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
emptywheel @KenDilanianAP GOP response says he said something like that, tho later.
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emptywheel @Shan681 You DO realize ISIS already knows abt our torture bc some lived it? @biasedreporter
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emptywheel Cause not only do torture timeline & dragnet timeline coalesce, but so does the "Oh fuck will I get busted for outing a NOC" timeline
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emptywheel It's 2014 I am matching date Robert Grenier was working on torture propaganda w/Cheney & day when he "remembered" Cheney knew Plame was CIA.
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emptywheel RT @MikeElk: #ff @greenhousenyt round of applause for the dean of labor reporter for his last day on the beat - thanks for keeping it alive!
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emptywheel @firetomfriedman Not saying that, but there weren't that many people involved. Saying she's classic case of involvement w/reward.
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emptywheel @firetomfriedman Mind you, no one is more responsible than Cheney and Addington, but I don't think they're hanging her out either.
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emptywheel @firetomfriedman Here was my piece well before NBC. https://t.co/hb4ut72cOp
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emptywheel @firetomfriedman She is significantly responsible (and, admittedly, there are a lot of people fr CIA who'd like to see her pay for it).
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emptywheel Next up on SonyGate: Sure, Mark Zuckerberg is a douchebag, but he didn't hack Sony to stop a movie abt him.
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emptywheel @firetomfriedman No. I'm certain it wasn't.
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emptywheel @firetomfriedman 2) hide her promotions under O 3) which were used to keep quiet/reward loyalty 4) hide relation bt 9/11 torture propaganda
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