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« How We Got Bin Laden, Take 2 | Main | On "I Question the Timing" »
May 03, 2011

Telegraph, Citing WikiLeaks: Break In Hunt for Bin Ladin May Have Been Provided By Not Only Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, But by Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Performed On An Al Qaeda Operative Captured in Iraq

Via Hot Air, which excerpts the meat of the thing.

Full article at the Telegraph.

This is a bit byzantine, but here's what I'm gleaning from various articles, including this fresh one:

1. 2003: Enhanced Interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad Results in the Nom De Guerre of bin Ladin's Courier.

Enhanced interrogation techniques did not, however, produce the real name of the courier -- at least not this earlier; it seems to have happened later.

This is giving the pansy liberals and McCain "We're better than this" types the pretext to deny the usefulness of such techniques:

“They waterboarded KSM (Khaled Sheikh Mohammed) 183 times and he still didn’t give the guy up,” said one former U.S. counterterrorism official who asked not to be identified. “Come on. And you want to tell me that enhanced interrogation techniques worked?"

Yes, because he did give the guy up: he gave you the nom de guerre.

Further, I can think of a rather obvious possibility as to why he didn't give the real name up: He never knew it. Bin Ladin told him the codename; why would KSM need to know more than that? The most important practice in any covert organization is compartmentalization of information -- the famous "need to know."

If KSM's job only requires that he know the codename of bin Ladin's courier, in order to make contact with and identify him -- why would bin Ladin tell him his real name? Why would he tell him his family name and place of origin? None of this is necessary, and it a covert organization it would be secret.

And yes, secrets are kept from other members of any covert organization. Terrorist groups are specifically built in the "cell structure," such that no cell knows much at all about any other cell, so if the members of one cell are captured their ability to give information about other cells is drastically limited.

In a cell structure, the superior cell -- bin Ladin -- would know the identity of the leader of the subordinate cell (KSM), and would be able to contact him at will.

But this is not reciprocal. The whole point is that KSM doesn't know how to contact or where to find bin Ladin. So if KSM gets captured, bin Ladin is still safe.

And this would apply to his couriers -- why would bin Ladin instruct KSM on the precise identity of a crucial cut-out who could be followed back to bin Ladin should his real identity ever be discovered?

But sure, stupid liberals: Let's just assume KSM knew all of this but wouldn't break on it. He broke on almost everything else -- the nom de guerre of the courier, other terrorist operatives -- but this one thing he wouldn't tell.

Let's just assume that. Because when you assume, you make a GENIUS out of ME and YOU.

It is my belief the interrogations that led to the nom de guerre occurrecd in the "black sites" of Poland and/or Romania. I am pointing that out because we have heard two stories-- that the information originated in the "black sites," and that the information originated at Guatanmo. I think now the answer is both things happened -- this piece, the nom de guerre came from the "black sites" interrogations of KSM. The next piece, which I'm coming to, came from Guantanamo.

2. 2004: Enhanced Interrogation of al-Qahtani Confirms the Nom De Geure of bin Ladin's Courier.

I'm actually sort of guessing on this part, but it seems reasonable. Here's the new information from the Telegraph article, based on WikiLeaks:

The file for the Guantanamo detainee, Muhammad Mani al-Qahtani, who was to have been the "20th hijacker" on 9/11, contains a reference to the key US intelligence thread that led directly to bin Laden.

According to the file, al-Kuwaiti [bin Ladin's courier, and the man whose false step gave away bin Ladin] provided al-Qahtani with computer training for the mission to attack the US in the summer of 2001. Al-Qahtani was told by the lead 9/11 hijacker, Muhammad Atta, “to make reservations and buy airline tickets to Orlando for five individuals” including himself.

“Detainee [al-Qahtani] received computer training from al-Qaeda member Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti in preparation for his mission to the US,” according to the file, dated 30 October 2008.

Did al-Qahtani reveal the man's real name, or just that he was very important in the bin Ladin command structure? And did he confirm that he was bin Ladin's courier?

Not quite sure yet -- it appears the answers are "No, he didn't reveal the real name" (that is still later), probably because he didn't know it, but yes, he revealed this al-Kuwaiti was absolutely crucial, and yes, he probably confirmed he was bin Ladin's courier. (Assuming he even knew that-- perhaps he didn't. But our analysts knew that from KSM.)

And Qhatani did get the enhanced treatment:

The identity of at least one of the detainees who provided early information about the courier who led to bin Laden could be politically explosive. According to a U.S. official, that detainee was notorious Saudi al-Qaida operative and accused 9/11 conspirator Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was subjected to some of the most humiliating interrogations at Guantanamo. Among the enhanced interrogation techniques used on him were being forced to wear a woman’s bra, being led around on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks and being subjected to cold temperatures that twice required his hospitalization, according to a later U.S. military report.

U.S. officials have accused Qahtani of being the so-called 20th hijacker for the 9/11 plot based on his unsuccessful attempt to enter the U.S. in August 2011 at the Orlando airport, where lead hijacker Mohammed Atta had arrived to meet him.

But in January 2009, Susan Crawford, then chief of the U.S. military commissions under President George W. Bush, rejected the proposed prosecution of Qahtani because of what had been done to him in interrogations at Guantanamo. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture,” Crawford told the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward.

Thusfar we have the nom de guerre revealed by enhanced interrogation and further confirmed by enhanced interrogation. No real name yet -- that's next.

3. 2006 (?): Enhanced Interrogation of an Al Qaeda Captured in Iraq, Ghul, Produces the Real Name of the Courier.

Finally, the real name. We get this, I think, in 2006. How? Well first of all from an al Qaeda captured in Iraq.

Iraq. Huh. Who'd've thought that Iraq would end up being so crucial to getting bin Ladin, who of course had nothing to do with Iraq and Iraq had nothing to do with him?

Further, this particular guy gets enhanced interrogations, it seems -- apparently, he's interrogated by the CIA in Pakistan, which I'm taking as code for "'outside the jurisdiction of the United States so wink, wink."

The file suggests that the courier’s identity was provided to the US by another key source, the al-Qaida facilitator Hassan Ghul, who was captured in Iraq in 2004 and interrogated by the CIA. Ghul was never sent to Guantanamo but was believed to have been taken to a prison in Pakistan.

He told the Americans that al-Kuwaiti travelled with bin Laden. The file states:
“Al-Kuwaiti was seen in Tora Bora and it is possible al-Kuwaiti was one of the individuals [al-Qahtani] reported accompanying UBL [bin Laden] in Tora Bora prior to UBL’s disappearance.”

The picture that emerges from al-Qahtani’s Guantanamo file supports statements given in the last 24 hours by US officials, who named Ghul as the “linchpin” in the intelligence operation to find bin Laden.

So far, the entirety of the case is put together by a team commanded then by Bush. Before Obama was a gleam in Chris Matthews' eye, our nation and its operatives, under Bush's command, had used enhanced interrogation on at least two men and almost certainly a third, that third captured in Bush's unnecessary war in Iraq, which as it turns out, was pretty damn necessary.

We now have his real name -- and can begin the gruntwork/brainwork of figuring out where he likely is. We probably start with his hometown, of course -- that's likely. Criminals like to operate close to home.

4. 2006-2009: NSA Begins Furiously Intercepting Any And All Communications Made By Anyone "al-Kuwaiti" Has Ever Known.

All of al-Kuwaiti's family, anyone known to be an associate, clerics from the region he grew up in... everyone, as Gary Oldman advises.

At some point they figure out the approximate region he's living in, whether it's because he calls a family member and they trace it back to the place the call was made from, or because someone he knows mentions his area of operation.

I note liberals aren't that big on warrantless, wide-ranging wiretaps against people, even non-Americans, who aren't actually under suspicion for a crime.

5. Late 2010 (?): al-Kuwaiti Places a Very Ill-Advised Phone Call.

Corrected: I wasn't sure about how this phone call worked, exactly, to give away the courier's position. But Gabe sends this article that fills in the details.

Then in the middle of last year, the courier had a telephone conversation with someone who was being monitored by U.S. intelligence, according to an American official, who like others interviewed for this story spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation. The courier was located somewhere away from bin Laden's hideout when he had the discussion, but it was enough to help intelligence officials locate and watch him.

In August 2010, the courier unknowingly led authorities to a compound in the northeast Pakistani town of Abbottabad, where al-Libi had once lived. The walls surrounding the property were as high as 18 feet and topped with barbed wire. Intelligence officials had known about the house for years, but they always suspected that bin Laden would be surrounded by heavily armed security guards. Nobody patrolled the compound in Abbottabad.

Ah. So he called one of his associates that we were already wiretapping, and then we figured out about where he was, and then we started following him, and he led us to Abbottabad.

6. 2011: Surveying Abbottabad, We Grow Confident We've Found Bin Ladin's Hideout.

Even at this point we don't know he's there -- we never see him. But the circumstantial evidence -- tall walls, garbage burned, pricey digs -- is suggestive.

(Rewritten: Based on Gabe's article, at this point we have traced the courier to the compound and are now just deciding if it's likely OBL himself is there.)

7. April 29-May 1 2011: Obama's Team Tells Him They Have High Confidence Bin Ladin (or at Least His Most Trusted Courier) is In the Compound, and Obama Agrees, and Orders the Raid; On May 1 It's Executed By SEAL Team 6.

8. May 2011: Begin a Disinformation Campaign To Convince the Public That 2003-2008 Never Happened.

And now the Democrats begin the real covert operation, the important mission:

But one Democratic communications hand sent advice to a slew of other Democratic operatives in the wake of the announcement hammering on the need to make sure Obama comes out on top.

“In your day jobs, do not let Republicans turn this into continuing the Bush legacy. This has to be about Obama’s decisive leadership,” the guidance said. “He is the one who oversaw bringing bin Laden to justice, much like how Bush failed to do so at Tora Bora and then claimed Osama wasn’t a priority.”

I am still fuzzy on this. I will correct my mistakes when I find them. This is my best reconstruction of events, but I don't know all that much, just what comes out in drips and drabs.

Let me say something: I believe the media could put together a clear timeline like I have but I think they never will, because they do not want to make it clear where and when and how this information originated.

Better to just leave it vague and keep saying, "Obama got him." They do not want to even talk about critical steps 1-4, as those were thanks to Bush; they only want to talk about the very end of the game, steps 5-7, because that's where Obama enters the game. Late.

In fact, they don't even want to talk about the NSA and CIA and SEAL Team 6; they want to focus on one relatively minor thing: Obama agreeing that the raid should happen.

And Obama's men will not leak the real story out, even though, given that the operation is concluded, it can be released. Because the real story cuts in Bush for some credit -- and cuts Obama out of some credit -- it must be suppressed like our nuclear warhead launch codes.

Added: Step 8 was added at the suggestion of a commenter called "The Prez."

Alternate Timeline: Commenter Dan offers up alternate critical steps 1-4, from the media's/Democrats' perspective.

1. 1/21/09 OB gathers his inner circle and tells them that there is this real bad guy that Bush totally forgot about and didn't care that he secretly murdered 3,000 people early in Bush's administration and OB wanted him found ASAP.

2. 2/14.09 OB kicks out Bush incompetent an replaces him with super sleuth Leon Panetta because of his vast experience in espionage and fabulous motivational skills.

3. 2/15/09 OB tells Panetta that I'm 95% confident OBL is in Pakistan, probably somewhere just North of Islamabad in a house with high walls and maybe three stories and two security gates.

4. 2/21/09 OB tells Panetta that he intercepted a call from a guy who is really close to OBL and to drop everything else and totally focus only on him.

Ah, That Makes Sense Too: Esteemed Professor Rusty Shackleford suggests a different reason that al-Qahtani and KSM wouldn't know al-Kuwait's real name.

Not that it was secret -- so much as he simply had abandoned his old name entirely for his jihadist name.

I think a better explanation than compartmentalization would be that this wasn't a "code name" as much as it was probably a new name taken on by the guy. It's pretty much standard operating procedure within the circle of Islamic fighters to take on a new "mujahideen" name. These guys almost always do this, not to throw off intel or anything like that, but because they think it's cool. Most of these names are throwbacks to some great fighter in the past, such as the first generation of Muhammad's followers.

Asking KSM what the courier's real name is would be like me asking you who Snoop Dogg really was.

I'm just surprised that any one knew it.

Yes, that makes sense; at some point the real name of "Stalin" just becomes a trivia questions. When you're holding yourself out only by a made-up name, that becomes your real name. Why would someone else know it? Only people who'd known you from your youth would have reason to know it. Everyone else knows you by your d.b.a. (doing business as) name.

This happens on the internet, too: our handles, or made-up noms de cyber become, more or less, our real names, for most purposes.

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posted by Ace at 01:27 PM

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