Wednesday, May 4

al Qaeda's Number 3 Man Arrested

Apparently proving that the "War on Terror" hasn't been a complete waste of our treasury and lives, US and Pakistani Forces arrested the reported "Number 3" man in the Al-Qaeda Network today. From the Associated Press:

"President Bush hailed the capture of Abu Farraj al-Libbi, al-Qaida's alleged operational planner, as a "critical victory" that "removes a dangerous enemy who is a direct threat to America and for those who love freedom" although al-Libbi is not on theFBI's list of most-wanted terrorists.

Al-Libbi, a native of Libya who's thought to use at least five aliases, is believed responsible for planning attacks in the United States, a U.S. counterterrorism official said.

U.S. officials described the arrest as the greatest blow to al-Qaida in more than two years. Al-Libbi is a confidant of bin Laden and was behind only Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri and the al-Qaida chief himself in the terror organization's hierarchy, they said."

Although I think we should all applaud this success, the immediate release of this information, which smacks of an attempt to gain political traction for the President's waining approval numbers, has to be questioned when having access to such a valuable al-Qaeda asset - without their knowledge - could have allowed for the trapping of critical intelligence which could have crippled the network.

In his book Imperial Hubris Michael Scheurer, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Desk addresses the subject of repeated and costly al Qaeda leaks.
Beyond the growing volume of leaks, there has been a sharp increase in leaking data that has no clear purpose in terms of shaping U.S. domestic or foreign policies but rather a form of bragging to the world and the enemy about what we know and how we know it.

... Leaks are a major factor limiting the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to defeat Osama bin Laden, et al. The first serious leak about al Qaeda was in the Washington Times after the 20 August 1998 U.S. cruise missle attack on al Qaeda camps near Khowst, Afghanistan. The attack was in response to the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania thirteen days earlier. In the 24 August Times article, "Senior" U.S. Department of Defense officials revealed that precise U.S. targeting of the camps was based on electronically intercepting bin Laden's conversations.

... Said one U.S. official: "We want to see who is still using the same cell phone numbers,'" Apparently these genius leakers had decided it was time to make sure the terrorist would not use the phone again. Well, as night follows day, the intelligence community lost this priceless advantage when bin Laden and his men stopped using the phones.

... Because of such [sic] leaks, the United States cannot fully exploit its clandestine services's numerous, often astounding captures of senior al Qaeda fighters. From the capture of Abu Zubaydah in March 2002 to that of Khalid bin Attah in March 2003, word of the arrests has been leaked by senior U.S. officials within days,, and often hours of their occurrence.

...I can say with confidence that the most damaging leaks about al Qaeda come from the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the White House. A reliable rule of thumb for the reader is that the federal agencies who have done least to protect America from al Qaeda leak the most to take credit for others' work and disguise their years of failure.

Although it goes against the normal standards of criminal jurisprudence, there are some good reasons to maintain security involving the arrest and capture of critical terrorist personnel and assets - just as the U.S. maintained the secret that we had broken the Japanese codes just prior to the start of World War II.


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