Pakistan Asks for Update On Raymond Davis Investigation; OBL Immunization Doctor Accused of Treason

On Tuesday, noting the felony charge Raymond Davis faces in Colorado over a parking lot fight, I asked what happened to the investigation the US promised regarding Davis killing two Pakistanis in Lahore earlier this year.  It turns out I’m not alone in asking that question. Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post reports that Pakistan has made a formal request for an update on the investigation.  In other Pakistan news breaking this afternoon, we learn that a commission in Pakistan has urged filing of conspiracy and high treason charges against the doctor who assisted the CIA by setting up a fake immunization program in order to gain access to the suspected compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding.

It turns out that Pakistan asked about the Davis investigation a day before I did.  From DeYoung’s post:

In an Oct. 3 diplomatic note to Justice and the State Department, Ambassador Husain Haqqani referenced “the ongoing investigation” and asked that “the latest status in the matter may kindly be conveyed to the Embassy.” Haqqani said no reply had yet been received.

Asked the same question, Justice spokesperson Laura Sweeney declined to comment on the department’s behalf.

DeYoung also provides further background on the initial steps taken in the US to start the Davis investigation:

In a May 26 letter to Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Mary Ellen Warlow, director of the Criminal Division of Justice’s international affairs office, said that the department was “currently investigating” the Lahore shooting and requested that Pakistan “take steps to preserve all evidence relating to these events” and set up a liaison officer at the embassy to handle the matter.

That, Pakistan says, is the last it heard.

Note that this letter to Pakistan came over two months after Davis was released in mid-March.  If that letter was the last Pakistan heard about the investigation, it seems safe to assume that no US investigators have been to Pakistan to examine the evidence Pakistan was instructed to preserve or to interview witnesses.  Also, it remains unclear whether the investigation into Davis’ actions also is to include investigation into the vehicle which struck and killed a pedestrian after it was dispatched from the consulate in Lahore to rescue Davis.

Voice of America brings us the news on the recommendation of treason charges against the Pakistani doctor:

A Pakistani commission said Thursday that the government should file conspiracy and high treason charges against Shakeel Afridi.

Afridi is accused of running a fake vaccination campaign to help U.S. intelligence obtain DNA samples of bin Laden and his family.


The Pakistani government set up the commission to investigate how U.S. forces managed to track down bin Laden and carry out the operation without Pakistan’s prior knowledge.

The article goes on to inform us that this same commission also interviewed Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who heads Pakistan’s  main intelligence organization, the ISI.  In addition, the commission interviewed bin Laden’s wives and children.  The commission is headed by a Supreme Court judge, but it is not clear how binding its recommendations will be.

If the Legal Case for Killing Awlaki Is So Sound, Then Why Maintain Presidential Plausible Deniability?

Glenn Greenwald has another worthwhile post on Democrats’ silence about the Anwar al-Awlaki assassination. But i wanted to push back against one thing he said. After quoting from this Mark Hosenball story on the kill list approval process, Glenn said,

So a panel operating out of the White House — that meets in total secrecy, with no law or rules governing what it can do or how it operates — is empowered to place American citizens on a list to be killed, which (by some process nobody knows) eventually makes its way to the President, who is the final Decider.

But that’s not actually what Hosenball wrote. On the contrary, Hosenball emphasized that Obama’s role in the kill list approval process remains unclear.

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process.


Other officials said the role of the president in the process was murkier than what Ruppersberger described.

They said targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC “principals,” meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval. The panel of principals could have different memberships when considering different operational issues, they said.


Several officials said that when Awlaki became the first American put on the target list, Obama was not required personally to approve the targeting of a person. But one official said Obama would be notified of the principals’ decision. If he objected, the decision would be nullified, the official said.

A former official said one of the reasons for making senior officials principally responsible for nominating Americans for the target list was to “protect” the president.

And the Administration has tried to keep Obama’s role murky. In addition to the Vietor refusal to discuss the issue Hosenball notes, Obama very pointedly refused to answer whether he had ordered Awlaki’s killing when asked by Michael Smerconish.

Michael Smerconish: Now comes the news that we’ve taken out Anwar al-Awlaki. Did you give that order?

Obama: I can’t talk about the operational details, Michael. [my emphasis]

This is, sadly, another way that the Awlaki assassination is like Bush’s torture program. There, too, the Administration built in plausible deniability for the President. The initial authorization for the torture–Bush’s September 17, 2001 Finding authorizing the capture and detention of al Qaeda figures–didn’t mention torture at all. The Administration twice refused to tell Jane Harman whether the President had authorized the program. The White House only gave more formal Presidential torture authorization in 2003 and again in 2004 (though even there, it attempted to avoid doing so).

Sure, Bush ultimately boasted that he had approved torture. But for years, the Administration sustained the President’s plausible deniability for the illegal program.

The Obama White House efforts to do the same with Awalaki’s death are all the more striking given that it has not been so coy about Obama’s involvement in ordering hits in the past, most notably when we killed Osama bin Laden. Indeed, they worked hard to foster the narrative of Obama making the difficult decision to order the SEAL operation. And here’s what a Senior Administration Official who may be named John Brennan said the day after the Osama bin Laden killing regarding Obama’s role.

In the middle of March, the President began a series of National Security Council meetings that he chaired to pursue again the intelligence basis and to develop courses of action to bring justice to Osama bin Laden.  Indeed, by my count, the President chaired no fewer than five National Security Council meetings on the topic from the middle of March — March 14th, March 29th, April 12th, April 19th, and April 28th.  And the President gave the final order to pursue the operation that he announced to the nation tonight on the morning — Friday morning of April 29th. [my emphasis]

With OBL, the Administration proudly highlighted Obama’s role in the decision-making process; here, they’re working hard to obscure it.

As with the torture program, that suggests the Administration may believe it important for the President to have plausible deniability about this killing.

Cheney’s War Plan for Afghanistan? Deny Safe Haven To–But Not Destroy–Al Qaeda


According to Dick Cheney, our objective in Afghanistan was, from the very beginning, not about defeating al Qaeda, but rather, defeating the Taliban, while denying al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan.

At least that’s what he says in a passage explaining why he was talking about Iraq in the days after 9/11. He says,

Although we had discussed Iraq earlier in the day [on September 14], I also took time now to say that Afghanistan, where the 9/11 terrorists had trained and plotted, should be first. I believed it was important to deal with the threat Iraq posed, but not until we had an effective plan for taking down the Taliban and denying al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan. (334)

Note what he describes the goal as being: “taking down the Taliban,” not “taking out al Qaeda.” The al Qaeda-related goal Cheney describes for Afghanistan is simply denying them a safe haven.

And thus–in the context of this discussion about why the Bush Administration focused on Iraq so quickly after 9/11, at least–he excuses himself for letting Osama bin Laden escape at Tora Bora, for letting OBL find a haven in Pakistan that would keep him safe for a decade, and for drawing troops away for use in Iraq before actually beating al Qaeda. It was all in the plan, according to Cheney.

Tellingly, his sole discussion of anything relating to Tora Bora (actually, a strategy discussion that happened a month before the December 2001 battle there) doesn’t call it Tora Bora, doesn’t mention that OBL was holed up there (even though Cheney all-but acknowledged we knew he was at the time), and didn’t admit Bush Administration blunders let OBL get away.

[General Tommy] Franks also reported on the campaign under way to destroy the massive cave complexes in which the Taliban lived and hid. He had about 150 caves on a target list, he said, and estimated the count would go to 1,000. (345)

Cheney separates the discussion of bombing caves in Afghanistan from that describing General Franks making plans for Iraq by 24 pages, obscuring the fact that Franks was focused on developing an Iraq plan at the time he refused to send in American troops to trap OBL in Tora Bora.

Admittedly, Cheney does remember to include taking out al Qaeda among the objectives a few pages after his initial description of US goals in Afghanistan.

Our objective was to take out al Qaeda, take down the Taliban, and prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for further operations. (340)

But it feels so contrived, particularly coming just before this passage insisting that the government remained focused on OBL.

We were also very focused on getting Osama bin Laden. None of us believed that capturing or killing him would end the terrorist threat, but he was the leader of the organization that had launched the 9/11 attacks, and having him in custody–or dead–would be a powerful symbol of our determination. Tracking him down was certainly one of our top priorities. I was gratified that after years of diligent and dedicated work, our nation’s intelligence community and our special operations forces were able on May 1, 2011, to find and kill bin Laden. (341)

If you’re so petty you can’t even mention President Obama’s name in the list of those who managed to finally get OBL, clearly you have either some insecurity that Obama succeeded where you failed, or that first formulation–basically, a whack-a-mole forever war that “denies safe haven” for terrorists in one after another country, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, but never ends the war–was always the plan.

The Re-Scoop that Pakistan Showed China Our Stealth Chopper

On May 10, ABC news reported Pakistanis saying both they and the Chinese wanted to take a look at the stealth helicopter used in the Osama bin Laden raid. That story quoted a US official saying he would be “shocked” if the Pakistanis had not already, by May 10, shown it to the Chinese.

Pakistani officials said today they’re interested in studying the remains of the U.S.’s secret stealth-modified helicopter abandoned during the Navy SEAL raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound, and suggested the Chinese are as well.

The U.S. has already asked the Pakistanis for the helicopter wreckage back, but one Pakistani official told ABC News the Chinese were also “very interested” in seeing the remains. Another official said, “We might let them [the Chinese] take a look.”

A U.S. official said he did not know if the Pakistanis had offered a peek to the Chinese, but said he would be “shocked” if the Chinese hadn’t already been given access to the damaged aircraft.

At that point, the Pakistanis had already had the tailpiece for 10 days. It took a John Kerry trip several days later and another week of delay before the Pakistanis returned the helicopter pieces.

So why, following the FT scoop (re-scoop?) confirming that the Pakistanis had shown the helicopters to the Chinese, are folks acting so surprised?

The US now has information that Pakistan, particularly the ISI, gave access to the Chinese military to the downed helicopter in Abbottabad,” said one person in intelligence circles, referring to the Pakistani spy agency. The Chinese engineers were allowed to survey the wreckage and take photographs of it, as well as take samples of the special “stealth” skin that allowed the American team to enter Pakistan undetected by radar, he said.

And note that the NYT’s CIA reporter tries to inject doubt where the FT scoop has little (though ultimately, Mazzetti does quote one person who is “certain” Pakistan shared the helicopter).

American spy agencies have concluded that it is likely that Chinese engineers — at the invitation of Pakistani intelligence operatives — took detailed photographs of the severed tail of the Black Hawk helicopter equipped with classified technology designed to elude radar, the officials said.


American officials cautioned that they did not yet have definitive proof that the Chinese were allowed to visit to Abbottabad. They said that Pakistani officials had denied that they showed the advanced helicopter technology to other foreign governments. One military official said Sunday that Pakistani officials had been directly confronted about the American intelligence.

One person with knowledge of the intelligence assessments said that the American case was based mostly on intercepted conversations in which Pakistani officials discussed inviting the Chinese to the crash site. He characterized intelligence officials as being “certain” that Chinese engineers were able to photograph the helicopter and even walk away with samples of the wreckage. [my emphasis]

Are we really supposed to believe it took the NSA 3 months to translate intercepts of top Paksitani officials “inviting” the Chinese to see the helicopter?


At issue may be efforts to force General Ashfaq Kayani to deny showing the Chinese the helicopter (from the FT).

“We had explicitly asked the Pakistanis in the immediate aftermath of the raid not to let anyone have access to the damaged remains of the helicopter,” said the person close to the CIA.

Senior US officials confronted General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistan military, about this but he flatly denied it, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. A senior Pakistani official also denied it to the FT. China declined to comment, as did the White House and CIA.

Or perhaps the 3 month delay in reporting on something that was widely believed to have happened may have to do with the CIA’s desire to allow the fiction that this did not occur to continue.

In any case, the whole scoop seems, at best, the effort of someone trying to force the Administration to admit that Kayani is not dealing in good faith. At worst, it’s another case of discovering gambling going on in the casino.

John Brennan: Immunizing the Truth

The first time I read Nicholas Schmidle’s breathtaking account of Osama bin Laden’s killing, I gave up when I got to this passage:

John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, told me that the President’s advisers began an “interrogation of the data, to see if, by that interrogation, you’re going to disprove the theory that bin Laden was there.” The C.I.A. intensified its intelligence-collection efforts, and, according to a recent report in the Guardian, a physician working for the agency conducted an immunization drive in Abbottabad, in the hope of acquiring DNA samples from bin Laden’s children. (No one in the compound ultimately received any immunizations.)

The article, which alternated between incredibly detailed accounts of the SEALs’ actions with more generalized depictions of Obama’s leadership, seemed designed to puff up the operation anyway. And while I’m not at all qualified to fact check the military details of it, the fact that Schmidle cited the Guardian–and not any of his own sources–for the most criticized aspect of the raid tells you a lot about the agenda of his sources. Furthermore, the fact that the Guardian provided slightly different details about the outcome of the immunization operation than Schmidle …

A nurse known as Bakhto, whose full name is Mukhtar Bibi, managed to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound to administer the vaccines. According to several sources, the doctor, who waited outside, told her to take in a handbag that was fitted with an electronic device. It is not clear what the device was, or whether she left it behind. It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any Bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.

… may indicate yet another level of manipulation on this detail of the raid.

Since that first reading, a number of people who are qualified to fact check the military details have suggested it was a nice propaganda piece. But they all remained mum about how they could tell.

Which is why I found this article, which describes Schmidle’s efforts to avoid questions about his sourcing, instructive. Among other things, it explains that Schmidle has made linguistic mistakes when covering Pakistan in the past, and suggests he might have limited linguistic understanding here, too.

He even describes how the translator Ahmed hollered in Pashto at the locals that a security operation was ongoing to allay their suspicions about the nature of the cacophony in the cantonment town. (This detail caught my eye as the majority of persons in Abbottabad, where the raid took place, speak Hindko rather than Pashto.)

While this piece doesn’t tell us what details are false, it emphasizes that Schmidle did not source the article where it appears to be sourced, to the SEALs who took part in the operation.

Now, I’m not surprised folks within the Obama Administration are leaking such heroic versions of the OBL raid. But in the context of the Administration’s war on leaks, it deserves more discussion. For example, I find it telling that a “counterterrorism official” repeatedly refutes the events presented from the perspective of the SEALs that–we know–Schmidle isn’t reporting directly.

After blasting through the gate with C-4 charges, three SEALs marched up the stairs. Midway up, they saw bin Laden’s twenty-three-year-old son, Khalid, craning his neck around the corner. He then appeared at the top of the staircase with an AK-47. Khalid, who wore a white T-shirt with an overstretched neckline and had short hair and a clipped beard, fired down at the Americans. (The counterterrorism official claims that Khalid was unarmed, though still a threat worth taking seriously. “You have an adult male, late at night, in the dark, coming down the stairs at you in an Al Qaeda house—your assumption is that you’re encountering a hostile.”)


Three SEALs shuttled past Khalid’s body and blew open another metal cage, which obstructed the staircase leading to the third floor. Bounding up the unlit stairs, they scanned the railed landing. On the top stair, the lead SEAL swivelled right; with his night-vision goggles, he discerned that a tall, rangy man with a fist-length beard was peeking out from behind a bedroom door, ten feet away. The SEAL instantly sensed that it was Crankshaft. (The counterterrorism official asserts that the SEAL first saw bin Laden on the landing, and fired but missed.)

These are, after all, some of the details that raise legal questions about the raid (and which John Brennan botched in the days immediately following the raid). And by presenting this story falsely as if Schmidle spoke directly to the SEALs, it allows whatever Administration official who gave it to him the ability to both admit that SEALs fired at unarmed men while providing a Hollywood version that glosses over that part. From a narrative perspective, it’s worthy of a popular novelist.

Finally, though, the whole thing raises questions about who leaked this, presumably with Obama’s explicit or implicit permission.

Here’s a list of the named sources Schmidle relies on, in rough order of appearance:

Shuja Nawaz, an expert on the Pakistani Army

John Radsan, a former assistant general counsel at the C.I.A.

General James Cartwright

John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser



Ben Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser

And here’s a list of the anonymous sources:

Senior defense and Administration officials

special-operations officer who is deeply familiar with the bin Laden raid

A senior counterterrorism official

a senior Defense Department official

a Pakistani senior military official

a senior adviser to the President

the special-operations officer

the special-operations officer

the counterterrorism official

The counterterrorism official

the special-operations officer

A former helicopter pilot with extensive special-operations experience

the special-operations officer

The senior adviser to the President

the senior Defense Department official

the special-operations officer

the special-operations officer

the special-operations officer

the special-operations officer

the special-operations officer

the special-operations officer

The senior adviser to the President

In other words, this story relies almost entirely on four sources: the special-operations officer, the senior counterterrorism official, the senior Defense Department official, and the senior adviser to the President. And among the named sources in the article are Obama’s counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, General James Cartwright, and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. (Former helicopter pilot and assistant commander of JSOC, Brigadier General Marshall Webb, figures prominently in the narrative, though is not quoted by name.)

And Brennan and Rhodes were reported by Schmidle to be present at some of the key low attendance events described here, such as the meeting at which Obama announced his decision to go with a SEALs operation, and the meeting at which the SEALs briefed Obama after the mission. Which is all the more telling, given that Schmidle attributed his story’s sourcing to the SEALs recollections.

…some of their recollections—on which this account is based—may be imprecise and, thus, subject to dispute.

In other words, it seems likely that Brennan and Rhodes serve as both anonymous and named sources for this story.

John Brennan had a direct role in Jeffrey Sterling’s battles with the CIA. Sterling is now being tried for allegedly leaking information equivalent to the information included in this story. Mind you, if Brennan leaked these details, he no doubt did so under the Insta-Declassification schtick that Scooter Libby used when he leaked Valerie Plame’s identity and the contents of the Iraq NIE. If the President okays leaks, they’re legal in this day and age; otherwise, they deserve the harshest punishment.

Still, this story is so thinly-veiled an Administration puff piece, it ought to attract as much attention for the sheer hypocrisy about secrecy it demonstrates as it will for the heroism such hypocrisy attempts to portray.

Update: Here’s the reason I focused on Webb (shown typing on his computer above) as the “special-forces official.”

Brigadier General Marshall Webb, an assistant commander of JSOC, took a seat at the end of a lacquered table in a small adjoining office and turned on his laptop. He opened multiple chat windows that kept him, and the White House, connected with the other command teams. The office where Webb sat had the only video feed in the White House showing real-time footage of the target, which was being shot by an unarmed RQ 170 drone flying more than fifteen thousand feet above Abbottabad. The JSOC planners, determined to keep the operation as secret as possible, had decided against using additional fighters or bombers. “It just wasn’t worth it,” the special-operations officer told me. The SEALs were on their own.

Obama returned to the White House at two o’clock, after playing nine holes of golf at Andrews Air Force Base. The Black Hawks departed from Jalalabad thirty minutes later. Just before four o’clock, Panetta announced to the group in the Situation Room that the helicopters were approaching Abbottabad. Obama stood up. “I need to watch this,” he said, stepping across the hall into the small office and taking a seat alongside Webb. Vice-President Joseph Biden, Secretary Gates, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed him, as did anyone else who could fit into the office. On the office’s modestly sized LCD screen, helo one—grainy and black-and-white—appeared above the compound, then promptly ran into trouble. [my emphasis]

First, this passage describes Webb alone in the office that ultimately filled up. Sure, others must have known he was there, alone in the office, but it is a detail that no other people were present for.

More tellingly, why include the detail that Obama took a seat alongside Webb? It’s a detail that Schmidle could get from the photo–so it’s not a question of how Schmidle learned the detail. Rather, it’s a question of who would care (and who would orient the President’s actions from Webb’s perspective, rather than orienting Obama’s position in the room generally). In a way, it feels like one of those renaissance paintings that includes an image of the patron in the corner of the frame, just to make sure the viewer knows who sponsored the whole thing.

Bin Laden Found By Trolling The Weeds, Not By Torture

Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo have a nice and fascinating article out today telling the story of a single CIA career analyst who was the critical cog in collating the information that led to Osama bin Laden’s capture and death:

He examined and re-examined every aspect of bin Laden’s life. How did he live while hiding in Sudan? With whom did he surround himself while living in Kandahar, Afghanistan? What would a bin Laden hideout look like today?

The CIA had a list of potential leads, associates and family members who might have access to bin Laden.

“Just keep working that list bit by bit,” one senior intelligence official recalls John telling his team. “He’s there somewhere. We’ll get there.”

Goldman and Apuzzo have done good work here; it is a great story, please read it in its entirety. But I want to play off their work to take it the step further that they did not. This is not just a feel good story about what worked and went right to capture bin Laden, it is an instructive primer on what didn’t work, to wit: torture.

So, while we congratulate CIA analyst “John”, let us also remember that years of effort, centuries of founding principles and an eternity of American morality was lost to the Bush/Cheney torture brigade. Ever since Osama bin Laden’s take down, the torture apologists have come out of their caves bleating at full voice in a vain attempt to justify their war crimes and save their face. Even yesterday, as the nation celebrated its founding, one of the most craven torture toadies of all, Marc Theissen, was back at it, saying the country owed the torture freaks an apology.

But torture is not what caught Osama bin Laden, good solid human intelligence and analysis were what did the trick.

That ability to spot the importance of seemingly insignificant details, to weave disparate strands of information into a meaningful story, gave him a particular knack for hunting terrorists.

Yes. Around here, we call that digging and trolling in the weeds. It is what works; not torture.

Why Is Michael Hayden’s Desperation on Illegal Interrogation More Urgent than on Illegal Wiretapping?

Even though he admits yet again that torture didn’t get Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Furaj al-Libi to reveal the name of Osama bin Laden’s courier, Michael Hayden has launched yet another round of sophism to defend the case that torture led to Osama bin Laden–and if it didn’t it produced a whole lot of information. The only thing that’s novel about this latest effort is the new contortions he goes through to try to avoid admitting that torture didn’t do what it was promised it would do: provide the most critical information quickly.

But it got me thinking.

Michael Hayden was a not-bad CIA Director. Particularly compared to his predecessors George “Slam Dunk” Tenet and Porter Goss and his Gosslings he was reasonably successful.

But he was a pretty big failure as head of the NSA.

There’s all the revelations the government wants to send Thomas Drake to jail for revealing: that Hayden chose to enrich SAIC with $1 billion of pork rather than invest $3 million in house for something that worked far better. That management failures prevented NSA from implementing the security improvements that might have prevented WikiLeaks, not to mention so much of the hacking done by our enemies.

And while I don’t hold it against him, under Hayden’s command, NSA did fail to find the 9/11 terrorists whose calls in the US had been picked up on wiretaps to an al Qaeda safe house. Nor did NSA pick the hijackers up as they were wiring their excess funds back to Dubai from a Giant store close to Ft. Mead.

But Hayden’s real failure, of course–and a near parallel to the torture decision that he says “I thank God that I did not have to make”–was in bowing to Bush and Cheney’s claim to inherent power to set up an illegal wiretap program that not only compromised Americans’ privacy, but didn’t work.

Indeed, the Inspectors General who reviewed Hayden’s illegal wiretap program found it to be about as ineffective as the CIA Inspector General found torture to be.

So why is Hayden wasting his breath boasting about how effective torture was rather than making specious claims that the illegal program implemented under his command nailed OBL?

Mind you, the NSA (or perhaps Pakistani SIGINT) played an absolutely critical role in tracking down the courier that led us to OBL. But no one claims the illegal program provided even a shred of intelligence that helped us find OBL. If anything, our belief in the magic of the illegal program–and SIGINT in general–apparently led counterterrorism types to dismiss the importance of couriers for some years after it should have become clear al Qaeda had taken measures to avoid using the telecom they knew Americans were tracking.

So why is Hayden blowing so much hot air about the value of torture? Would claims that the illegal wiretap program Hayden implemented played a role be even more ridiculous?

Did the Administration’s Own Propensity for Leaks Crash the SEAL’s Blackhawk?

The AP has an astoundingly detailed description of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. It describes the kinds of aircraft used, the minutes spent completing each part of the task, and even explained that the Geronimo name just served to indicate that the SEALs had reached stage “G” of the mission.

It also includes two details that, when considered together, suggests the troubling possibility that potential Administration leaks put the operation in danger.

First, the story explains that the mission was launched the night it was because too many people had been briefed on it and people were worried about leaks.

The decision to launch on that particular moonless night in May came largely because too many American officials had been briefed on the plan. U.S. officials feared if it leaked to the press, bin Laden would disappear for another decade.

That is, the Administration launched the mission on the night they did not because it presented optimal conditions, but because they (or CIA or DOD) worried that someone would actually leak advance details to the press of one of the most sensitive missions of the last decade. (I can’t remember who it was, but I have this vague memory of one reporter describing the raid after Obama’s announcement of it referencing a discussion of it that had taken place the previous morning, so before it happened. I thought at the time that it’d be weird for the Administration to do an advance briefing on this operation. If my memory is right on this count, it means advance news of the operation did leak to the press.)

Later in the article, the AP provides a description of why one of the two Black Hawks went down (and how that made them deviate from their planned stealth approach on the compound). The key factor, the AP notes, was the unexpectedly hot temperature, which thinned the air and made the chopper more difficult to maneuver.

The Black Hawks were specially engineered to muffle the tail rotor and engine sound, two officials said. The added weight of the stealth technology meant cargo was calculated to the ounce, with weather factored in. The night of the mission, it was hotter than expected.


The plan unraveled as the first helicopter tried to hover over the compound. The Black Hawk skittered around uncontrollably in the heat-thinned air, forcing the pilot to land. As he did, the tail and rotor got caught on one of the compound’s 12-foot walls. The pilot quickly buried the aircraft’s nose in the dirt to keep it from tipping over, and the SEALs clambered out into an outer courtyard.

Now, it may be there’s no connection between the Administration’s worry about leaks and the decision to launch the mission even though temperatures put the helicopters at risk. It may be that SEALs measure cargo down to the ounce but don’t bother to schedule around volatile spring weather.

But these two details make one thing clear: the mission was launched on a less than optimal night. And it was launched when it was because the Administration worried about impending leaks.

And even if there’s not a connection between the too-hot night and the imperative to launch when they did to pre-empt any leaks, the implication remains. The Administration suspected someone within the too-large but presumably very limited circle of people briefed on this raid either had already leaked or would leak this information to the press. The Administration believed someone in that tight circle might compromise operational security of a tremendously sensitive and dangerous mission.

Why isn’t that person–rather than Thomas Drake–awaiting trial?

Another US “Diplomat” Arrested (Briefly) in Pakistan

US-Pakistani relations really didn’t need this right now. Pakistan arrested–and then released, apparently because the person’s claim to have diplomatic status checked out–an American with high tech gear allegedly snooping around a nuke lab.

The American diplomat, purportedly called Matthew Bennett, was found near Fateh Jang by ISI and MI personnel who had been watching him for a while.

He was found taking photographs in an area which, according to officials and locals, served as a secret passage for the transportation of sensitive materials to the Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta.

They found some neat toys on him, too.

Let’s see. We had the first outed CIA station chief last year. Followed by the six week confrontation over Raymond Davis, which may have resulted in the exposure of hundreds more spooky contractors. Followed by a raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound that–the Pakistanis claim, at least, took them by complete surprise. In apparent response, a second CIA station chief was outed. And now someone apparently working under diplomatic cover gets caught taking tourist photos of an passage to Pakistan’s nuclear lab?

Is someone keeping count?

So we got Osama bin Laden. And in exchange, Pakistan’s nuclear program will go completely dark?

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.