On August 8, the New Yorker
published a lengthy piece by Nicholas Schmidle which purported to tell the full story of the raid which killed Osama Bin Laden. This allegedly authoritative account made no reference the numerous published reports that Pakistan's military gave the Americans covert aid during this operation.
We've discussed Pakistan's hush-hush operational role in a couple of earlier posts; see, for example, here
Schmidle, as noted in a previous post
, is an interesting character in his own right.
His father is Robert E. "Rooster" Schmidle, Jr., "a former general in special operations and is now a Lt. General serving as deputy commander of Cyber Command." Schmidle the younger is funded by the Institute of Current World Affairs and New America Foundation, both long suspected of having intelligence links.Russ Baker
Not only does the NAF often host talks by former and currently serving CIA personnel (see also here), they are huge supporters of the drone attacks in Pakistan. NAF actually keeps tallies on every single drone attack and fatality.
takes a close look at both Schmidle and this very mysterious raid. (Fallout from the operation seems to have seriously wounded American/Pakistani relations, already rather iffy). Baker's piece is long, meaty, and definitely worth your while.
Yet as Paul Farhi, a Washington Post reporter, noted, that narrative was misleading in the extreme, because the New Yorker reporter never actually spoke to James—nor to a single one of James’s fellow SEALs (who have never been identified or photographed–even from behind–to protect their identity.) Instead, every word of Schmidle’s narrative was provided to him by people who were not present at the raid. Complains Farhi:
...a casual reader of the article wouldn’t know that; neither the article nor an editor’s note describes the sourcing for parts of the story. Schmidle, in fact, piles up so many details about some of the men, such as their thoughts at various times, that the article leaves a strong impression that he spoke with them directly.
Schmidle's primary source -- perhaps his only
source -- was Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. (Obama was going to name Brennan director of the CIA, but dropped that plan due to controversy over Brennan's pro-torture public comments.)
As Baker documents, this same Brennan initially gave an account of the Bin Laden which differs in most details from the narrative now considered "authoritative."
Who exactly wanted bin Laden shot rather than taken alive and interrogated—and why? There’s been much discussion about the purported reasons for terminating him on sight, but the fact remains that he would have been a source of tremendous intelligence of real value to the safety of Americans and others.
Yet, early in the piece, Schmidle writes:
If all went according to plan, the SEALs would drop from the helicopters into the compound, overpower bin Laden’s guards, shoot and kill him at close range, and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan.That was the plan? Whose plan? We’ve never been explicitly told by the White House that such a decision had been made. In fact, we’d previously been informed that the president was glad to have the master plotter taken alive if he was unarmed and did not resist.
Was the Bin Laden raid an act of justice -- or was it undertaken to silence someone who knew too much?
According to Schmidle's piece, the decision to dump the body into the sea was not impromptu. Brennan came up with that plan before the raid, after consultation with the Saudis. Baker:
Is it just me, or does this sound preposterous? Obama’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser is just winging it with key aspects of one of America’s most important, complex and risky operations? And the Saudi government is the one deciding to discard the remains of a man from one of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful families, before the public could receive proper proof of the identity of the body? A regime with a great deal at stake and perhaps plenty to hide.
Also please consider this important caveat: As we noted in a previous article, the claim that the body had already been positively identified via DNA has been disputed by a DNA expert who said that insufficient time had elapsed before the sea burial to complete such tests.
In a previous Cannonfire post
(August 9, 2011), we discussed the Saudi link. That article cites a Firedoglake post
written by a spooked up lady named R.J. Hillhouse, who confirms what we already knew from other sources -- that ISI worked closely with the Americans on the raid. (I find the Hillhouse account more persuasive than Schmidle's.)
Next they approached the chiefs of the Pakistani military and the ISI. The US was going to come in with or without them. The CIA offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse: they would double what the Saudis were paying them to keep bin Laden if they cooperated with the US. Or they could refuse the deal and live with the consequences: the Saudis would stop paying and there would be the international embarrassment...
So let's put it all together: The Saudis knew Bin Laden was in Pakistan (and probably knew the exact location). They paid the Pakistanis to keep him alive and comfortable. Apparently, the Americans found out about this arrangement and quietly pressured the Saudis to change their ways. Or -- and perhaps more likely -- Americans knew all along about Saudi Arabia's protection of Bin Laden. The Saudis accepted the American plan to kill Bin Laden because dead men tell no tales.
If so, then why did Obama make the sudden decision to kill Bin Laden? Perhaps the president simply wanted to shore up his sagging approval numbers.
Or perhaps Bin Laden was threatening to spill certain beans.Let's take another look at John Brennan.
In 2008, while serving as Obama's chief foreign policy and intelligence adviser, Brennan also headed up something called The Analysis Corporation
. Some of you may recall that Brennan's company
played a role in a passport scandal which briefly flared up at that time...
On Friday, the department revealed that Obama's passport file was improperly accessed three times this year, and the security of passport files of the two other major presidential candidates -- Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain -- had also been breached.
When this story broke, the Kos Krowd made an abortive and inane attempt to point fingers at Hillary. In fact, she had nothing to do with the matter. Brennan did. And that means Obama
Three contract employees are accused in the wrongdoing, including the one who works for Analysis Corp. and who was disciplined. That contract employee accessed McCain's file in addition to Obama's. None of the contract employees was identified.
The Washington Times, which broke the story Thursday night that Obama's records had been improperly accessed, reported Saturday that the State Department inquiry is focusing on the Analysis Corp. employee.
The moment the evidence pointed toward Obama, the Kos Kids dropped the story. Alas, the damned birthers soon grabbed hold of the tale, rendering the whole matter toxic. Not for the first or last time, our nation's hordes of moronic right-wing conspiracy-mongers fulfilled their role of deflecting media attention away
from an important investigation.
We're left with two questions:
1. What prompted this clandestine peek into those passport records? Personally, I have little doubt that Brennan directed the operation. (The Analysis Corporation pretty much is the CIA
, operating under a very thin covering.) It's worth noting that, shortly before the passport imbroglio, the tale of Obama's mystery trip to Pakistan came out. As I've noted in previous posts, he probably made this trip with an Indonesian passport.
2. Why was a high-ranking career CIA guy such a close adviser to Barack Obama's campaign? When Brennan joined the team, Obama was a long shot; everyone considered Hillary a shoo-in.
Incidentally, The Analysis Corporation
is now called Sotera
Defense. Isn't that cute?