Terrorism

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The Jihadi John Cover Story

In the WaPo’s story identifying Jihadi John as Mohammed Emwazi, they noted that the FBI intimated it had ID ISIL’s executioner as far back as February.

Authorities have used a variety of investigative techniques, including voice analysis and interviews with former hostages, to try to identify Jihadi John. James B. Comey, the director of the FBI, said in September — only a month after the Briton was seen in a video killing American journalist James Foley — that officials believed they had succeeded.

In a Telegraph piece explaining how the WaPo had IDed Emwazi, Adam Goldman suggests he and his colleagues repeated that approach.

Former hostages said that the Islamic State killer spoke fluent Arabic, a hint that he was not from Britain’s large Pakistani or Bangladeshi communities.

He made his captives watch online videos from al-Shabaab, the Somali terror group, which suggested he may have had an interest in jihad in east Africa before heading to Syria.

“I was trying to pick up pieces of information, data points, scraps,” said Adam Goldman, the Washington Post reporter who broke the story with his colleague Souad Mekhennet. “It was hard, man. People were tight-lipped about this.”

When Mr Goldman finally closed in on the name of Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British citizen who grew up in west London, two things quickly became evident.

The first was that the name on its own would shed little light on the identity of the man who taunted the West in Isil’s gruesome videos. Emwazi had basically none of the internet presence you would expect from a man in his mid-twenties. No Facebook account, no Twitter, no digital trace.

“The trail was thin. Which was odd because in this day and age if you’re 26 years old you’re all over the internet,” said Mr Goldman. Emwazi’s computer skills, honed at the University of Westminster, may have helped him scrub his record.

In that piece, Goldman also made clear that officials in both the US and UK knew who Emwazi was, but weren’t sharing.

The original WaPo piece also makes clear they relied, in part, on help from CagePrisoners’ Asim Qureshi. As I noted the other day, CagePrisoners has got a great deal of documentation on Emwazi’s early run-ins with the British security state, some of which is now coming out in stories.

In short, people knew, and a number of WaPo journalists were also able to learn who Jihadi John is. And they did so largely by talking to people who had met or known him — classic HUMINT.

Which is why I find this story so odd. Exclusive!! Jihadi John exposed himself via SIGINT!

Mohammed Emwazi, 26, now the world’s most-wanted man after beheading British and US hostages, had been on a shortlist of suspects.

But the crucial piece of the jigsaw fell into place when when Emwazi used a laptop in Syria to download web design software which was being offered on a free trial.

Instead of buying the software with a credit card, he used a student code from London’s Westminster University when he studied computer technology.

The number contained unique information which gave his date of birth, what he studied, and where, and information on his student loan.

Sources revealed the download singled him out as being in the right place and time to be the killer.

The information was passed back through the intelligence chain and further matches showed he was the murderer.

An intelligence source said last night: “In today’s electronic age of social media and technology, we chase the digital footprint before we chase the person.

British intelligence sources are now claiming that the SIGINT hunt for Emwazi preceded the HUMINT one, and also claiming that a SIGINT clue — and the related SIGINT trail that clue uncovered — provided the breakthrough in IDing him.

Which is almost certainly bullshit.

But notable bullshit, for two reasons. First, because the current story — that the UK lost Emwazi — poses really big problems for the dragnet. Because if someone like Emwazi, whom MI5 had been chasing for years, can simply disappear, only to reappear as the man beheading western journalists (though technically, the videos never show him doing so), then it suggests the entire dragnet is least effective when it is most needed. The Express’ ill-defined sources appear to want to tell a story about SIGINT succeeded rather then explain how it is that SIGINT failed (at least according to the story getting told publicly).

Mind you, I’m not entirely convinced Emwazi did disappear. But if he didn’t, that raises some other questions. Questions heightened by the role of CagePrisoners, as well. Remember, the Brits arrested Moazzam Begg for travel it had pre-approved to Syria in 2012, holding him from February to October 2014, when they finally admitted the British government had known of his trip, precisely the period when Jihadi John came into US consciousness.

I suspect both CagePrisoners and British intelligence are trying to spin this, in this case by focusing on SIGINT rather than HUMINT which clearly led to Emwazi.

The “Torture Works” Story

After Adam Goldman exposed the identity of Jihadi John, ISIL’s executioner, as Mohammed Emwazi, it set off an interesting response in Britain. CagePrisoners — the advocacy organization for detainees — revealed details of how MI5 had tried to recruit Emwazi and, when he refused, had repeatedly harassed him and his family and prevented him from working a job in Kuwait (where he was born).

While that certainly doesn’t excuse beheadings, it does raise questions about how the intelligence services track those it has identified as potential recruits and/or threats.

And seemingly in response to those questions, the former head of MI6 has come forward to say that torture has worked in a ticking time bomb scenario — that of the toner cartridge plot in 2010.

In his first interview since stepping down from Secret Intelligence Service in January, Sir John Sawers told the BBC yesterday that torture “does produce intelligence” and security services “set aside the use of torture… because it is against the values” of British society, not because it doesn’t work in the short term. Sir John defended the security services against accusations they had played a role in the radicalising of British Muslims, including Mohammed Emwazi, who it is claimed is the extremist responsible for the murder of hostages in Syria.

The IoS can reveal details of a dramatic “Jack Bauer real-time operation” to foil an al-Qaeda plot to bring down two airliners in 2010. According to a well-place intelligence source, the discovery of a printer cartridge bomb on a UPS cargo aircraft at East Midlands airport was possible only because two British government officials in Saudi Arabia were in “immediate communication” with a team reportedly using torture to interrogate an al-Qaeda operative as part of “ticking bomb scenario” operation.

The terror plot was to use cartridge bombs to bring down two aircraft over the eastern United States. However, British authorities intercepted the first device at the cargo airport hub after what they described as a “tip-off” from Saudi Arabia. A second device was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai; both aircraft had started their trips in Yemen.

The IoS understands there was a frantic search prompted by “two or three” calls to Saudi Arabia after the tip-off, with security services battling to find the device. French security sources revealed the device was within 17 minutes of detonating when bomb disposal teams disarmed it.

One intelligence source said: “The people in London went back on the phone two or three times to where the interrogation was taking place in Riyadh to find out specifically where the bomb was hidden. There were two Britons there, in immediate communication with where the interrogation was taking place, and as soon as anything happened, they were in touch with the UK. It was all done in real time.”

I find this rather interesting for several reasons.

At the time, multiple sources on the Saudi peninsula revealed that authorities learned of this plot — and therefore learned about the bombs — from an apparent double agent (and former Gitmo detainee), Jabir al-Fayfi, who had left AQAP and alerted the Saudis to the plot. If so, it would mean what was learned from torture (if this account can be trusted) was the precise location of the explosives in planes that boxes that had already been isolated. I’m not certain, but that may mean this “success” prevented nothing more than an explosion in a controlled situation, because it had already been tipped by a double agent who presumably didn’t need to be tortured to share the information he had been sent in to obtain.

That is, the story, as provided, may be overblown.

Or may be referring to torture that happened in a different place and time, as part of an effort to “recruit’ al-Fayfi.

But I’m interested in it for further reasons.

The toner cartridge story significantly resembles the UndieBomb 2.0 plot, which was not only tipped by a double agent, but propagated by it (indeed, I recently raised questions about whether leaks about both were part of the same investigation). But in that case, the double agent came not via Gitmo and Saudi “deradicalization,” but via MI5, via a recruitment effort very like what MI5 used with Emwazi.

Indeed, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Emwazi knew that double agent and/or that CagePrisoners has suspicions about who he is.

I have increasingly wondered whether the treatment of a range of people implicated in Yemeni and/or Somali networks (MI5 accused Emwazi of wanting to travel to the latter) derives from the growing awareness among networks who have intelligence services have tried to recruit who else might have been recruited.

Which might be one reason to tie all this in with “successful torture” — partly a distraction, partly an attempt to defer attention from a network that is growing out of control.

American Hegemony: Delivering “Unpredictable Instability” the World Over

I love Global Threat Hearings and curse you Richard Burr for holding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing in secret.

At least John McCain had the courage to invite James Clapper for what might have been (but weren’t) hard questions in public in front of Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday.

Clapper started with a comment that was not prominent in (though it definitely underscored) his written testimony (Update: Here’s the transcript of his as-delivered statement.)

Unpredictable instability is the new normal.The year 2014 saw the highest rate of political instability since 1992. The most deaths as a result of state-sponsored mass killings since the early 1990s. And the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons (or IDPs) since World War II. Roughly half of the world’s currently stable countries are at some risk of instability over the next two years.

It’s a damning catalog. All the more so given that the US has been the world’s unquestioned hegemon since that period in the early 1990s when everything has been getting worse, since that period when the first President Bush promised a thousand points of light.

And while the US can’t be held responsible for all the instability in the world right now, it owns a lot of it: serial invasions in the Middle East and the coddling of Israel account for many of the refugees (though there’s no telling what would have happened with the hundred thousand killed and millions of refugees in Syria had the second President Bush not invaded Iraq, had he taken Bashar al-Assad up on an offer to partner against al Qaeda, had we managed the aftermath of the Arab Spring differently).

US-backed neoliberalism and austerity — and the underlying bank crisis that provided the excuse for it — has contributed to instability elsewhere, and probably underlies those countries that Clapper thinks might grow unstable in the next year.

We’re already seeing instability arising from climate change; the US owns some of the blame for that, and more for squandering its leadership role on foreign adventures rather than pushing a solution to that more urgent problem (Clapper, by the way, thinks climate change is a problem but unlike Obama doesn’t consider it the most serious one).

There are, obviously, a lot of other things going on. Clapper talked admiringly of China’s modernization of its military, driven by domestically developed programs, an obvious development when a country becomes the manufacturing powerhouse of the world. But China’s growing influence comes largely in the wake of, and in part because of, stupid choices the US has made.

There was, predictably, a lot of discussion about cyberthreats, even featuring Senate Intelligence Committee member Angus King arguing we need an offensive threat (we’ve got one — and have been launching pre-emptive strikes for 9 years now — as he would know if he paid attention to briefings or read the Intercept or the New York Times) to deter others from attacking us with cyberweapons.

Almost everyone at the hearing wanted to talk about Iran, without realizing that a peace deal with it would finally take a step towards more stability (until our allies the Saudis start getting belligerent as a result).

Still, even in spite of the fact that Clapper started with this inventory of instability, there seemed zero awareness of what a damning indictment that is for the world’s hegemon. Before we address all these other problems, shouldn’t we focus some analysis on why American hegemony went so badly wrong?

The Secret Squirrels Pitching “Countering Violent Extremism”

For the record, I believe our country needs some kind of program to divert wayward young men — of whatever race, religion, and ideology — rather than ensnaring them in stings that will result in a wasted life.

Mind you, the government is going about it with the Muslim community badly. In part, that’s because the US doesn’t have much positive ideology to offer anymore, especially to those who identify in whatever way with those we’ve spent millions villainizing. In part, that’s because we’d have to revamp FBI before we started this CVE stuff, starting with the emphasis on terrorist conviction numbers as the prime measure of success. You’ll never succeed with a program if people’s primary job measure is the opposite.

Finally, and most obviously, you have to start by building trust, which will necessarily require a transition time between when you primarily rely on dragnets and informants to that time when you can rely on community partners (it will also require an acceptance that you won’t stop all attacks, regardless of which method you use).

Which is why I find this story, in the Administration’s latest effort to roll out a CVE program, so telling.

Senior administration officials, speaking to reporters Monday, said that while the initiative would not end terrorist acts like those undertaken in Copenhagen and Libya in the past few days, they are part of the broader answer to such threats.

“I think we need to be realistic that this is a long-term investment,” said one official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the event in advance. “And so, ultimately, we hope to get to a place where we just have much greater resilience and greater action across communities. But that is not something we’re going to see tomorrow.”

[snip]

One of the senior administration officials said Monday that “there’s no profile that we can point to to say this person is from this community, is going to be radicalized to violence,” adding, “I think that we make a mistake as a government if we focus on stereotypes.” [my emphasis]

The article quotes the US Attorney from Minnesota, which has had a fairly sustained effort of outreach to the Somali community, by name. And it quotes the Congressional testimony of others.

But otherwise, every single Administration official insisted on anonymity.

This is all about trust, and the Administration would not permit the top officials rolling out this program to speak under their own name.

The increasing paranoiac secrecy of the Executive, worse even under Obama than Bush, sows distrust among all parts of the community.

But all the more so at the community most often targeted by programs that rely on secrecy to avoid public criticism.

So maybe before the Administration invests any more dollars into trying to change young Muslim men, it should first deal with its own poisonous hyper-secrecy?

Mossad Now Issuing Denials for CIA?

Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 8.23.51 PMTen days ago, I noted that — after he denied it to me — Newsweek’s editor, Jim Impoco, admitted that his magazine had sat on a story about CIA’s role in killing Imad Mugniyeh in 2008.

Almost exactly a week ago, theWashington Post reported on CIA’s role in the 2008 car bomb killing of the key Hezbollah planner behind the terrorist attack on the American Embassy in Lebanon in 1983, Imad Mugniyeh.

Shortly thereafter, Newsweekpublished an even more detailed version.

As everyone was discussing the story the next day, I suggested the timing made it seem as if one outlet — I was agnostic about which one — had sat on the story at the request of CIA. Newsweek’s editor, Jim Impoco, scoffed that anyone might do such a thing.

“Who does that anymore?” he asked.

Politico just confirmed that I was correct: Newsweek sat on the story for a year in response to a CIA request.

CBS’s has a column purporting to rebut the claims laid out in Newsweek and WaPo’s versions.

According to the published accounts, the bomb had been designed, shaped, and repeatedly tested at an American base to be sure that only Mughniyeh and no other people would be killed.

Because of the revelation that the CIA was part of the mission, as well as details of how it was accomplished, Israelis close to their country’s security services wondered why American sources chose to leak so much about it.

One result was that some of those Israelis – apparently miffed that the Americans were taking too much credit – went to the trouble of speaking with Western officials and diplomats to offer corrections.

[snip]

Contrary to the recent reports, the Israelis claim to have designed and tested the bomb, while respecting the CIA’s insistence that it not be too large so as not to kill any innocents.

According to this version, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert kept track of the testing and – during a trip to Washington – even showed some of the videos to George W. Bush, who was impressed and enthusiastic about eliminating Mughniyeh. The CIA had briefly withdrawn from the mission, but President Bush brought the agency back in. [my emphasis]

Given the confirmation that Newsweek sat on their story for a year at CIA’s request, this story makes no sense. CIA would have had an easier way to quash the story if they weren’t involved at all. They chose not to avail of that.

Maybe CIA’s still trying to bury this story, only with the help of Mossad now?

Military Just Can’t Kick Its Afghanistan Habit, Picks Up Pace of Night Raids

The US military’s addiction to war in Afghanistan is now in its fourteenth year. Such a long addiction can’t just be ended in a weekend of going cold turkey. Much of the effort to end the war has been cosmetic and semantic. Although troop levels are now down dramatically from the peak of Obama’s surge, Obama’s tactic at the end of 2014 was to declare the war “over” while at the same time signing a secret order allowing for expanded activities by those troops remaining in the country.

The military has joined in Obama’s gamesmanship, taking as much of the war effort behind curtains of secrecy as it possibly can. In October, it suddenly classified information on Afghan troop capabilities and then in January it tried to expand that classification to nearly all information coming out of the war. While the military seems to have relented on at least some of that move, I haven’t yet seen SIGAR report on the information grudgingly given up after the classification was strongly criticized in Washington.

Two reports in the current news cycle highlight the military’s desperation in hanging onto as much combat activity in Afghanistan as it can. Yesterday, John Campbell, commander of US troops in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the current schedule for drawdown of troops from Afghanistan must be slowed:

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan confirmed Thursday that he supports a slowing of the troop drawdown and slated pullback from bases in the country by the end of the year, as the White House reconsiders its plans.

Gen. John Campbell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he has made those recommendations and they are now being considered by the joint staff and secretary of defense’s office.

It is hard to see this move as anything but an attempt to delay the inevitable total collapse of Afghan forces, just as Iraqi forces collapsed without US support. Consider how Campbell framed his testimony:

“This is their first fighting season on their own,” Campbell said, speaking of the Afghan forces the United States hopes will be able to secure the country against Taliban, Islamic extremists linked to the Islamic State, and drug lords.

Just like a junkie needing that next fix, Campbell tries to claim that just one more year of training will have those Afghan troops working perfectly:

A slower withdrawal time line could allow the forces to continue the train-advise — and-assist and the counterterror operations at more of the 21 bases it and coalition forces now use throughout the country.

This desperate plea for a slower US troop withdrawal and more time for training Afghan forces puts a much colder light on the sudden classification of Afghan troop capability. Even John McCain realizes that we are headed down the same path in Afghanistan as we saw in Iraq (but of course he used that make a dig at Obama while overlooking his own cheerleading of the ongoing clusterfuck):

“We are worried about it being done ‘just as we’ve done in Iraq,’” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., mocking a statement by President Barack Obama last year that touted the proposed Afghanistan drawdown.

But the classification of Afghan troop capability is not the only front on which actions in Afghanistan have gone secret. We learn today from the New York Times (h/t The Biased Reporter) that the US is relying on new authority for night raids as part of its counterterror activities authorized under the Bilateral Security Agreement put into place once Ashraf Ghani assumed the presidency. Unlike the days of the Karzai presidency, the John Kerry-invented National Unity Government of Ghani and Abdullah not only doesn’t protest US night raids, it actively works with the US to hide all news of them:

The spike in raids is at odds with policy declarations in Washington, where the Obama administration has deemed the American role in the war essentially over. But the increase reflects the reality in Afghanistan, where fierce fighting in the past year killed record numbers of Afghan soldiers, police officers and civilians.

American and Afghan officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing operations that are largely classified, said that American forces were playing direct combat roles in many of the raids and were not simply going along as advisers.

“We’ve been clear that counterterrorism operations remain a part of our mission in Afghanistan,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Thursday. “We’ve also been clear that we will conduct these operations in partnership with the Afghans to eliminate threats to our forces, our partners and our interests.”

The raids appear to have targeted a broad cross section of Islamist militants. They have hit both Qaeda and Taliban operatives, going beyond the narrow counterterrorism mission that Obama administration officials had said would continue after the formal end of American-led combat operations last December.

The gist of the Times article is that this uptick in raids is driven mostly by intelligence contained on a laptop magically captured by Afghan forces, but it is clear that US forces would have used any excuse they could find to justify this increase in death squad activity now that the Afghan government allows their return.

Postscript: Somehow, even though the laptop is supposed to have been from an al Qaeda operative, it is even claimed to have had information that helped target drones to kill Abdul Rauf Khadim. I’m pretty sure that by now getting his al Qaeda space checked off, Rauf has completed his terror bingo card showing sides on which he has played, even if posthumously.

Dianne Feinstein Calls Out NCTC Head for Bullshit Torture Report Threat Assessment

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 4.23.40 PMToday’s SSCI public hearing was remarkably useful, in spite of Chairman Burr’s interrupting a chain of serious questions to ask a clown question of National Counterterrorism Center head Nick Rasmussen. Roy Blunt, Marco Rubio, and Angus King all asked questions about Authorizations to Use Military Force that will be useful in the upcoming debate.

The highlight, however, came when Dianne Feinstein asked Rasmussen whether the claims of great harm — provided to her just before she released the Torture Report in December — had proven to be correct.

Feinstein: And I have one other question to ask the Director. Um, Mr. Director, days before the public release of our report on CIA detention and interrogation, we received an intelligence assessment predicting violence throughout the world and significant damage to United States relationships. NCTC participated in that assessment. Do you believe that assessment proved correct?

Rasmussen: I can speak particularly to the threat portion of that rather than the partnership aspect of that because I would say that’s the part NCTC would have the most direct purchase on, and I can’t say that I can disaggregate the level of terrorism and violence we’ve seen in the period since the report was issued, disaggregate that level from what we might have seen otherwise because, as you know, the turmoil roiling in those parts of the world, not that part of the world, those parts of the world, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, there’s a number of factors that go on creating the difficult threat environment we face.

So the assessment we made at the time as a community was that we would increase or add to the threat picture in those places. I don’t know that looking backwards now, I can say it did by X% or it didn’t by X%. We were also, I think, clear in saying that there’s parts of the impact that we will not know until we have the benefit of time to see how it would play out in different locations around the world.

Feinstein: Oh boy do I disagree with you. But that’s what makes this arena I guess. The fact in my mind was that the threat assessment was not correct.

Note, Ron Wyden used his one question to get Rasumussen to admit that he had only read the Torture Report summary in enough detail to conduct the threat assessment. Wyden informed Rasmussen there were other parts in the still-classified sections that he should be aware of as NCTC head.

“Success” in GWOT: Evacuated Embassies in Yemen, Open Season on Muslims in US

You can bet that the “he was just a disturbed person who snapped, don’t look at it as a trend” pieces to start flowing any minute, but how can we see the brutal, senseless murders of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha as anything other than the natural consequence of over 13 years of the US targeting Muslims around the world? Just this week, despite his own role in the carnage of brown people, when Barack Obama tried to dial things back a bit by noting that violence has been perpetrated in the name of Christianity, we had shocking defenders of the Crusades rush into the debate.

As I noted back in December, the evidence is strong that a military approach to terrorism is almost always doomed to failure. And yet, the US just cannot let go of this military-industrial-antiterror complex. It leads to exceptionally deluded thinking. Obama was claiming as recently as September that Yemen was an example of “success” in the approach to terror. We knew even then that the claim was bullshit. The US got played as a dupe early there when Saleh dialed up a drone hit on a rival. There was ample evidence that the drone strikes were a boon to AQAP recruitment. The US even stooped so low as to kill a teenaged US citizen in a drone strike there.

That shining beacon of antiterror success in Yemen is folding now just as surely as our failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and beyond. France and the UK are joining the US in closing embassies as Yemen crumbles further.

The war on Muslims has created a United States that is polarized to the point of taking up arms against innocent victims. It has created factions that defend atrocities both in the past and in current events. We reward Hollywood with near-record profits for a movie in which the we vicariously shoot Muslim evil-doers from a sniper’s perch.

How different would the world be today if the US had chosen to respond to 9/11 as a police matter rather than a military mission?

Sometimes, Death Just Happens

Both the White House and Kayla Jean Meuller have released statements confirming the death of the young humanitarian worker.

Here’s the White House:

It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller. On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I convey our deepest condolences to Kayla’s family – her parents, Marsha and Carl, and her brother Eric and his family – and all of those who loved Kayla dearly. At this time of unimaginable suffering, the country shares in their grief.

Kayla dedicated her life to helping others in need at home and around the world. In Prescott, Arizona, she volunteered at a women’s shelter and worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic. She worked with humanitarian organizations in India, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, compelled by her desire to serve others. Eventually, her path took her to Turkey, where she helped provide comfort and support to Syrian refugees forced to flee their homes during the war. Kayla’s compassion and dedication to assisting those in need shows us that even amongst unconscionable evil, the essential decency of humanity can live on.

Kayla represents what is best about America, and expressed her deep pride in the freedoms that we Americans enjoy, and that so many others strive for around the world. She said: “Here we are. Free to speak out without fear of being killed, blessed to be protected by the same law we are subjected to, free to see our families as we please, free to cross borders and free to disagree. We have many people to thank for these freedoms and I see it as an injustice not to use them to their fullest.”

Kayla Mueller used these freedoms she so cherished to improve the lives of others. In how she lived her life, she epitomized all that is good in our world. She has been taken from us, but her legacy endures, inspiring all those who fight, each in their own way, for what is just and what is decent. No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death.

ISIL is a hateful and abhorrent terrorist group whose actions stand in stark contrast to the spirit of people like Kayla. On this day, we take comfort in the fact that the future belongs not to those who destroy, but rather to the irrepressible force of human goodness that Kayla Mueller shall forever represent.

And Mueller’s family:

We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life.

Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice, and peace.

In a letter to her father on his birthday in 2011, Kayla wrote:

‘I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you.’

‘I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.’

Kayla was drawn to help those displaced by the Syrian civil war. She first traveled to Turkey in December, 2012 to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. She told us of the great joy she took in helping Syrian children and their families.

We are so proud of the person Kayla was and the work that she did while she was here with us. She lived with purpose, and we will work every day to honor her legacy.

Our hearts are breaking for our only daughter, but we will continue on in peace, dignity, and love for her.

We remain heartbroken, also, for the families of the other captives who did not make it home safely and who remain in our thoughts and prayers. We pray for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria.

Both statements appropriately salute her life, emphasizing what a tragedy her death is.

But neither statement includes any agent with her death. The White House has “learned of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller.” Her family confirms she “has lost her life.”

Amid ISIL’s allegations that she was killed in a Jordanian bomb strike, the utter lack of an agency here seems to suggest those claims are correct. When ISIL kills a hostage, agency is at the forefront. When a bomb kills a hostage, no one is to blame.

None of that justifies ISIL’s hostage taking, nor does it absolve them of guilt in Mueller’s killing. But the language here deserves notice.

Update: Her family has released this heartbreaking, but inspiring letter, from Mueller:

 I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else…. + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it.

Rauf Exploited One Last Time, Now Latest Drone Victim

On January 30, I noted how the varied history of Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim had seen him on many different sides of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His history depends on whoever is describing it, but it is clear he spent time at Guantanamo, where leaked documents said that he was “substantially exploited“. He was released from Guantanamo and held for at least some time in Afghanistan’s notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison. Many reports put him serving on the Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban at a later point and getting quite close to Mullah Omar. Most recently, he was said to be an active recruiter for the Islamic State and perhaps even serving as the IS governor of the region.

Multiple reports today state that Rauf has been killed by a US drone strike in Afghanistan. From the Reuters report:

A missile-firing drone killed six people in Afghanistan on Monday including a veteran militant believed to have defected to Islamic State (IS) from the Taliban, Afghan officials said.

The senior militant, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mullah Abdul Rauf, was killed in the violence-plagued southern province of Helmand, officials there said.

Police chief Nabi Jan Mullahkhel said Rauf was travelling in a car when the drone attacked. The other casualties included his brother-in-law and four Pakistanis, Mullahkhel said.

More details from the area:

Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said in a statement Rauf was in charge of IS in southwestern Afghanistan and he was killed just after mid-day in “a successful military operation”.

Helmand’s deputy governor, Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, said Rauf’s membership of IS could not be confirmed but his associates were dressed in black outfits often worn by IS members.

“It is too early to confirm that he was Daish but his people were wearing the same clothes and mask,” Rasulyar said, referring to IS.

It is hardly surprising that the CNN account of his death would open with the recidivist angle:

He was a Taliban commander captured by the United States and held at Guantanamo Bay. But he was let go and returned to Afghanistan. Mullah Abdul Rauf went on to become a recruiter for ISIS in Afghanistan.

He was killed in a drone strike Monday, two officials told CNN.

And, as with seemingly all stories of this type at the early stages, the possibility that Rauf escaped has been presented. Khaama Press relays the same reports of Rauf’s death, but adds this to their story:

However, Pacha Gul Bakhtyar, Security Officer of Helmand Province had told Khaama Press earlier in the afternoon that Mullah Abdul Rawouf Khadim sustained serious injuries while four of his fighters were killed in the attack.

He said that Mullah Abdul Rawouf Khadim was traveling along with a group of his people in a Saracha vehicle when their vehicle was targeted, leaving Khadim seriously wounded and four of his people killed.

He said that Mullah Abdul Rawouf has escaped in wounded conditions.

So, while Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security states outright that Rauf was in charge of IS recruiting for the region, the Ministry of the Interior was insisting as recently as Sunday that the presence of IS fighters in Afghanistan was nothing more than a publicity stunt:

Rejecting the infiltration of the Islamic State (IS) fighters to Afghanistan, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) has said the rumors about the sightings of theses fighters were nothing more than publicity.

MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqqi at a press conference on Sunday in Kabul said that the security agencies were aware of the movements of all enemies of the country.

He warned the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) would suppress all rebel groups whether they were operating under the name of IS or other brands.

As a final note, the case of Rauf and his constantly changing sides should be seen as the rule for areas where the US military has engaged in its misadventures rather than an exeception. Other stories in today’s news note disputes over Afghan police with ties to the Taliban and Iraqi militias operated by a member of Parliament attacking Iraqi citizens at the same time they pursue ISIS.

So, of course, the US should promptly arm troops in Ukraine, as well, so that we can have another region where US arms raise the stakes the rapid changing of sides in a conflict.

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