Drones and Double Agents: Hassan Ghul
On September 30, 2011, a drone killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a person long suspected of being a US double agent gone bad.
On October 1, 2012, a drone killed Hasan Ghul (see this post for background on Ghul), whom a new report from Aram Roston reports was a double agent gone bad.
In 2006, the U.S. sent Ghul back to Pakistan, where he was taken into custody by the Inter-Service Intelligence agency, the country’s version ofthe CIA. The next year, the ISI quietly set him free, with the full agreement of American intelligence authorities, according to a Pakistani insider. “He was released and both parties agreed on this,” he says. “Both countries were on board in releasing him.”
The insider declined to discuss Ghul’s status as an informant. But three intelligence sources with knowledge of the issue say Ghul was one of those who agreed to cooperate and provide information about terrorists if he was released.
Yet another source says that Ghul initially agreed to the project while he was still in American custody, before he was released to the Pakistanis. “Hassan Ghul,” says one former counterterrorism official who is familiar with the case but declined to discuss it in depth, “may have been, probably, one of the highest penetrations of Al Qaeda.”
Whatever Ghul’s agreement with the Americans or Pakistanis, by the time Bin Laden was killed, it appears to have ended. One Pakistani source with knowledge of the case says that Ghul eventually “vanished” and that “the deal was rescinded.” Yet he would not say anything about exactly when after his release Ghul lost contact with the ISI.
Now, there are a number of aspects of this story that are unclear, which (if clarified) might explain this further. For example:
- The report does not note the chronology of Ghul’s torture. According to Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, Ghul was cooperative right after being captured in 2004. Yet we proceeded to torture him. This chronology would suggest Ghul was cooperative, then tortured, then cooperative, then not cooperative.
- The report makes no mention of Ghul’s alleged ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a crucially important detail when you’re discussing whether the US or the Pakistanis were running him as a double agent. We would have a real incentive to recruit Ghul to inform on LET (which is, after all, what we did with David Headley and may have been what Ray Davis was trying to do, recruit LET informants). But the Pakistanis would never stand for it. If Ghul indeed was a “triple agent,” his ties to LET (and Pakistani interest in obscuring LET to us) may explain that entirely.
- The report states, without citing any source, that Ghul is the person referred to in a May 2005 OLC memo (sources told the AP in 2011 he was not that detainee; though Roston also states he was a large man, which would support the claim). I will show why, in an follow-up post I’ve been noodling for months, why this is so crucially important. But suffice it to say that if Ghul is the detainee in the memo, anonymous sources have a very significant incentive to spin his torture positively right now (and we will be hearing far far more about him in the coming weeks).
In any case, the report presents important new explanations and questions about Hassal Ghul.
It also makes you wonder how many of our drone strikes have been used to take out our former informants.
“This chronology would suggest Ghul was cooperative, then tortured, then cooperative, then not cooperative.”
Huh. Imagine that. Torturing someone may, in the long run, make them uncooperative towards their torturers? Who could have guessed?
Double agents gone bad? That would be all the terrorists.
Usama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, David Headley, Ali Mohamed, al-Awlaki, al-Mihdhar, al-Asiri, Bandar Bush, Philip Zelikow, Graham Fuller, Joseph Allbritton, Bob Woodward, General Petraeus, General Hayden, General Clapper, Robert Gates, the 9/11 Dancing Arabs…plus a cast of thousands.
Maybe when they catch and release people they tag them? Give them a phone to phone home?
Thinking of Jacob Appelbaum’s 30c3 talk last month. ew linked to youtube of it in an update in this post https://www.emptywheel.net/2013/12/30/how-nsa-hunts-metadata-content-in-search-of-your-digital-tracks, and I saw Yves Smith post it as well, saying
Transcript here: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/01/jacob-appelbaum-30c3-protect-infect-militarization-internet-transcript.html
At the end of the talk, in which Appelbaum went through device after device in the nsa spy/infect/attack/sabotage catalog covered earlier that day at Der Spiegel, he closed with a slide of one called Waterwitch.
He’s reading from the NSA product spec which you can see in the Der Spiegel Interactive Graphic (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/a-941262.html) when you click into the “Cell Phone Networks” spot. It’s dated 7/30/08, and the status is “Under Development. Available FY-2008.”
“Handheld finishing tool.” Is that what the NSA calls murder? Polishing off?
As he said in various ways at different times throughout the talk: “I don’t ever remember voting on that.”
Tell me again why they don’t all just talk? Why everything has to be a poisoned military operation with no chance of successfully communicating anything trustworthy, and every chance of perpetuating hopeless muck? Why do we corrupt listening by synonymizing it to attacking?
Thinking of that thing I quoted in the Strangelove discussion thread: https://www.emptywheel.net/2013/12/29/nsa-not-china-the-global-suicide-bomber/#comment-662166 :
And @62 and @72 here https://www.emptywheel.net/2013/12/28/judge-pauleys-deliberate-blind-spot-systematic-section-215-abuses/ that a comp lit major could do all of this better. Change the goal to openly understanding each other, because “intelligence” and “informants” is just plain stupid.
When do I get to vote?