The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes has published an excellent report on the incredible amount of intelligence gathered during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and was subsequently withheld. What takes shape after reading it is that the administration – to include current CIA Director John Brennan – aggressively suppressed information that revealed the true threats posed by al-Qaeda and its partners:
The primary objective of Operation Neptune Spear was to capture or kill the leader of al Qaeda. But a handful of those on the ground that night were part of a “Sensitive Site Exploitation” team that had a secondary mission: to gather as much intelligence from the compound as they could.
With bin Laden dead and the building secure, they got to work. Moving quickly—as locals began to gather outside the compound and before the Pakistani military, which had not been notified of the raid in advance, could scramble its response—they shoved armload after armload of bin Laden’s belongings into large canvas bags. The entire operation took less than 40 minutes.
The intelligence trove was immense. At a Pentagon briefing one day after the raid, a senior official described the haul as a “robust collection of materials.” It included 10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives, and a dozen cell phones—along with data cards, DVDs, audiotapes, magazines, newspapers, paper files. In an interview on Meet the Press just days after the raid, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, told David Gregory that the material could fill “a small college library.” A senior military intelligence official who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on May 7 said: “As a result of the raid, we’ve acquired the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”
In all, the U.S. government would have access to more than a million documents detailing al Qaeda’s funding, training, personnel, and future plans. The raid promised to be a turning point in America’s war on terror, not only because it eliminated al Qaeda’s leader, but also because the materials taken from his compound had great intelligence value. Analysts and policymakers would no longer need to depend on the inherently incomplete picture that had emerged from the piecing together of disparate threads of intelligence—collected via methods with varying records of success and from sources of uneven reliability. The bin Laden documents were primary source material, providing unmediated access to the thinking of al Qaeda leaders expressed in their own words.
A comprehensive and systematic examination of those documents could give U.S. intelligence officials—and eventually the American public—a better understanding of al Qaeda’s leadership, its affiliates, its recruitment efforts, its methods of communication; a better understanding, that is, of the enemy America has fought for over a decade now, at a cost of trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives.
Incredibly, such a comprehensive study—a thorough “document exploitation,” in the parlance of the intelligence community—never took place. The Weekly Standard has spoken to more than two dozen individuals with knowledge of the U.S. government’s handling of the bin Laden documents. And on that, there is widespread agreement.
Hayes then talks of some turf wars that were taking place between the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) / U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). In short, intelligence which fed the narrative that bin Laden was becoming increasingly marginalized was made available but intelligence that revealed the much more dire truth that al-Qaeda itself was actually growing.
According to Hayes’ sources, the CIA was holding that intelligence very close to the vest and DIA / CENTCOM was having difficulty gaining access to it as a result. In this vein, an important excerpt from the article involves a man named Derek Harvey, who has extensive experience working with DIA/CENTCOM as an analyst:
Harvey would not discuss the contents of the documents. But he acknowledges that the DIA/CENTCOM conclusions contradicted the story the administration was telling the American people. “They were saying al Qaeda was on the run,” he recalls. “We were telling them al Qaeda was expanding and growing stronger.”
Meanwhile, the internal squabbling continued. The CIA, now under the direction of John Brennan, who had moved back to the agency from the White House, sought once again to limit DIA/CENTCOM’s access to the documents. And some analysts at the CTC were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the analysis in “Letters from Abbottabad.” According to three sources with knowledge of the handling of the documents, at least one CTC analyst drafted a memo—sometimes referred to as an “affidavit”—describing how the conclusions of the study would have been different had analysts been provided access to the full range of documents. The Weekly Standard asked CTC director Liam Collins about the memo in April. He responded: “I’m not tracking you on that.” Collins denied that anyone at CTC had written or distributed such a memo, and he reiterated his denial this month.
But one U.S. intelligence official, told of Collins’s claim, scoffed, “It exists. Period.”
In short, the American people are not being told the truth about the radical Islamic enemies that are rising across the Middle East.
Once again, Brennan appears to be working against the best interests of the U.S. Just last month, Shoebat.com reported on Brennan’s claim in 2011 – the same year bin Laden’s raid took place – that the idea of an Islamic Caliphate was “absurd”. The American people deserve to know how much of the intelligence acquired at the bin Laden compound actually detailed these plans.
While Hayes doesn’t broach the subject, former FBI agent John Guandolo has been insisting for well over a year that Brennan converted to Islam while a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia during the 1990’s. It’s worth asking, if Guandolo’s claims are true, would Brennan be behaving any differently?
For more on Brennan, click here.