Monday, May 11, 2009

A Ghost is Dead

The left's favorite terrorist, a sort of cause celebre for the pitfalls of enhanced interrogation, has died:
British journalist and historian Andy Worthington, an expert and author on Guantanamo, reports that the man who had supplied a key false tie between Iraq and al-Qaeda --- after being tortured in Egypt, where he had been rendered by the U.S. --- has died in a Libyan prison. "Dead of suicide in his cell," according to a Libyan newspaper.
Al-Libi was one of the ghosts mentioned in 2007 by the WaPo's Craig Whitlock, including another disappearing act, Mustafa Setmariam Nasar. Torture-warriors like Worthington and Steven Grey might wonder whether al-Libi's suicide was too convenient--we are talking about Libya here--but why would they kill him aside from incompetence? It's not like he hadn't done damage to the Bush administration by calling his original confession a lie.

Besides, with Obama now in office there would appear to be no smoking gun. Until one surfaces it seems more prudent to believe he succumbed to his own hand or that the Libyans killed him to further one of their own goals vis a vis local terrorism. An announcement of suicide won't go over well in the fundamentalist ranks or on the Arab street.

Unfortunately his death also leaves up in the air the question of when he lied. Did he lie about Saddam's regime providing training to AQ terrorists at Salmon Pak during his initial confession or did he lie during his recantation after the WMDs weren't found and the left was starting to score points against Bush over Iraq? Tenet wondered about this in his book, pondering thusly on pages 353-354:
He (al-Libi) clearly lied. We just don't know when. Did he lie when he first said that al-Qa'ida members received training in Iraq or did he lie when he said they did not? In my mind, either case might still be true. Perhaps early on, he was under pressure, assumed his interrogators already knew the story, and sang away. After time passed and it became clear that he would not be harmed, he might have changed his story to cloud the minds of his captors. Al-Qa'ida operatives are trained to do just that.
But for some reason, this part of al-Libi's recanted confession gets no respect (page 269):
(he) had provided the Egyptians with information that he later recanted, that al-Qa'ida had collaborated with Russian organized crime to import into New York "cannisters containing nuclear material."
Lying for jihad is hardly shocking. Meanwhile, surely al-Libi's demise will spark more discussion on the practice of rendition, a Bush-era/Clinton-era tool Obama seems loath to completely eliminate.

MORE 5/12/09

The mainstream press is starting to pick up the story a bit. Here's CNN, which is fairly balanced--they don't purport that al-Libi's recantation was true while his confession was a lie--but they do pass along a tasty morsel:
"I think he would be able to tell us more about the secret CIA prison program and the rendition program," Sullivan said.
Yes, nothing like keeping hope alive that a terrorist who despises the west to the point of killing infants if necessary would be used to glean more information about the real criminals. So there's your conspiracy.

Speaking of ghosts...

Mark from Regime of Terror flags this very interesting AP story on the 15 May terrorist organization and the elusive Abu Ibrahim:
He's been described as a "genius." The "grandfather of bomb makers." A "Michelangelo." Or as one former Pentagon official said, "Dr. Frankenstein."

His infamous career stretches back decades. He has been linked to several terrorist organizations, including Black September and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

But it wasn't until Ibrahim broke away from the PFLP in 1979 and formed his own outfit called "15 May" that he began forging his reputation as a master bomb maker, attracting the attention of foreign intelligence services around the globe.

Named after the date on which Israel was founded, Ibrahim based 15 May in Baghdad and began perfecting his unique bombs. He experimented widely, devising a particularly nasty bomb that involved filling the cooling pipes of a refrigerated truck with liquid explosives.
It's always been interesting that the administration never made an issue of this group. Perhaps it was because Reagan was in office at the time and playing him against the Iranians (maybe that's why AP is pursuing it). It certainly seems to paint Baghdad as terrorism central. Anyway, here's what I wrote about this last year:
As to Ibrahim, he remains at large along with Rashid's wife Christine Pinter, whom he met through connections with the Baader-Meinhof Gang.
Admittedly all of this was in the 80s, but then again:
"He still made the bombs and he still taught people how to do it," Kline said. "He had a little shop in Baghdad.
He apparently shared his knowledge. Perhaps the bomber of the WTC in 1993, Ramzi Yousef (who is part Palestinian) got some indirect help from this guy, who knows. Anyway, it's no wonder this story is getting light mainstream airplay.

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