Monday, March 30, 2009

Tale of the Tapes, part 4

The WaPo's lengthy article about the value of Abu Zubaydah's intelligence, both pre and post torture, was mostly fodder for the upcoming truth commission. But there were a few nuggets in there, starting with this one:
One connection Abu Zubaida had with al-Qaeda was a long relationship with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said. Mohammed had approached Abu Zubaida in the 1990s about finding financiers to support a suicide mission, involving a small plane, targeting the World Trade Center. Abu Zubaida declined but told him to try bin Laden, according to a law enforcement source.
It remains odd that KSM and his Baluchi buddies were planning most of the great terror attacks on America outside bin Laden's knowledge. But if Zubaydah was indeed the memory-impaired non-player some have described why would KSM ask him about financing anything? Gerald Posner's book may provide a few clues:
American interrogators used painkillers to induce Zubaydah to talk -- they gave him the meds when he cooperated, and withdrew them when he was quiet. They also utilized a thiopental sodium drip (a so-called truth serum). Several hours after he first fingered Prince Ahmed, his captors challenged the information, and said that since he had disparaged the Saudi royal family, he would be executed. It was at that point that some of the secrets of 9/11 came pouring out. In a short monologue, that one investigator told me was the "Rosetta Stone" of 9/11, Zubaydah laid out details of how he and the al Qaeda hierarchy had been supported at high levels inside the Saudi and Pakistan governments.
As asked in that post, was this true or just disinformation designed to finger those governments? After all, some consider other information given about Iraq's role in training AQ as disinformation designed to lure us into war there, so why not here, too? How can we believe one set of testimony and not another without independent verification?

As with everything else, it's hard to say, but maybe the tapes would have done more than protect CIA agents involved in the process or messers Yoo or Addington; maybe they would have also shined some light on the broader questions of complicity or even poked a few holes in the rootless, non-state operator construct we're to believe about al Qaeda.

Last week the WaPo interviewed one of General Petraeus's principal aids David Kilcullen and asked:
What is the real central front in the war on terror?

Pakistan. Hands down. No doubt.

..the collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover -- that would dwarf everything we've seen in the war on terror today.

How important is it to kill or capture Osama bin laden?

Not very.
As Churchill once said, "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies". Back to Posner again (from link 3 below):
To the surprise of the CIA team watching the event unfold live on video, Zubaydah said that 9/11 changed nothing because both Prince Ahmed and Mir knew beforehand that an attack was scheduled for American soil that day. They just didn't know what it would be, nor did they want to know more than that. The information had been passed to them, said Zubaydah, because bin Laden knew they could not stop it without knowing the specifics, but later they would be hard-pressed to turn on him if he could disclose their foreknowledge.
The trouble has always been determining the lies. But that's the point, isn't it? Surely Obama now knows.

Parts 2,3

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