Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Surprised The CIA Has Closed Its Unit Hunting Down Bin Laden? Don't Be -- The Groundwork Has Been Laid By The Bush Administration For Four Years

The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials have confirmed to the New York Times.

The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.

The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring Bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."

Agency officials spun that tracking Bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, and that the decision to disband the unit was not a sign that the effort had slackened. "The efforts to find Osama bin Laden are as strong as ever," spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck told the Times.

Michael Scheuer, a former senior CIA official who was the first head of the unit, said the move reflected the mistaken view within the agency that Bin Laden was no longer the threat he once was. "This will clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda," he told the Times.

***

This is just the latest in a series of events and statements that show that Bin Laden has gone from wanted "dead of alive" to being of lesser importance -- a positive primarily for the families of 9/11 victims seeking "closure." Our leadership has gone from targeting Bin Laden as a key to the war on terror, to marginalizing him as just one person in a broad fight.

When did the change start? In 2002, around the same time the administration began talking about a possible Iraq War. Capturing Bin Laden -- from the mouths of various people in the administration -- became secondary to fighting the "war on terror," which included, with increasing prominence, Iraq.

The change in stance on capturing Bin Laden is completely out-of-step with the nation -- last month, 86% of Americans said in a USA Today/Gallup poll that it was somewhat, very or extremely important that Bin Laden be captured or killed, a number that had barely changed over the past two years. That fact is probably inconvenient, but the spin has already begun, and no doubt it will be repeated. Given the lack of success in finding Bin Laden, what other choice is there but to spin?

That Bin Laden remaining at large keeps alive the threat of another attack on our nation? Cynics would suggest that benefits the Bush Administration, which has a history of playing the fear card -- in speeches and commercial messages.

Let's review the road from "dead or alive" to important only as "closure."

-- President Bush said on the night of Sept. 11, 2001: "The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts."

-- Over the next three months, Bush on several occasions repeated that he wanted to bring Bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."

-- By the spring of 2002, Bush's tone had changed. From a March 13, 2002, press conference:

BUSH: "(T)he idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. ... So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you."

-- In 2003, General Peter Pace (now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), told reporters: "(Bin Laden) has taken himself out of the picture. ... It is not an individual that is as important as is the ongoing campaign of the coalition against terrorists."

As CNN correspondent Jamie McIntyre noted at the time: "They'd love to get him tomorrow, if they could. Since they can't, they're downplaying the role that he's playing."

-- In 2004, Bush seemed to agree with McIntyre, apparently resigned to the idea that we may not capture bin Laden. Speaking to Tim Russert on the Feb. 8, 2004 edition of Meet the Press, Bush said: "I have no idea whether we will capture or bring him to justice, may be the best way to put it."

-- But by that fall, Bush changed his tone again -- for a national audience watching the third presidential debate.

BUSH: "Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations. Of course we're worried about Osama bin Laden. We're on the hunt after Osama bin Laden. We're using every asset at our disposal to get Osama bin Laden."

-- And last fall, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice offered this in an interview with Newsweek:

RICE: I would like nothing better to get the phone call that says we captured Osama bin Laden. I mean, in a sense, I think it’s, you know, it’s a kind of issue of closure ... (B)ut in terms of the operation itself, I’ve always argued, and I argued from the very beginning, and in fact, the fact that the President argues, reflected in his September 20 speech, we decided in that speech he’d only mention Bin Laden once because nobody wanted to give the impression that this was about a single person.

So maybe it shouldn't be surprising that the CIA has closed the unit hunting for Bin Laden. Various officials have been laying the groundwork for that decision for four years.

16 Comments:

Blogger The Xsociate said...

Wonder if anyone in the mainstream media will ask this tough question the next time they bring up Bin Laden.

I doubt it.

3:31 AM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

A Google news search indicates a few wireservices, like CNN International and Reuters have picked up the New York Times story.
Will the White House press corps do their jobs today and ask the following questions?
1. What is the White House response to the opinions expressed by former senior CIA official Michael Scheuer in the report?
2. Is Osama Bin Laden still deemed a threat to U.S. national security interests at all? Or as put by xsociate's link above:
"If Bin Laden is as dangerous as the Bush Administration claims him to be, why was the C.I.A. unit assigned to track him down disbanded?"
3. Please explain how dismantling Alec Station makes it easier for the U.S. to capture Bin Laden?
4. If a sole effort focused exclusively on capturing Osama no longer exists, what about the Bush Administration's promised vengeance on Bin Laden for orchestrating the most deadly attack on U.S. soil ever in history? Does this account for anything?
5. Please explain the info in the report that the U.S. diverted CIA resources from Bin Laden to capture alleged Al Queda affiliates in Iraq? Wasn't it the U.S. military action in Iraq that created the Al Queda terrorists there? Wouldn't it have made more sense to have destroyed Bin Laden and his gang outside of Iraq first?
I will add a few more points.
I have a feeling the right-wingers will completely ignore the story. (No mention of it so far on realclearpolitics.com, for example although plenty of reports on the New York Times "treasonous" bank records spying report).
A Rush or a Levin when phoned in about the NEWS will write it off as part of the New York Times smear campaign against Bush.
We already heard Rush call Bin Laden "irrelevant."
To stomp out any remaining significance the story would otherwise have in the name of protecting the lives of all U.S. citizens, the news will be attributed to Democrats -- y'know that party weak on terrorism -- whenever brought up during the upcoming mid-term campaigns.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous teenagebambam said...

Talked to a friend at the CIA about this.... the office that was closed was completely superfluous, the hunt for OBL has hardly "ended". My friend is no fan of the administration, so I'm quite certain he would be outraged if there was anything to be outraged about.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

read the history of quotes and decide for yourself. It seems pretty clear, though, that at some point in 2002 or so, the administration's concern went from capturing OBL to fighting the broader "war on terror" -- you may say it coincided with the decision to go to Iraq.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous wisteria said...

Believe as you will that this administration cares about catching OBL, I personally doubt they have cared for years now if they catch him. There is more to this story than what is black and white. Maybe your friend shows no outrage because there never was an urgency to catch OBL in the first place.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous stepnw1f said...

There Ya Go Righties

Your boy don't give a shit about catching Bin Laden and never has. In fact he denied even hearing about the threat of Bin Laden striking before 9-11 when he should have made it his priority to keep this country safe. Like everything else the GOP touches, it all turns to shit or some racket for a few corporate criminals, and yet you still support them. Nothing like loving money more than your country, is there, Rightie?

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Cosmocat said...

Yeah ...
That 86% will drop to 56% by this time tomorrow now that the base has its marching orders ...

FREAKS ... F R E A K S ...

11:50 AM  
Anonymous 12string said...

There is no longer any need to invoke Bin Laden to stir the
masses to support this (mis)administration's agenda.He has
gone the route of the WMD's.What strikes me as odd is the
fact that on a daily basis we are bombarded with more
evidence that the scope of lies,deceit,and corruption they
are capable of bringing upon the world,yet so many cannot
accept that Bin Laden was not responsible for 9/11.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous ninkasi said...

Getting Osama, dead or alive was a convenient excuse for whipping up a frenzy about terrorists, and getting Americans to buy the ploy that Saddam and Osama were part of the same group. Everything was about getting into Iraq. This administration of sociopaths were never interested in protecting American citizens, nor were they interested in spreading democracy. They were, however obsessed with carrying out the PNAC plan, and used getting Osama as a key to start other "preemptive" wars,overcoming any regime in the Mideast they deemed to be not servile enough.

It's a pity that so many Americans are so willing to drink the kool-ade They do, though, drink it by the gallon, stubbornly refusing to open their eyes and see that their hero is bankrupting us, spying on us, and shredding the Constitution they claim to revere. As long as some can get rich at the expense of others, and gay marriage is illegal, and Americans will work for less and less, the Republican party will be satisfied.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there were any investigation into this, or any kind of inquiry from the main stream press, it would indeed be found conclusively that Bush has used and continues to use OBL as a ploy to keep his fingers into Iraq to carry out the extremist PNAC scheme.
This is treason of the highest order.
The Bush Administration and the GOP controlled Congress are endangering the safety of all Americans.
How much longer will the conservatives and their media enablers allow them to get away with it?

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Dusty said...

Our government has pulled an "OJ Simpson" eh? No surprize there...just pissed
off how obvious it is..

4:41 PM  
Anonymous ken grandlund said...

Bush never really wanted to find bin Laden anyhow. After all, they Bush family and the bin Laden family have been cozy for years. Besides, why go after a single man and his network of rogues when there are whole countries to destroy?

4:41 PM  
Blogger Lawson Copywrite & Co. said...

It is silly to think that the CIA has "given up" looking for UBL. They may have disbanned that specific unit, but there are mind games at work, and other units that exist. People should not be so easily swayed by a single press release.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Lawson Copywrite.
Need a history lesson?
It's more than a single press release. The JABBS' post stands among the preponderance of evidences the Bush Administration has been sweeping aside any serious effort to capture Bin Laden since the day Dubya took office in 2000.
Bin Laden is just a prop to browbeat right-wingers and other simpletons -- too dumb to acknowledge their Democracy being dismantled in front of them -- into fear and obedience.

5:33 PM  
Blogger curveball said...

Perhaps the most glaring misperception regarding the so-called War on Terror is that it's run by individuals who can, through military means, be tracked down and eliminated. And then, supposedly, the War on Terror will have been won. Bin Laden was, of course, the chief proponent. But since U.S. intelligence hasn't yet mastered the capability of infiltrating Islamic societies without telegraphing their aims, their reach is considerably limited.

Bin Laden has been used as a poster boy to generate animus, and the administration would, no doubt, prefer to see him remain in that position. But, in fact, he's actually too clever to be caught without great effort.

So the administration moves on to other individuals - as if an FBI top 10 list is going to be effective. The actual target should be the ideology of Sayyid Qutb and others that, like Marxism once did, fuels the legions of prospective soldiers. But the administration is hardly qualified to perform such a sophisticated operation, say like Radio Free Europe. Instead it pitches Freedom and expects the aliens to hop on board without realizing the huge gap between them and us.

2:59 AM  
Anonymous trinity said...

I think all Americans would want OBL either captured or killed. Personally, I think I'd prefer that he be killed while trying to avoid capture, so we don't have to bother with a trial.

An excellent book on the subject is "Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander". It was written by Gary Berntsen, the field commander himself, with Ralph Pezzullo, and goes into detail regarding the war in Afghanistan, and the attempt to capture bin Laden.

I heard Berntsen interviewed on talk radio today, and his story is fascinating. A first-hand account from someone who was actually there.

1:48 AM  

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