May 9, 2011

The evidence that CIA interrogations played a key role in the operation that got Osama bin Laden is overwhelming. Countless intelligence officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, have confirmed that detainees interrogated by the CIA provided information that helped lead us to bin Laden. But the CIA deniers continue to insist it is all a “big lie.” Despite this testimony, and the mountains of documents declassified by the Obama administration in 2009, they contend that CIA interrogations did not work.

Well, if they won’t believe these sources, perhaps they’ll believe WikiLeaks.

I doubt it was Julian Assange’s intent to provide still additional evidence of the effectiveness of CIA interrogations, but that is precisely what WikiLeaks’ “Gitmo Files” do. Take, for example, the file on Abu Faraj al-Libi — one of several CIA detainees who helped lead the agency to bin Laden’s courier. The document describes Abu Faraj as the “communications gateway” to bin Laden who once in custody “reported on al-Qai’das methods for choosing and employing couriers, as well as preferred communications means.” Based on intelligence obtained from Abu Faraj and other CIA detainees, it states that “in July 2003, [Abu Faraj] received a letter from UBL’s designated courier” (to whom he referred by a false name, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan) in which “UBL stated [Abu Faraj] would be the official messenger between UBL and others in Pakistan.” The file also notes a vital piece of intelligence: To better carry out his new duties “in mid-2003, [Abu Faraj] moved his family to Abbottabad” — the city where bin Laden eventually met his end — “and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.” And the file reveals that “in mid-April 2005, [Abu Faraj] began arranging for a store front to be used as a meeting place and drop point for messages he wanted to exchange” with bin Laden’s courier and was captured while waiting to meet him.

It is a miracle that al-Qaeda leaders did not read this classified document before bin Laden was killed. If they had, they would have been alerted to the fact that the CIA was on the trail of bin Laden’s courier, and they would had made the connection between the courier, bin Laden and Abbottabad — which could have blown the bin Laden operation.

The Gitmo Files also describe intelligence CIA detainees provided that led to the disruption of planned post-9/11 terrorist attacks. For example, the documents describe KSM’s plan for an “11 September-style attack against Heathrow airport” that involved “crashing numerous airplanes into Heathrow, with a secondary explosion immediately outside the airport as a diversion.” They note that “the operation was put on hold upon KSM’s arrest in February 2003” — an arrest that was made possible by information the CIA obtained from two captured terrorists, Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh. Once in CIA custody, KSM provided “information on the operatives he chose to participate in the attack.. . . the United Kingdom based cell, tasked to obtain pilot training from a commercial flight school in Kenya; and a Saudi Arabia based cell, tasked to indentify martyr candidates to assist in the aviation attack.”

The documents also describe how, “In early 2002 . . . [al-Qaeda operative] Binyam Mohamed. . . and operative Jose Padilla . . . [met with KSM] to discuss future operations in the US. [KSM] directed Padilla to travel to Chicago, rent an apartment, and initiate a natural gas explosion to cause the building to collapse. [KSM] told [Binyam] to join Padilla in Chicago on this mission.” Padilla was captured on arrival at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport — again, thanks again to information the CIA obtained from Zubaydah.

The Gitmo Files also detail an al-Qaeda plot “to carry out simultaneous attacks in Karachi against the U.S. consulate, western residences, and westerners at the local airport.” They note that “in September 2002, KSM revamped the Karachi operation targeting the U.S. consulate and brought in Walid bin Attash to work with [Ammar al-Baluchi].” The plot was disrupted because “on the day [Ammar] and Walid bin Attash were supposed to receive the explosives, they were both arrested” — thanks to information the CIA obtained from KSM.

WikiLeaks’ Gitmo Files also describe how an East African al-Qaeda operative, Hassan Guleed, admitted to the CIA that he was “in the progress [sic] of planning terrorist operations against U.S. coalition personnel and assets in Camp Lemonier,” the Marine base in Djibouti. He told the agency that “in October 2003, the operatives identified a dark red Isuzu water tank truck that delivered water to Camp Lemonier. Subsequently, in December 2003 they agreed on a plan to target Camp Lemonier with an explosives laden water truck. While operatives still needed to secure funding, a string of arrests in 2004 and September 2005 disrupted the operation.” It was information Guleed provided the CIA that made those arrests possible.

There is much, much more about the intelligence that CIA interrogations produced, but the CIA deniers reject it all. They are quickly coming to resemble the “birthers” who insist that President Obama was born outside the United States — with one crucial difference: As a Washington Post poll found last week, the number of Americans who acknowledge Obama’s American provenance has grown dramatically following the release of his “long-form” birth certificate. Presented with clear evidence, most who once doubted now accept that Obama was born in the United States. When will the CIA deniers finally accept the evidence that the agency’s interrogations worked?

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