Posted by Wordsmith on 18 March, 2010 at 1:33 am. 12 comments already!


“we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden,”
-Attorney General, Eric Holder, March 16, 2010

President Obama may have felt squeamish about the belly slap and facial holds implemented by the CIA on 30% of the 100 or so graduates of the CIA program (that gave us upward of 60% of what we learned about al Qaeda), including the 3 waterboardees, but he certainly has no qualms over the killing of 400-500 militants, along with those civilians unfortunate enough to have been in the vicinity of Drone attacks. The latest to bite the dust is Hussein al-Yemeni, an al Qaeda trainer believed to have had a role to play in the suicide bombing that killed 7 CIA officers (Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud who claimed credit as well may or may not be dead from a previous strike).

Killing Mr. al-Yemeni was very important to the CIA because of his status in al Qaeda and his involvement in the Khost attack, Mr. Panetta said. Mr. Panetta didn’t speak directly to the circumstances of the death; the CIA doesn’t discuss covert action.

“Anytime we get a high value target that is in the top leadership of al Qaeda, it seriously disrupts their operations,” Mr. Panetta said. “It sent two important signals,” Mr. Panetta said. “No. 1 that we are not going to hesitate to go after them wherever they try to hide, and No. 2 that we are continuing to target their leadership.”

No tears shed, certainly. And I’m glad for the parts of the Bush-era counter-terrorism programs that President Obama has chosen to retain. However, criticism persists that the Obama approach is to kill over capture.


But the CIA’s success in Pakistan comes with risks. The intensified focus on killing al Qaeda militants worries a number of CIA veterans, who say the agency is doing the military’s most risky legwork while neglecting the agency’s core mission, which is to collect secrets that help forecast emerging threats overseas.

“Allowing the agency to do what I think is a military job is ridiculous,” said Margaret Henoch, a former senior CIA official, who added that there is no reason the Defense Intelligence Agency can’t be responsible for tactical intelligence operations.

Meanwhile, others worry that the administration will become over-reliant on the drone program because it produces tangible results. “There’s no question in my mind this is disrupting and hurting the enemy badly, but at the same time, you don’t win this way,” said Michael Hurley, a former CIA counterterrorism official.

Marc Thiessen:

The problem is that Obama is increasingly using drone strikes as a substitute for operations to bring terrorist leaders in alive for questioning — and that is putting the country at risk. As one high-ranking CIA official explained to me, in an interview for my book Courting Disaster, “In the wake of 9/11, [the CIA] put forward a program that had a lethal component to strike back at the people who did this. But the other component was to prevent this kind of catastrophe from happening again. And for that, killing people — especially killing senior al Qaeda leaders — is potentially counterproductive in that we can’t know or learn of future attacks. You can’t kill them all, and you don’t want to kill them all from an intelligence standpoint. We needed to know what they knew.”

In the years after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA worked with Pakistani and other intelligence services to hunt down senior terrorist leaders and take them in for interrogation. Among those captured were men like Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash, Riduan Isamuddin (aka “Hambali”), Bashir bin Lap, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, and others. In all, about 100 terrorists were detained and questioned by the CIA. And the information they provided helped break up terrorist cells that were planning to blow up the U.S. Consulate in Karachi and the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti; explode seven airplanes flying across the Atlantic from London to cities in North America; and fly hijacked airplanes into Heathrow Airport, London’s financial district, and the Library Tower in Los Angeles.

Today, the Obama administration is no longer attempting to capture men like these alive; it is simply killing them. This may be satisfying, but it comes at a price. With every drone strike that vaporizes a senior al Qaeda leader, actionable intelligence is vaporized along with him. Dead terrorists can’t tell you their plans to strike America.

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