Said al-Shirhi

Is This Why the Press Finally Revealed the Saudi Drone Base?

In spite of all the furor over the way the NYT and WaPo sat on news of a Saudi drone base, the only explanation I know of for why they chose to reveal it now was this one.

So, what changed? Why did the New York Times decide to break the silence with a story last night including mention of the Saudi Arabia base? Managing Editor Dean Baquet told news hound-cum-New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan that the decision was connected to the nomination of John O. Brennan to move to the directorship of the CIA; Brennan, after all, was a central figure in establishing the Saudi base.

There’s more to it, notes Leonhardt:

Ultimately, we decided that naming the country did not present enough of a national-security risk to justify withholding the information. There are not many countries on the Arabian peninsula. Some Web reports had already made the connection. We were aware of no specific security risks or threats, and it is widely known that Saudi authorities are aggressively pursuing Qaeda militants in Yemen. The administration continued to object, but we notified them on Monday that we intended to include the location in an upcoming story, which we did.

Bold text added to highlight an interesting wrinkle: Sullivan’s account of the goings-on suggests that toward the end, the government didn’t escalate the matter up the hierarchy at the New York Times:

Mr. Baquet said he had a conversation with a C.I.A. official about a month ago and, at that time, agreed to continue withholding the location, as it had done for many months. More recently, though, one of the reporters working on the story told the government that The Times would reveal the location and said officials should contact Mr. Baquet if they wanted to discuss it further.

“They didn’t call this time,” Mr. Baquet said.

The depiction of continued Administration opposition is a bit rich.

After all, as the NYT presented the story, the Saudi drone base played a role in both Anwar al-Awlaki and Said al-Shihri’s deaths.

The strikes have killed a number of operatives of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, including Said Ali al-Shihri, a deputy leader of the group, and the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

[snip]

Not long afterward, the C.I.A. began quietly building a drone base in Saudi Arabia to carry out strikes in Yemen. American officials said that the first time the C.I.A. used the Saudi base was to kill Mr. Awlaki in September 2011.

Since then, officials said, the C.I.A. has been given the mission of hunting and killing “high-value targets” in Yemen — the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who Obama administration lawyers have determined pose a direct threat to the United States. When the C.I.A. obtains specific intelligence on the whereabouts of someone on its kill list, an American drone can carry out a strike without the permission of Yemen’s government.

[snip]

Although most Yemenis are reluctant to admit it publicly, there does appear to be widespread support for the American drone strikes that hit substantial Qaeda figures like Mr. Shihri, a Saudi and the affiliate’s deputy leader, who died in January of wounds received in a drone strike late last year.

The claim that Shihri (a former Gitmo detainee who had ties to a Saudi Gitmo deradicalized double agent) was killed by a drone is not at all clear. Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Re: Baltimore. And oh so true: https://t.co/oHticeJWRg
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz .@joshgreenman There were a few good highlights in Strong's routine, but overall I'd say C at best. Lot of dud in it.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV @gatorhoops A really stupid move.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @WesleyLowery: That was Cecily Strong at WHCD
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @WesleyLowery: "Let's give it up for the Secret Service, the only law enforcement agency in the country that will get in trouble if a bl…
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @matthewstoller: The American stable order from the 1930s to the 2000s was anchored by the housing finance system. That anchor is gone.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Free Trade is Elites Betraying Their Own Populations http://t.co/KMMkGvzDPO Excellent piece by @iwelsh
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Well, this instant part of Obama's routine is just fucking embarrassing and horrible. What blithering idiot thought this was appropriate?
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Better "killing" it there than innocent civilians in signature drone strikes I guess. https://t.co/btveeFatS9
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @fordm No shit. Hello DiFi.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @billmon1 @Will_Bunch Is it really any different in this context? It is an access journalism incestuous bacchanal either way.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
April 2015
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930