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Fallout From Wedding Party Drone Strike in Yemen Continues

As more details emerge on the drone strike Thursday in Yemen that hit a wedding party, it is becoming clear that the New York Times got it wrong, and those killed were mostly civilians rather than mostly suspected al Qaeda militants. A follow-up story in the Los Angeles Times on Friday put the death toll at 17, with only five of the dead having suspected al Qaeda connections. But CNN’s follow-up on Friday is even worse: they put the death toll at only 14, but they carried this statement from a Yemeni official:

“This was a tragic mistake and comes at a very critical time. None of the killed was a wanted suspect by the Yemeni government,” said a top Yemeni national security official who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to talk to media.

If we read between the lines, then, it would seem that although a few of those killed may have had al Qaeda connections, they were not of sufficiently high profile to merit being wanted by Yemen’s government.

The CNN story only gets worse:

The convoy consisted of 11 vehicles, and the officials said that four of the vehicles were targeted in the strikes. Two of the vehicles were completely damaged. Among the killed were two prominent tribal leaders within the province.

This piece of information alone seems to embody all of the moral depravity of the US drone program as it now stands. Despite all the bleating about the effort put into assuring that only militants are targeted and that every effort is made to prevent civilian casualties, there simply is no justification for proceeding with an attack that intends to target fewer than half the vehicles in a large convoy. Such an attack is virtually guaranteed to kill more than just those targeted, and as discussed above, it seems very likely that even those targeted in this strike were low level operatives instead of high level al Qaeda leaders.

Sunday saw a strong response to the attacks by Yemen’s Parliament. They voted to end drone strikes in the country. From CNN:

Yemen’s parliament Sunday called for an end to drone strikes on its territory after a U.S. missile attack mistakenly struck a wedding convoy, killing more than a dozen people.

The nearly unanimous but non-binding vote was “a strong warning” to both the United States and the government of Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a Yemeni government official told CNN.

“The Yemeni public is angered by the drone strikes,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to talk to reporters. “The people’s representatives reflected on the tone of the streets.”

The official statement carried in the Reuters story on the vote strikes a similar position to what we have been hearing from Pakistan regarding US drone strikes there:

“Members of parliament voted to stop what drones are doing in Yemeni airspace, stressing the importance of preserving innocent civilian lives against any attack and maintaining Yemeni sovereignty,” the state news agency SABA said.

There’s that pesky issue of sovereignty again. Recall that it is a huge driver for the demonstrations by Imran Khan’s PTI party that have shut down NATO convoys on Pakistan’s northern supply route. And Khan appears to be gearing up for his protests to stage major events in Lahore and even Islamabad next week.

Writing in The Atlantic this morning, Conor Friedersdorf poses some interesting questions regarding the strike: Read more

Skirmishes Along Iran-Pakistan Border Have Increased Since October Incident

Recall that back in October, near the town of Saravan in southeastern Iran, 14 Iranian border guards were killed by attackers who had infiltrated from the adjacent border with Pakistan. Iran retaliated very quickly, executing 16 prisoners the next day. A previously unknown group, Jaish al-Adl, claimed responsibility and has since been described as a radical Sunni Wahhabi group with ties to Jundallah.

We learn today from Fars News that skirmishes with Iranian border guards have continued since that attack, with as many as 100 attacks having taken place since March and up to two a day since the October incident:

Lieutenant Commander of Iran’s Border Guard Force Brigadier General Ahmad Garavand vowed tough battle against any kind of terrorist move along the country’s borders, and said the border guards have repelled tens of terrorist attacks against the country.

General Garavand pointed to constant clashes between the Iranian border guards and outlaws, and said, “We have had 100 clashes since the beginning of this (Iranian) year (started March 20) and 2 border clashes per day on average after the recent terrorist attacks in Saravan.”

It would appear that the border guards are facing a budget crisis (perhaps a product of US sanctions?):

Meantime, Garavand reiterated that the government should earmark more budget for sealing the country’s borders, and said, “Only 28 percent of the required budget for sealing the borders has been allocated in the past months.”

Where the article goes next is a very interesting development. I had missed this bit of news in the original aftermath of the October incident, but Garavand mentions that the IRGC has vowed to take action in response:

After the attack the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in a statement vowed to take action against.

Perhaps this is just a natural outcome of the budget limitations of the border guards, but it seems more likely to me that this is a significant step that indicates just how seriously Iran views these border incidents. And right on cue, we have reports today by both Fars News and Mehr News that the IRGC took action to free two hostages who had been captured near the border. From the Fars story:

The Quds Forces of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) released the two hostages that had been taken by a group of outlaws in Southeastern Iran yesterday.

On Monday night a group of bandits took two Iranian citizens hostage in the city of Iranshahr in the Sistan and Balouchestan province.

Some hours later in early Tuesday morning, the captured civilians were released in an IRGC surprise operation which left three bandits dead and 3 others injured.

So we now have not just the IRGC, but the elite Quds force that reports directly to Khamenei involved in today’s incident. Read more

Imran Khan’s PTI Party Retaliates for Drone Strike, Outs Islamabad CIA Station Chief

Recall that back on November 21, John Brennan allowed the CIA to carry out a drone strike that hit a settled area of Pakistan rather than the tribal areas where most strikes occur. I noted that by striking within the province governed by former cricket star Imran Khan’s PTI party, Brennan was setting himself up for some significant blowback.

Today, less than one week after the drone strike, that blowback has hit hurricane force. From The Guardian:

The political party led by the former cricket star Imran Khan claims to have blown the cover of the CIA‘s most senior officer in Pakistan as part of an increasingly high-stakes campaign against US drone strikes.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party named a man it claimed was head of the CIA station in Islamabad in a letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of the people responsible for a drone strike on 21 November, which killed five militants including senior commanders of the Haqqani Network.

John Brennan, the CIA director, was also nominated as an “accused person” for murder and “waging war against Pakistan”.

Recall that another station chief was outed in 2010, also in response to a drone strike. He left the country very quickly. If you insist on knowing the name that was revealed, this article mentions it, but the name strikes me as more of a cover name than a real name.

The document that names John Brennan and the Islamabad station chief is an FIR, or First Information Report. Here is how those reports work in Pakistan:

First Information Report (FIR) is a written document prepared by the police when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offence. It is a report of information that reaches the police first in point of time and that is why it is called the First Information Report. It is generally a complaint lodged with the police by the victim of a cognizable offence or by someone on his/her behalf. Anyone can report the commission of a cognizable offence either orally or in writing to the police. Even a telephonic message can be treated as an FIR. It is a duty of police to register FIR without any delay or excuses. Non-registration of FIR is an offence and can be a ground for disciplinary action against the concerned police officer.

/snip/

A cognizable offence is one in which the police may arrest a person without warrant. They are authorized to start investigation into a cognizable case on their own and do not require any orders from the court to do so.

In the FIR, PTI officials are claiming that the station chief does not have diplomatic immunity and should be blocked from exiting the country. I wonder if John Kerry is going to have to make another surreptitious pick-up like the one he did when he spirited out of Pakistan the unidentified driver who killed a pedestrian on his failed mission to rescue Raymond Davis before his arrest in Lahore.

Khan’s party also has been attempting to shut down NATO supply vehicles passing through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, but they have not been very successful in that regard. Returning to the Guardian article:

Khan responded with a massive rally in the provincial capital of Peshawar and ordered PTI activists to block vehicles carrying supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan.

However, party workers have struggled to identify Nato cargo amid all the sealed containers plying the roads to Afghanistan. The exercise has received no support from the national government and the police have tried to stop PTI workers blocking lorries.

There also are reports of arrests for damaging shipping containers on trucks and attacking drivers.

Khan has clearly upped the stakes in his battle with Brennan. How will Brennan respond? At a bare minimum, more drone strikes in the province seem like a pretty safe bet.

Where Is the Moral Rectitude When Political Retaliation Drone Strike Hits Settled Area, Misses Target?

Early this morning, just hours after the US had assured Pakistan that drone strikes would be curtailed if Pakistan is able to restart peace talks with the Taliban (after the US disrupted them with a drone strike), John Brennan lashed out with one of his signature rage drone strikes that seems more calculated as political retaliation than careful targeting. Earlier documentation of political retaliation strikes can be seen here and here.

Here is how Dawn described the assurance from the US late on Wednesday:

The United States has promised that it will not carry out any drone strikes in Pakistan during any peace talks with Taliban militants in the future, the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Wednesday.

Briefing a session of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Aziz said a team of government negotiators was prepared to hold talks with former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud on Nov 2, the day after he was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan.

/snip/

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had told reporters last week that the process of peace talks could not be taken forward unless drone attacks on Pakistani soil are halted.

Nisar had said that the drone attack that killed Mehsud ‘sabotaged’ the government’s efforts to strike peace with anti-state militants.

Bill Roggio, writing in Long War Journal, is convinced that the Haqqani network’s leader was the target of today’s strike:

The US launched a drone strike at a seminary in Pakistan’s settled district of Hangu, killing eight people in what appears to have been an attempt to kill Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operations commander of the Taliban and al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.

But see that bit about the strike being in “Pakistan’s settled district”? One of the many unwritten “rules” of US drone strikes in Pakistan is that they are restricted to the FATA, or Federally Administered Tribal Area, of Pakistan where Pakistani security or military personnel have little to no freedom of movement. In fact, the ability of drones to enter these otherwise forbidden territories is touted as one of their main justifications for use.

Just over a week ago, the chief fundraiser for the Haqqani network was killed near Islamabad. That killing involved a gunman, though, not a drone. If Nasiruddin Haqqani could be taken out by a gunman near Islamabad, why couldn’t Sirajuddin also have been taken out by a gunman in Hangu rather than missed in a drone strike?

Various reports on this drone strike place the death toll at anywhere from three to eight and say that either three or four missiles were fired into the seminary. The seminary appeared to be frequented by Haqqani network fighters. From the Express Tribune:

Another Haqqani source said the seminary was an important rest point for members fighting in Afghanistan’s restive Khost province.

“The seminary served as a base for the network where militants fighting across the border came to stay and rest, as the Haqqani seminaries in the tribal areas were targeted by drones,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

An intelligence source told Reuters separately that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of Taliban-linked Haqqani network, was spotted at the seminary two days earlier.

It appears that there have been no other drone strikes outside the tribal areas since March of 2009. Roggio notes that all three of the others were in the Bannu district.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province now is governed by former cricket star Imran Khan’s PTI party. Khan already was highly agitated by the drone killing of Hakimullah Mehsud and its impact on the planned peace talks with the TTP. It seems entirely possible that striking in Khan’s province was a deliberate act by Brennan in retaliation for Khan’s rhetoric after the Hakimullah Mehsud killing. But by striking out with such rage, and especially by missing his target in a strike in a highly populated area, Brennan seems to have set himself up for a huge blowback.  Khan is now ratcheting up his rhetoric considerably: Read more

Crazy Posturing Over Hakimullah Mehsud Drone Killing Drowns Out Key Question: Why Now?

We are awash in analyses of the drone killing on Friday of Hakimullah Mehsud, who was the leader of Pakistan’s Taliban. Declan Walsh in the New York Times captures much of the puzzlement in the DC establishment over why Pakistan is responding not with celebration that Mehsud is dead, but with sharp questions for the US over yet another violation of Pakistani sovereignty. Walsh’s quote from Bill Roggio sums it up perfectly (under a headline of “In Pakistan, Drone Strike Turns a Villain Into a Victim”):

Virtually nobody openly welcomed the demise of Mr. Mehsud, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistani civilians. To some American security analysts, the furious reaction was another sign of the perversity and ingratitude that they say have scarred Pakistan’s relationship with the United States.

“It’s another stab in the back,” said Bill Roggio, whose website, the Long War Journal, monitors drone strikes. “Even those of us who watch Pakistan closely don’t know where they stand anymore. It’s such a double game.”

And Christine Fair provided another nuanced take on Mehsud:

Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at Washington DC’s Georgetown University, claimed there was little prospect of the proposed talks achieving anything.

“The Taliban killed 40,000 people. What lunatic thought there would be peace talks,” she said. “The American taxpayer is again taking out Pakistan’s terrorist garbage.”

Not to be outdone, Mike Rogers chimed in on Sunday:

Representative Mike Rogers, who chairs the House of Representatives’ permanent intelligence committee, said the slain militant, Hakimullah Mehsud, was a “bad guy” who was connected to attacks against Pakistani soldiers and to the Taliban in Afghanistan, which has forced closures of many schools for girls.

“This was a bad guy,” Rogers said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“There’s some information recently that concerned us about the safety of our troops. I feel a little better for our troops today than I did before this event happened.”

But all of this bleating about “wrongful mourning” threatens to drown out a very important point. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan held a press conference on Saturday. Dawn provides some coverage of his comments:

Speaking to both local and foreign media today, Nisar said the identity of those killed in the drone strike was irrelevant. “The government of Pakistan does not see this drone attack as an attack on an individual but as an attack on the peace process,” he said.

The interior minister said a three-member committee, comprising of Islamic clerics, was scheduled to leave for a meeting with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership on Saturday morning.

Claiming that TTP leadership including Hakimullah was aware of the meeting, he said he had written and telephonic records of recent correspondence between the government and the militant outfit.

/snip/

Chaudhry Nisar questioned timings of the Hakimullah’s killing by the US asking why he was targeted just a day before the talks. “Can this be called supporting peace initiative?”

Most press accounts of Nisar’s press conference include a reference to Nisar questioning the timing of the strike. But on Twitter yesterday, Arif Rafiq provided more details after reviewing a video of the press conference. It appears that Nisar went on to suggest that US interest in attacking Mehsud was only very recent and that previous opportunities to strike him had been bypassed: Read more

How Ridiculous is Pakistan’s New Civilian Drone Victim Estimate? Terrorist Okra-Picking Grandma!

On October 24, 2012, Nabila Rehman, who was eight years old at the time, was helping her grandmother pick vegetables in the family’s garden in North Waziristan. Here is her description of what happened next:

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDlvGqQ7VUo’]
Remarkably, Pakistan’s government has now indirectly called Nabila’s grandmother, Mamana Bibi, a terrorist. That is because the government has released new figures, radically revising downward their estimate of civilians killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan. They must be calling Bibi a terrorist, because the figures claim that there were zero civilian casualties in 2012. Amnesty International provides many more details (pdf) on the strike that killed Bibi and on another strike in 2012 that killed eighteen civilian workers.

Here is Declan Walsh writing in the New York Times on the new figures from Pakistan:

In a surprise move, Pakistan’s government on Wednesday sharply revised downward its official estimate of civilian casualties caused by American drone strikes in the tribal belt, highlighting again the contentious nature of statistics about the covert C.I.A. campaign.

The Ministry of Defense released figures to lawmakers saying that 67 civilians were among 2,227 people killed in 317 drone strikes since 2008. The remainder of those killed were Islamist militants, the ministry said.

/snip/

Recently, a United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, said that the Pakistani government had reported at least 400 civilian deaths since the drone campaign started in 2004.

In an email, Mr. Emmerson noted that the revised figures were “strikingly at odds” with those he had been given earlier by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry and said he would be writing to the government seeking clarification.

“It is essential that the government of Pakistan now clarify the true position,” he said.

BBC gives us the directly comparable figures from The Bureau for Investigative Journalism:

The latest figures released by Pakistan differ dramatically from previous estimates, but no explanation was given for the apparent discrepancy.

London’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which researches Pakistan drone strikes, told the BBC it estimated based on reports that between 308 and 789 civilians had died since 1 January 2008 (of between 2,371 and 3,433 total deaths).

Since 2008 then, Pakistan has now revised their civilian death toll estimate down to 67 during a period when TBIJ documents a minimum of 308 civilian deaths and as many as 789. Somehow, Pakistan has reclassified several hundred deaths from civilian to terrorist. And among them is Mamana Bibi, who is now a terrorist okra-picking grandmother. [That one hits me especially hard; I have fond memories of my grousing about how itchy the okra plants were when I picked okra with my grandfather in his garden.]

Tom Hussain and Jonathan Landay at McClatchy sum up the response to this announcement by Pakistan: Read more

Peace Initiative Gains Momentum in Afghanistan Despite Lack of Participation by US

Last week, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Washington, DC for a series of meetings. The final press appearance by Sharif and Barack Obama was noted by the New York Times to be somewhat awkward as Sharif paid whispered lip service to Pakistani objections to drone attacks while Obama ignored the topic entirely. The joint appearance was quickly overshadowed by release of an article from Greg Miller and Bob Woodward leaking a number of documents relating to the drone program. Both Marcy and I commented on the release and what it could mean.

The concept of the end of the war in Afghanistan got a bit of a mention in the Times article on Sharif’s visit:

With the United States’ winding down the Afghan war, Mr. Obama reminded Mr. Sharif of the importance of a stable, sovereign Afghanistan. American officials have long been suspicious of links between the Pakistani military and militant groups like the Haqqani network, which has carried out attacks on Westerners in Afghanistan.

For its part, the Sharif government has signaled an interest in negotiating with the Pakistani Taliban, a process that analysts said the United States should encourage.

But heaven forbid that Afghanistan should attempt to talk with Pakistan’s Taliban. Recall that earlier this month, the US snatched a high-ranking figure of the Pakistan Taliban from Afghan security forces as they were bringing him to a meeting. The cover story at the time from Afghanistan was to suggest that they were attempting to start peace talks with Latif Mehsud. An article in yesterday’s New York Times suggests that Afghanistan actually intended to work with Mehsud to develop a sort of alliance with the Pakistan Taliban and to use them as a pressure point against Pakistan’s government. What intrigues me most about this possibility is that Afghanistan claimed that this tactic was merely an imitation of what the US has done repeatedly in Afghanistan:

Another Afghan official said the logic of the region dictated the need for unseemly alliances. The United States, in fact, has relied on some of Afghanistan’s most notorious warlords to fight the insurgency here, the official tartly noted.

“Everyone has an angle,” the official said. “That’s the way we’re thinking. Some people said we needed our own.”

Afghan officials said those people included American military officers and C.I.A. operatives. Frustrated by their limited ability to hit Taliban havens in Pakistan, some Americans suggested that the Afghans find a way to do it, they claimed.

So Afghanistan’s intelligence agency believed it had a green light from the United States when it was approached by Mr. Mehsud sometime in the past year.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, the last time we checked, the most notorious warlord war criminal of them all, Rashid Dostum, was still getting about $100,000 every month from the US while also drawing a salary as Karzai’s Army Chief of Staff. Coupling that with the Petraeus plan of incorporating the worst militias directly into the death squads of the Afghan Local Police while providing them support from the CIA and JSOC, and we can see why Afghanistan would feel that there are zero moral constraints on working with groups having a violent tendency.

But apparently in the Calvinball playing field of Afghanistan, only the US is allowed to make shadowy alliances, and so the US snatched Mehsud away from Afghanistan before any alliance could be formed. But even if we chalk that move up to an honest move to take a noted terrorist out of action, US behavior on other fronts relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan still continue to illustrate that the only US priorities are more military action in Afghanistan and more drone strikes in Pakistan.

Sharif’s next stop after Washington was London. But instead of awkward public appearances, the UK has instead set up meetings for Sharif directly with Hamid Karzai: Read more

Who Is Behind Latest Iran-Pakistan Border Incident? Who Benefits?

Before diving into Friday night’s border incident where fourteen Iranian border guards were killed and Iran retaliated the next morning by hanging sixteen prisoners already in detention, we need to look back at the important events surrounding other such outbreaks of violence at the Iran-Pakistan border.

On January 1 of 2012, Pakistan detained three Iranian border guards whom they claimed had crossed into Pakistan. Details of the event were sketchy, but Iran claimed the guards were chasing drug smugglers and most of the stories on the event brought up the likely involvement of the group known as Jundallah. Less than two weeks later, a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated on January 11. Only two days after that event, the famous “false flag” article by Mark Perry appeared in Foreign Policy, making the remarkable claim that Mossad agents were posing as CIA agents while recruiting members of Jundallah for operations including assassinations.  Marcy had a series of three posts (one, two, three) delving into the many implications surrounding the false flag accusation. Another border incident then happened in late January, where six “Pakistanis” were killed by Iranian border agents, but there was a lot of confusion over just who the victims were, including their nationality.

Here is how Reuters first broke the news Saturday on this latest incident:

Fourteen Iranian border guards were killed and three others captured by “bandits” on the southeastern frontier with Pakistan overnight, Iranian media reported on Saturday.

In response, the Iranian judiciary executed 16 people it said were elements of “terrorist” groups, according to the ISNA news agency. There were no further details of who they were or whether or when they had been tried.

A follow-up story by Dawn from Sunday has more details, with the identity of the attackers unknown (but Jundallah is still mentioned prominently in the article):

It was still unclear whether the attackers were drug smugglers or armed opposition groups.

However, Iran’s Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi called on the Pakistani government to “take measures to control the border more seriously.”

Pakistan’s charge d’affaires was received at the Iranian foreign ministry to receive an official demand that Islamabad “act firmly with officials and members of terrorist groups who have fled to Pakistani territory,” IRNA reported.

The Dawn article also notes a second, separate border incident on Sunday in which one Pakistani was killed and four others were wounded.

Responsibility for the attack has now been claimed by a group known as Jeish Al-Adl:

A little-known Iranian Sunni group says it carried out the killing of 14 border guards on Friday night.

Jaish al-Adl said the attack was in retaliation for an alleged Iranian “massacre” in Syria and the “cruel treatment” of Sunnis in Iran.

Iran is now saying that they are a subgroup within Jundallah:

14 Iranian border guards were killed and 6 more were injured during the terrorist attack in Saravan border region in Southeastern Iran in the early hours of Saturday morning. The terrorists who have reportedly been members of the outlawed Jeish Al-Adl radical Sunni Wahhabi movement affiliated to the terrorist Jundollah group fled into Pakistan after the operation in Iran’s Southeastern Sistan and Balouchestan province.

It seems quite interesting to me that Iran would point out the “radical Sunni Wahhabi” connection of the group they are blaming. Of course, the primary sponsor of “radical Sunni Wahhabi” teachings is Saudi Arabia through their madrassas. But Iran seems to be dancing around an outright referral to Saudi involvement in this attack, even though it would make sense since we know that Bandar is now very upset both with the US “failure” to launch a strike on the Assad regime in Syria and the US diplomatic push toward Iran. This same Fars News article doesn’t name names, but refers to “two countries” providing financial support and “three countries” providing intelligence and equipment to them: Read more

Why Would Woodward Leak Confirmation of US-Pak Collaboration on Drone Strikes While Sharif Was in DC?

Obama and Sharif enter the Oval Office yesterday.

Obama and Sharif enter the Oval Office yesterday.

On the same day that Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, spoke to the press alongside US President Barack Obama in Washington, Bob Woodward teamed with Greg Miller to release confirmation that Pakistan’s government has agreed to and collaborated in choosing targets for the US “secret” drone program inside Pakistan. Participation by Pakistan, and especially its military, has long been known by close observers and the regular insistence by Pakistan’s government that drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is viewed cynically as the government’s need to provide domestic political cover.

On first thought, the timing of this revelation seems to break the basic tenets of what Marcy describes as the Bob Woodward Law that applies to classified information being leaked to Woodward:

As explained by John Rizzo in the context of the Obama Administration’s leaks to Bob Woodward, they can and do insta-declassify stuff for their own political purposes all the time. They can do it to make the President look important; they can do it to lie us into an illegal war; they can do it to ruin the career of someone who might expose the earlier lies.

The timing of this leak seems to be aimed more at embarrassing Obama than making him look important. The description of the joint appearance by the New York Times is quite interesting if one assumes that Sharif and Obama were aware that the leak was about to be published:

But Mr. Sharif said after the meeting that he had asked Mr. Obama to halt American drone strikes in Pakistan, broaching an issue that has aggravated tensions. The president did not respond publicly, saying only that the two sides needed to find ways to fight terrorism “that respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, that respect the concerns of both countries.”

So Obama would not address the drone issue directly in his public remarks. But it seems that Sharif was not particularly enthusiastic in his obligatory public denouncement of drone strikes: Read more

Massive Obama Administration Leaks on Covert CIA Program Training Syrian Rebels

Last night, Remi Brulin pointed out on Twitter that Greg Miller’s article in the Washington Post contains a lot of leaks describing a program that is supposed to be covert:

 

Miller even notes the covert nature of the program:

The descriptions of the CIA training program provide the most detailed account to date of the limited dimensions and daunting objectives of a CIA operation that President Obama secretly authorized in a covert action finding he signed this year.

And yet, despite the fact that even the authorization of this operation was supposed to be covert, Miller seems to have no trouble getting folks to talk to him about it. I’ve attempted to list here all the times he mentions things someone told him. I’ve only copied the references here when they relate to the covert training program, not to other information being conveyed to Miller:

U.S. officials said

officials said

officials said

officials said

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said

The CIA effort was described

said a U.S. official familiar with operations in Syria

The descriptions of the CIA training program

U.S. officials said the classified program

a former senior U.S. intelligence official said

Officials said

the former U.S. intelligence official said

Officials said

officials said

officials said

officials said

what some officials have described

senior CIA officials have raised the concern

said a former senior U.S. intelligence official

the former official said

All of those are the anonymous quotes that Miller included. When it came time to get anyone to go on the record: Read more