SEAL Team 6

Did “The Shooter” Take 7 Souvenir Pictures of Osama bin Laden?

On Tuesday, I noted that, between the draft and the final, DOD’s Inspector General removed this language referring to Admiral William McRaven purging SOCOM’s network of pictures of Osama bin Laden after CIA exposed the members of SEAL Team 6.

This effort included purging these records to another Government Agency.

But there was also telling new language introduced in the final (which would have been introduced between late last year and last week). The draft included this sentence.

ADM McRaven also directed that the names and photographs associated with the raid not be released.

The final changed that language to read,

ADM McRaven also directed personnel to forego releasing names of operators and photographs associated with the raid.

The use of the word “personnel” is ambiguous, as it’s not clear whether it refers to the SEAL Team members mentioned earlier in the paragraph or to DOD staffers who handle SOCOM’s archives (or to CIA personnel who now purportedly have the photos).

But I find it telling, given another detail about Judicial Watch’s FOIA for these photos.

Recall that on February 15, 2013, DOJ informed Judicial Watch that CIA had found 7 more photos responsive to their FOIA. That happened just 4 days after Esquire published a splashy story about the guy who claimed to have been the SEAL who actually killed OBL. The current version includes this line.

In the compound, I thought about getting my camera, and I knew we needed to take pictures and ID him.

I had made the connection at the time, and I have a distinct suspicion the language was slightly different in the original (Esquire was making factual corrections along the way but the original is not on Internet Archive), making it clear that the Shooter and possibly others did take pictures, though perhaps not for operational purposes.

What kind of amped up warrior who had just helped kill the bogeyman could resist taking souvenir pictures? Could you blame them, if so?

In any case, I suspected at the time that the reason CIA “located” new photos was because they read about another set of photos in the possession in one of the guys who participated in the op, if not shot the lethal bullet. The ambiguity in the description of McRaven’s order seems to support that.

That is, what SOCOM and CIA appear to be protecting are — in significant part — the personal photos taken by the guys who did the operation.

DOD Inspector General Report: SOCOM Purged Their Osama bin Laden Files after Judicial Watch FOIA

I wanted to point to one more detail from the DOD Inspector General’s report on Leon Panetta’s leaks to Zero Dark 30′s filmakers.

The very last page of the report describes how Admiral William McRaven responded after realizing the SEALs who had participated in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound had all hung around a Hollywood producer with their name badges exposed.

According to ADM McRaven, the DoD provided the operators and their families an inordinate level of security. ADM McRaven held a meeting with the families to discuss force protection measures and tell the families that additional protective monitoring will be provided, and to call security personnel if they sensed anything. ADM McRaven also directed that the names and photographs associated with the raid not be released. This effort included purging these records to another Government Agency. [my emphasis]

The report doesn’t reveal when SOCOM purged its records and handed the documents to, presumably though not definitely, CIA, though if McRaven directed it, it happened after he took command in August 2011. (Update: That’s probably not right, as he was in command of the operation in any case.)

But it’s a relevant question because Judicial Watch had FOIAed pictures of OBL on May 3, 2011, and sued 10 days later, so before all the leaking and presumably therefore the purging began. On June 26, 2011, just two days after Panetta’s leaky party, the government stalled on the suit, saying Judicial Watch had not exhausted its administrative remedies. By September 26, DOD claimed they had no pictures of OBL (though earlier this year there were reports 7 new photos had been found) and CIA claimed none of the 52 pictures they had could be released. Along with that filing, McRaven submitted a declaration explaining why these photos couldn’t be released, though the interesting parts remain redacted. John Bennett’s declaration for the CIA does not describe when the Agency searched its files for photographs, and therefore doesn’t indicate whether they searched before or after DOD purged its files.

Now, none of this timing would mitigate CIA’s claims about the extremely grave harm that would arise from releasing OBL death porn.

But it is, at the very least, very sketchy — and all that’s before having a really good sense of when the purging and the FOIA response occurred.

Update: I spoke to Judicial Watch’s lawyer for this FOIA, Michael Bekesha, and they have never been informed of this purge. Though it may explain some other details about the progress of the FOIA, including some funkiness with the classification of the photos.

Update: Here’s DOD’s declaration about their search from September 26, 2011.

It’s interesting for two reasons. First, they make claims about SOCOM files that is the exact opposite of what DOD said in the NYT/ACLU FOIA for Anwar al-Awlaki related OLC memos. Whereas in the drone FOIA, they claimed CENTCOM handled SOCOM’s FOIA responses, this one says,

The mission of USSOCOM is to provide Special Operations Forces to defend the United States and its interests. A priority of USSOCOM is to “Deter, Disrupt, and Defeat Terrorist Threats,” and a primary aspect of this priority is to plan and conduct special operations. When a special operation is conducted, the military service Components of USSOCOM (U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Navy Special Warfare Command, U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, and Marine Corps Special Operations Command) provide Special Operations Forces (personnel and equipment) to the operation. Accordingly, it is DoD FOIA policy that documents created or maintained by these military service Components during or for a joint special operation come under the cognizance of USSOCOM and not the military services for purposes of the FOIA. Therefore, USSOCOM and not the military services, is responsible for the searches of records responsive to plaintiff’s FOIA request at those service components that may have participated in the subject operation.

And like CIA, they don’t date their search description at SOCOM, so don’t say whether it happened pre- or post-purge.

USSOCOM searched the Headquarters and relevant Components, and no records responsive to plaintiff’s request were located. The specific filing systems searched at the Headquarters USSOCOM offices and relevant Components were all hard copy and electronic records including all email records during the inclusive dates of May 1, 2011, through May 31, 2011.

Leon Panetta and the Pakistani Doctor: Yet More Double Standards on Classified Information

As the Bill Gertz article I reexamined the other day made clear, Leon Panetta became personally involved in the CIA’s efforts to investigate detainee lawyers who were trying to track down their clients’ torturers.

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and his chief of staff, Jeremy Bash, a former chief counsel for the House intelligence committee, at first were unaware of both the scope and seriousness of the case.

However, both officials began addressing the matter after inquiries were made from members of Congress. Since then, Mr. Panetta and Mr. Bash are getting regular updates on the dispute, said the officials.

As a result of that investigation, former CIA officer John Kiriakou was charged last week.

Consider the damage Kiriakou is alleged to have done:

  • Some lawyers with Top Secret clearance submitted a sealed filing naming a covert officer involved in the torture of 9/11 defendants. The lawyers pointedly did not photograph this officer in an effort to shield his identity. And his name was never made public.
  • Using information gained from Kiriakou and around 23 other sources (including former CIA Executive Director Buzzy Krongard), Scott Shane wrote an article detailing Deuce Martinez’ role in the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others. And while Martinez’ association with the torture program was classified, his identity was not. Furthermore, by the time of the article, Martinez was working for Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell’s contracting firm, making it a pretty safe bet that he was involved in interrogation, even interrogations involving torture.
  • Subsequent to this article based on information from Kiriakou and 23 other people, the 9/11 detainees saw pictures of Martinez; assuming Shane’s article is accurate, they had already interacted with Martinez personally.
  • In that article, Shane included details about the “magic box” technology used to locate Abu Zubaydah. Information on that “magic box” technology and similar ones has been publicly available for decades, meaning the only secret here is that CIA uses it (!) and called it something as stupid as “magic box.”

That’s it. That’s the reported outcome of John Kiriakou’s leaks. And for that he faces prison time of up to 20 years.

Meanwhile, tomorrow the above clip will be shown on 60 Minutes, showing Panetta confirming that the Pakistani doctor who conducted fake vaccinations in Abbottabad, Pakistan in order to get a glimpse into Osama bin Laden’s compound was, in fact, working for the CIA.

Panetta also acknowledged that Shikal Afridi, the Pakistani doctor conducting health tests in the village in an effort to collect DNA and verify bin Laden’s presence, was in fact working for the U.S. Afridi was arrested and charged with treason by the government of Pakistan. “I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual…who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” says Panetta. “He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan…Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism…and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part,” he tells Pelley.

Not only does this presumably put more pressure on Pakistan to convict Afridi of treason (he remains in custody), but it exacerbates the problem of having used a vaccination campaign as cover in the first place, confirming on the record that similar campaigns in poor countries might be no more than a CIA front.

I presume someone in the White House gave Panetta permission to go blab this on 60 Minutes; I assume he’s in no more legal jeopardy than Dick Cheney was when he insta-declassified Valerie Plame’s identity.

But shit like this discredits every single claim national security experts make about the need for secrecy. I mean, how are CIA officers ever going to recruit any more assets when the assets know that the CIA director may, at some time in the future that’s politically convenient, go on 60 Minutes and confirm the relationship?

Playing Whack-a-Mole with Somali Pirates

I questioned yesterday whether the raid to free Jessica Buchanan would help or hurt efforts to free an American freelance journalist who was captured on Saturday close to where Buchanan was being held.

Then there’s the American freelance journalist taken hostage Saturday from the same area, Galkayo, from where Buchanan was kidnapped last October.

Several local leaders in Galkayo had just returned from trying to secure the release of another American, a freelance journalist who was kidnapped last week in Galkayo. He remains in captivity in Hobyo, a pirate den on the Somali coast, because the pirates holding him refuse to let him go without a hefty ransom.

I would suggest his presence raises questions about what the ultimate goal for the raid was. Was it just Buchanan’s rescue, or the journalist’s, too?

Reuters quotes a local leader, currently negotiating for the release of the journalist, as saying that 12 helicopters remain on the ground.

“About 12 U.S. helicopters are now at Galkayo. We thank the United States. Pirates have spoilt the whole region’s peace and ethics. They are mafia,” Mohamed Ahmed Alim, leader of the Galmudug region, told Reuters.

He was speaking from Hobyo, a pirate base north of Haradheere, where he said he was negotiating the release of an American journalist seized on Saturday, also from Galkayo.

It turns out I was right. The pirates holding the journalist have moved the journalist three times since the Buchanan rescue.

“Holding hostages in one place is unlikely now because we are the next target,” [Somali pirate Hassan] Abdi said, referring to the raid in a phone conversation with The Associated Press. He expressed concern that the U.S. had pirate informants.

“It wasn’t just a hit and run operation, but long planned with the help of insiders among us,” Abdi said, noting the soldiers had struck at the time when the pirates were least on their guard.

The gang has moved an American kidnapped on Saturday in the northern Somali town of Galkayo three times in the last 24 hours, he said.

I’m curious, too, about Abdi’s claim we had informants from within the pirate group. Remember DOD claimed we took no captives from the pirates, but other sources said we took 3-5 captives back to Djibouti.

The AP story goes on to predict that pirates will increasingly keep their captives at sea, in mixed-nationality groups, to make such raids harder.

So I guess my suspicions yesterday were correct–this raid may do little to solve the pirate problem.

What If Obama Sent SEAL Team 6 after Online Pirates?

Let me start by saying that Jessica Buchanan, the American aid worker rescued with her Danish colleague from pirates last night by SEAL Team 6 in Somalia, sounds like a selfless woman; I’m happy for her and her family she is now safe.

But the rescue got me thinking about our country’s efforts to combat two types of pirates: those who exploit lawless areas around the globe to kidnap ships or people for ransom, and those who exploit international boundaries to evade copyright laws. So I wanted to look more closely at what went on here. I’m not sure either approach we’re using works (and I’m quite certain that SOPA would be worse), but I am interested in taking a step back and thinking about piracy in general.

First, the details. Here is Defense Secretary Panetta’s statement. President Obama released this statement on the raid.

On Monday, I authorized an operation to rescue Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen who was kidnapped and held against her will for three months in Somalia. Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home. As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts.

Jessica Buchanan was selflessly serving her fellow human beings when she was taken hostage by criminals and pirates who showed no regard for her health and well-being. Last night I spoke with Jessica Buchanan’s father and told him that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks that she will soon be reunited with her family. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice. This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.

Buchanan and her colleague are just 2 of 150 western hostages held by groups described as Somali pirates

Obama said we would not tolerate the abduction of our people, but Buchanan has been in custody since October 25.

And this operation freed just two of 150 hostages currently held by groups described as Somai pirates. Hostages include Indian, South Korean, Filipino, and Danish sailors, as well as a British tourist and two Spanish medics kidnapped in Kenya. These hostages, of course, remain in custody.

Then there’s the American freelance journalist taken hostage Saturday from the same area, Galkayo, from where Buchanan was kidnapped last October.

Several local leaders in Galkayo had just returned from trying to secure the release of another American, a freelance journalist who was kidnapped last week in Galkayo. He remains in captivity in Hobyo, a pirate den on the Somali coast, because the pirates holding him refuse to let him go without a hefty ransom.

I would suggest his presence raises questions about what the ultimate goal for the raid was. Was it just Buchanan’s rescue, or the journalist’s, too?

Reuters quotes a local leader, currently negotiating for the release of the journalist, as saying that 12 helicopters remain on the ground.

“About 12 U.S. helicopters are now at Galkayo. We thank the United States. Pirates have spoilt the whole region’s peace and ethics. They are mafia,” Mohamed Ahmed Alim, leader of the Galmudug region, told Reuters.

Continue reading

Mickey Mouse’s Night Vision Goggles

Just weeks after the SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, a company best known for profiting wildly off of fantasy stories for children has trademarked Seal Team 6.

The Walt Disney Company has trademarked “Seal Team 6,” which also happens to be the name of the elite special forces team that killed Osama Bin Laden.

The trademark applications came on May 3rd, two days after the operation that killed Bin Laden… and two days after “Seal Team 6″  was included in thousands of news articles and TV programs focusing on the operation.

There’s a lot that’s wrong with this. Do we really need Mickey Mouse making a movie celebrating violence? Boom, boom! as Mickey double-taps the bad guy.

And how does Disney get to trademark a government unit? Shouldn’t they be paying a license fee to the government if they want to make money off Seal Team 6′s success?

Finally, though, I’d love to second the suggestion made by @AllThingsCT: if Disney is going to insist on profiting off the exploits of SEAL Team 6, then they had better be giving most of those profits back, preferably to military families who are struggling through multiple deployments and PTSD.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz No problem with it, overall he's decent chap, but why is AZ CJ Stan Feldman being recalled to duty for a swearing in? http://t.co/zA8JPvBIPJ
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bmaz @PogoWasRight Yep. I won't even have to try. One side or other, irrespective of the type of case, will hate me. I don't blame them either.
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JimWhiteGNV RT @NBCLA: JUST IN: Dallas nurse Amber Vinson no longer has Ebola, her family says http://t.co/ttx1MtHAIe http://t.co/nRW2xA0cQM
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bmaz I've just been selected as a superior court juror! Yay! I'd truly love to sit on a jury, any jury, civil or crim, but it will never happen.
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emptywheel @AllThingsHLS Spent some time last weekend w/a guy in charge of it. He wasn't interested when i pointed that out.
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bmaz Because the rush, whether feel good or just media hurry, that failed to mention the same, was totally lame+ineffective.
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bmaz Total hats off to @JulieATate Spencer Hsu+WaPo for being ONLY big media to note Due Process+MEJA issues in Blackwater http://t.co/oAG06AsOKH
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emptywheel @KailiJoy Did you also make fun of Chuck Todd? Cause I'm only clicking through if you made fun of him too.
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emptywheel @mgsledge That's not even the beginning of the nonsense in @daveaitel's piece. Not a very good propangandist, sadly.
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emptywheel RT @NSArchive: Poland to appeal European Court ruling that it violated human rights commitments by hosting #CIA "black prison" #FOIA http:/…
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bmaz MSNBC already gathering a production team for "Lockout: Canadia"...Probably.
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JimWhiteGNV RT @cliffschecter: Didi notice that #OttawaShooting gunman--if early reports right--had double barrel shotgun, not ASW or HCM. But, u know,…
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