascots have negatively influenced the perception of Native Americans, will now also address the linking of the name Geronimo to Osama bin Laden.
"Geronimo" was the code name for the mission where 24 Navy SEALs raided Bin Laden's three-story million-dollar compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan; "Geronimo" was also the code the SEALs used to alert their commanders that they identified their target; and finally "Geronimo-E KIA" was the coded message to confirm that they had killed Bin Laden.
The Senate Indian Affairs committee, chaired by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), will host the hearing titled "Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People," which will be webcast live at 2:15 p.m. ET.
"The hearing was scheduled well before the Osama bin Laden operation became news, but the concerns over the linking of the name of Geronimo, one of the greatest Native American heroes, with the most hated enemies of the United States is an example of the kinds of issues we intended to address at Thursday's hearing," Loretta Tuell, the committee's chief counsel, said in a statement.
"These inappropriate uses of Native American icons and cultures are prevalent throughout our society, and the impacts to Native and non-Native children are devastating,” Tuell said. "We intend to open the forum to talk about them."
"To associate a native warrior with Bin Laden is not an accurate reflection of history, and it undermines the military service of native people," Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said Wednesday in a statement.
Other Native Americans were also upset at the use of Geronimo's name. The chairman of the tribe of descendants of Geronimo told President Obama that not long after the House of Representatives honored the warrior, his name is again being dragged through the mud.
"We are grateful that the United States was successful in its mission against Bin Laden, but associating Geronimo's name with an international terrorist only perpetuates old stereotypes about Apaches,"Jeff Houser, chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, the successor to Geronimo’s Chiricahua Apache Tribe, wrote in a statement faxed Tuesday to the White House.

Adm. William McRaven: The terrorist hunter on whose shoulders Osama bin Laden raid rested

As U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace Sunday, the Joint Operations Center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was under the control of a square-jawed admiral from Texas who had labored for years to find Osama bin Laden’s elusive trail.
Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, one of the most experienced terrorist hunters in the U.S. government, had tapped a special unit of Navy SEALs for the mission two months earlier. A former SEAL himself, McRaven had overseen weeks of intensive training for a covert operation that could cripple al-Qaeda if it worked, or strain an already troubled alliance with Pakistan if it went awry.
( U.S. NAVY ) - Vice Adm.William H. McRaven’s forces have killed or captured hundreds of insurgents over the past year, mostly in nighttime raids.
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The search for bin Laden was led by the CIA, which painstakingly pieced together scraps of intelligence that eventually pointed to a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But when President Obama gave the authorization to invade the site, CIA Director Leon Panetta delegated the raid to McRaven, who had been preparing for such a moment for most of his career.
He has worked almost exclusively on counterterrorism operations and strategy since 2001, when as a Navy captain he was assigned to the White House shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. The author of a textbook titled, “Spec Ops,” McRaven had long emphasized six key requirements for any successful mission: surprise, speed, security, simplicity, purpose and repetition.
For the especially risky bin Laden operation, he insisted on another: precision.
“He understands the strategic importance of precision,” said a senior Obama administration official who worked closely with McRaven to find bin Laden, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation. “He demands high standards. That’s why we’ve been so successful.”
As leader of the military’s highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command, McRaven has overseen a rapid escalation of manhunts for Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda figures around the world. Although he’s a three-star admiral, the muscular 55-year-old still sometimes accompanies his teams on snatch-and-grab missions.
On Friday, McRaven received the green light from Panetta to launch the raid at the earliest opportunity. Later that day, he met with a six-member congressional delegation that was coincidentally visiting Afghanistan. He gave the lawmakers a tour of the Bagram operations center that — unbeknownst to them — was gearing up for the critical mission.
“Little did we know he had already given the order to take out Osama bin Laden,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who led the delegation.
McRaven had been just weeks away from leaving Afghanistan for a new assignment. He had led the Joint Special Operations Command since 2008, when he succeeded Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose team helped turn the tide of the war in Iraq by relentlessly targeting insurgent leaders, including al-Qaeda’s chief in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006.

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