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American intelligence analysts are just beginning to sift through the scores of data retrieved from Osama bin Laden’s compound. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon called it the largest intelligence haul ever from a senior terrorist. When U.S. Navy Seals killed bin Laden last Sunday, they seized documents, videos, computers and handwritten notes. On Saturday, the Pentagon released videos of bin Laden that showed him watching himself on TV and rehearsing lines. A look at newly gathered intelligence and how it could make the U.S. safer.
- Bruce Hoffman Director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University; senior fellow at the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center; author of “Inside Terrorism.”
- David Ignatius Columnist, The Washington Post; contributes to “Post Partisan” blog on washingtonpost.com
- Glenn Carle Career CIA clandestine services officer; deputy national intelligence officer for Transnational Threats; author of "The Interrogator"
- Frank Cilluffo Director, Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University.
A “Treasure Trove” of Intelligence Information
Following the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound earlier this month that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Obama administration has said that the amount of intelligence information the U.S. was able to obtain amounts to a small library of potentially useful material.
Several clips from tapes that bin Laden made and that the White House has released are probably the only pieces of that information from the compound that the public will see. In the tapes, bin Laden is watching coverage of himself on television and seems to be practicing statements for future recordings.
“What we can learn about bin Laden from this footage that we might not have known before?” Diane asked.
There was broad agreement that the tapes themselves did not reveal much new information about bin Laden, but Washington Post columnist David Ignatius said that some of the other information specialists gathered makes it clear that al-Qaida was still planning operations, with a possible focus on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
The first thing that intelligence officials would have looked for within the material from bin Laden’s compound was evidence of any imminent threats, said Frank Cilluffo of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University.
Cilluffo added that he had a concern that the White House was releasing too much information about the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s killing. For instance, the Obama administration acknowledged that bin Laden had both cash and phone numbers on his person at the time of his death. “Any detail could compromise our capacities…” in regard to future intelligence-gathering, Cilluffo said. For example, other al-Qaida members may make it a practice not to carry that information with them after hearing about bin Laden, he said.
Questioning of Witnesses
There was some difference of opinion among the guests about what the U.S.’s intentions might have been as far as questioning the other people who were living with bin Laden at the compound.
Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, said he thinks that if one of the U.S. helicopters hadn’t been disabled early in the mission, the U.S. would have tried to take the women and children away with them from the compound for questioning. But Ignatius disagreed, saying he would “be surprised” if that was the U.S.’s intent. Ignatius said such a move would only further inflame emotions in the Arab world.
But Ignatius also said that one of the main reasons the U.S. would want to interrogate bin Laden’s associates at the compound would be to try to determine what kind of support the al-Qaida leader was receiving in Pakistan and who exactly was providing it – two areas that President Obama has said are still unknowns.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Over the weekend, the world got a peek into the life of Osama bin Laden. The Pentagon released five videos. They showed extraordinary images of bin Laden's daily life and gave clues that he was still an active player in al-Qaida. Many are hoping such intelligence could thwart future terrorist attacks and even dismantle al-Qaida. Joining me to talk about these issues, Bruce Hoffman of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, retired CIA officer Glenn Carle and Frank Cilluffo of the Homeland and Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MR. BRUCE HOFFMANGood morning, Diane.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSGood morning.
MR. GLENN CARLEGood morning.
MR. FRANK CILLUFFOGood morning.
REHMDavid Ignatius, what did we learn from the video images?
IGNATIUSWe learned from the video that Osama bin Laden is a man who thinks a lot about his image. He thinks about his appearance. He's a little vain. He dyes his beard to look younger. He watches himself on television. He gets ready for his public relations stints. I think, at a deeper sense, what we've learned from this enormous cash of material is that bin Laden was more of an operational figure, less a figurehead than we have thought and more directly in the planning and review of operations.
IGNATIUSBecause the amount of material, as we're learning from little leaks and statements that come out from people, was so large and included operational material, we're just beginning, publicly, to understand what the CIA-led task force is finding as it reviews this material. But it's clear first that al-Qaida was continuing to plan operations. It still has in mind spectacular operations. It was thinking about the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, and what to do on that anniversary.
IGNATIUSIt was looking at railroads, commuter rail, derailing a big train like in that "Runaway Train" movie. It was thinking about infrastructure targets, in general. So we know that it's a live organization with bin Laden playing this role, thinking about what to do, how to communicate. One more thing that I would note, I'm told that, so far, at least, the investigators have not found the evidence that al-Qaida was actively planning something using weapons of mass destruction. That's the biggest question, really, as they look at this trove. It's early to make any definitive statement about this, but I was told within the last few hours that in the first cut, there's not a sign of an active plot in this regard.
REHMDavid Ignatius of The Washington Post. Glenn Carle, the CIA says the amount of material they've gathered is the equivalent of a small library. What does that mean?
CARLEWell, I think it just means that there's an overwhelming amount. In once -- in my career, I found -- I think all my colleagues find that when you obtain documents to exploit, it's a mixed blessing. It's firsthand information that's critical -- and, of course, you want that more than anything -- but I say mixed because it's also overwhelming, and it's hugely labor intensive to make sense of and operational use of mountains of information. Even single documents are...
REHMTell me how the agency does that. I mean, do they literally go through this, word by word, phrase by phrase, even comma by comma?
CARLEAbsolutely, absolutely. The first thing that you -- any officer in the agency or any intelligence agency has to look for are imminent threat indicators. It's a standard question you must ask of any asset and that you look for any document or any bit of information, what American interest, individual or sight or activity is under threat of violence or harm, so that they will be doing a quick scan to the extent possible of everything to identify. After that, the strategic approach to any intelligence collection is to look for the plans and intentions of your opponent.
REHMGlenn Carle, former CIA officer. And turning to you, Frank Cilluffo, you have a slightly different take on that cache of information.
CILLUFFOWell, I'm like everyone else, delighted that we have such a treasure trove of information, but it's worth noting that the treasure is devalued if we can't cash it in. And we have to remember, we're not only communicating to the American public, but also to the adversary. And the adversary, time after time, has proven to be a very resilient organization. They learn from their mistakes. They learn from our successes. I just hope by revealing too much intelligence and information, we're not compromising sources and methods. As one example, bin Laden was found with phone numbers on his body. The fact that that was revealed to the rest of the world, obviously, if those numbers are valuable, they're going to throw away the cell phones and...
CILLUFFO..probably not (word?) as a...
REHMYou're concerned about revealing too much.
CILLUFFOI'm concerned about revealing too much. Now, that said, we need to extract all the intelligence, exploit it, scrub it and share it with state and local authority, should there be any indication and warning, threat information, also with our friendly foreign intelligence services. But there's a line, and I think it may have been crossed in this case. It's amazing how much information has been revealed.
REHMFrank Cilluffo of George Washington University. And, Bruce Hoffman, how much do you believe we now know that we did not know before, aside from the dyeing of his beard, aside from the fact that he was very concerned about his own looks on television?
HOFFMANWell, certainly, we know that bin Laden was far more involved in operations, in communications, in targeting and in propaganda. And across the board, it seems, even in his isolation, he still exercised a degree of leadership that I think was really unimaginable to most people perhaps outside the intelligence community.
REHMWhat's fascinating to me, as I recall one of our presidents -- and I'm not going to name names -- said at one point, Osama bin Laden is irrelevant. Who said that, David?
IGNATIUSWell, I think that might have been George W. Bush. And I think George W. Bush, to be fair, was expressing what was a very widely shared view, which was that bin Laden was the ideologue. He was the master propagandist. He was the sheikh who provided the image of leadership. But in terms of operational leadership, I think the view was that he was cut out of the loop, that it was Ayman al-Zawahiri, his number two, and then these number threes, you know, who had such short life tenure, who would be carrying out the operations. And that's, I think, as Bruce just said, the thing that's most striking that we've learned is that bin Laden was at least being kept informed of major tactical decisions, operational plans.
IGNATIUSThat makes this trove of intelligence especially useful. There's one other thing we haven't mentioned that they are looking for in this treasure trove, and that's evidence of bin Laden's connections with Pakistani intelligence. If there was a support network that included senior Pakistani officials, inner -- current or former, it's going to show up in what they captured.
CARLEI think, also, President Bush may have been a little unfairly characterized in the remark that he made about not paying attention to bin Laden. At the time, there was concern widely held in the national security establishment that bin Laden was -- by being demonized somewhat, he was also being made a hero by our own actions and statements. And I don't accept for a second that any American intelligence or national security official lost the focus on bin Laden from 9/11 or from years before until several days ago when we finally caught him. I think the president's objective, in part, also was to take the spotlight off him.
CARLEMany people said that he should be killed and silenced and in the dark and not made a hero. To a large extent, that happened until the media started to act -- respond normally after his death. So I think the president's motive was not to have a polarized situation, where you had the United States on one side and the hero bin Laden on the other. I think that was legitimate, Diane.
REHMGo ahead, Bruce.
HOFFMANWell, I agree with all of that, but I think there's two other factors. One, I think, the longer our frustrations and consternation grew with not catching him, I think the more there was an inclination perhaps to play down his importance. But I don't think we can exclude the pernicious impact that the invasion of Iraq had on this, not in a sense necessarily of a diversion of resources, although there was clearly a diversion of resources from South Asia. But more, in effect, if we're invading Iraq, clearly, bin Laden wasn't as important as he once was. The war on terrorism had shifted, and I think that also accounts for this diminution of his stature or status.
REHMOne individual, Frank Cilluffo, asks -- this is an email from Glory in Traverse City, "Why was it necessary to even let the world know we had obtained materials? Doesn't this just give a heads-up to al-Qaida operatives? Why not leave them thinking their secrets are safe?"
CILLUFFODiane, that's a good question. And I would only look back to the amount of secrecy that was shrouding our actions in the run-up in the raid in Abbottabad. The fact that we were able to keep it from Pakistan was the right decision to make, out of fear of tipping off the target and potentially compromising the mission. So it would be pretty sad if we're undoing some of these successes unto ourselves absolutely accidentally. But at the same time, those are good questions because...
REHMDo you think we are undoing ourselves?
CILLUFFOYou know, I think there's the potential for -- and, again, if you look at the painstaking detail that goes behind the intelligence work to lead up to this effort, it's incredible. And any single detail could compromise some of our capacities.
REHMFrank Cilluffo, he's director of Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. Short break, and when we come back, we'll take your calls, your emails. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Bruce Hoffman of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University is here, also, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Glenn Carle, a career CIA clandestine services officer, and Frank Cilluffo, who's at George Washington University. We're talking about the intelligence gleaned from what's been called a treasure trove of material that came with the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Frank Cilluffo, you wanted to talk about the threat that currently exists, perhaps existed before, but now, do you believe, has been raised?
CILLUFFOWell, Diane, good question, and thank you for the opportunity. I mean, no question that the killing of bin Laden was a momentous event. But I want to underscore that it by no means spells the end of al-Qaida itself. The number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ilyas Kashmiri -- you have a number of key actors that are still on the run. Nor does it spell out the whole story because you have to step back a little bit. The threat has metastasized. It has morphed. It comes in various shapes, sizes, flavors and forms.
CILLUFFOIn Pakistan itself, you have a number of -- I call it a jihadi brew of organizations, ranging from the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, HuJI, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tehrik-i-Taliban. So what you've seen is a number of these groups become -- have become conflated to one extent or another. And you also saw al-Qaida's affiliates play much more significant roles, such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula out of Yemen, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb out of Algeria and the Sahel and, of course, al-Shabaab out of Somalia.
CILLUFFOSo we've got a broad threat, and it does come in different shapes and different forms. And I just want to underscore that as to perhaps why the president I worked for had suggested there's more to the threat than Osama bin Laden.
REHMGlenn Carle, the -- one of the wives and the daughter -- one of the daughters is in custody in Pakistan. Is the CIA involved in the questioning of those women as far as we know? Or is that left totally to Pakistani authorities?
CARLEWell, it's not our decision to make. I have heard, as all of us have, that the United States has requested access to the wives, which is the appropriate thing to do. But -- and we will have some pressure we can bring to bear to encourage the Pakistanis to agree with our request, but it's their decision. And, so far as I'm aware, we do not have access yet. I would be a little surprised if we got it soon.
REHMDoes that indicate one way or another that Pakistan should be held responsible for what's happened here?
CARLENo, not necessarily. I mean, there's a sovereignty issue that transcends almost any other issue, the death of bin Laden or the possession of his wives notwithstanding. No country likes to be told how to run its internal affairs, particularly when, in so doing, they might prove to be very embarrassing to the state itself.
HOFFMANWell, certainly, I think if there was an unforeseen development in last Monday's raid, it was that that second helicopter, unfortunately, took a very hard landing. And probably once that was knocked out of commission, the opportunity for the United States to spirit away the family members and for us to actually have interrogated the wives vanished then.
REHMYou're saying that would have been the plan, you presume?
HOFFMANI presume just because everybody was able to get away on one helicopter, that it still had the lift, that they were looking to take people...
REHMDavid Ignatius, you're shaking your head.
IGNATIUSI'd be surprised if the United States would have planned on taking bin Laden's wives away out of the country. I think that would have inflamed sentiments in the Muslim world, even more than this operation did, the idea of taking his wives, given the way people feel about the chastity of women and their protection. So I'd be surprised if that was so, but I don't know.
REHMAnybody else? No. All right. What might we learn from the wife and the daughter if we do have an opportunity to learn what Pakistan is learning, Glenn?
CARLEWell, that gets to the point I made earlier, that you always would prefer to have a human source, a person sitting in front of you, from any document because you can ask a direction question that you need to have answered. And they may know and answer in one sentence -- one would hope -- whereas with a document you'll have to go through a small university library to infer what the answer is.
REHMDo we know where the computers and documents are and exactly who will analyze them, David?
IGNATIUSWe know, Diane, that there is an interagency task force that draws on different intelligence agencies -- the CIA, the NSA, FBI, elements of the DIA at the Pentagon, the so-called NGA which does geographic spatial analysis. We know -- we've read that the analysis is in at least a couple of different places. There are references to analysts gathered in both New York and Washington. I think it's safe to say this is the biggest intelligence hit we've had in the war on al-Qaida. And people are racing to exploit the number that U.S. officials have put out, as that it's producing an intelligence product, some kind of finished intelligence every minute.
IGNATIUSThat's how much stuff there is there. And so they're going to be moving quickly and mobilizing resources. And the reason, obviously, that we'd like to talk to bin Laden's wives is to get at this question of what the support structure was. The president last night on "60 Minutes" said, while not blaming Pakistan for sheltering bin Laden, said he had a support structure. He must have had a support structure of some kind, and the wives could tell us about that and probably get at this issue, what Palestinian intelligence, the ISI, knew or didn't know.
REHMIs there any sense at all that had he been captured alive, it would have been better for U.S. intelligence, Glenn Carle?
CARLEI think probably the answer is no, that -- yes, he would have been the ultimate source of information potentially. But the problems attendant on having Osama bin Laden alive in the possession of United States intelligence and government are overwhelming.
REHMDo you agree with that?
HOFFMANI do agree. I think one of the biggest problems would have been, in essence, there would be a target on almost every American throughout the world, that bin Laden as an icon, especially in prison, could well have motivated a spate of kidnappings indefinitely, until he was either released or -- in the hopes of somehow coercing the United States.
REHMSo, now, having this trove of information that is currently being analyzed and minute by minute something new is emerging, how much more will the American people know? Or should they know, Frank Cilluffo?
CILLUFFOI think, first and foremost, it's to not only provide all the information your guests have shared, but it's also to really get into the TTPs, the terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures to get a better understanding of their tradecraft, who do they communicate with, how do they communicate, how do they distribute all of their information on the Internet, in jihadi websites and interactive forums. These are the sorts of questions, I think, we've all been waiting for, and what I think you're going to see is a mix between good old high and low tech.
CILLUFFOYou've got some very high tech means, but you've also got some very rudimentary low tech means, vis-à-vis couriers and how that mixes into their tactic. So I think we are going to learn a lot. I just hope we are able to cash in on that treasure trove before it's valueless.
REHMBut I'm still asking how much more the American people themselves will know, not just the security analysts but the American people.
CILLUFFOSure. Let me underscore. I mean, one point, if there is information and if there's one thing we've learned from all the commissions and committees after 9/11, it's that if there's information that needs to be shared and should be shared with our state and local and homeland authorities, anything with a domestic nexus had better be shared with the bureau, with FBI and DHS.
REHMGlenn Carle, do you believe that, to date, we know everything there is to be now known about that raid and the capture and killing of bin Laden?
CARLEWell, I think the answer is no, and I hope the answer is no. And to get to Frank's point, the intelligence really needs to be done clandestinely. It can't function in the light. Even indirect knowledge of operational procedures are distractive and neutralize them. The oversight committees and our political leaders and our legal supervisors, of course, need to be informed and involved, but the public should not be a participant in how the CIA and Special Forces go about their business day to day.
REHMAnd another question that's come up many times, Bruce Hoffman, to what extent were we able to capture and kill bin Laden because of extreme interrogation?
HOFFMANI think it's almost impossible to determine. This is a highly charged issue in Washington. There are partisans on both sides, and I don't think we'll ever know, really, the full picture. I think with all intelligence, there's always a chain. It's never necessarily one spectacular bit. It's a chain that has to be built up and worked on. Certainly, interrogations had a role in it. But I think the definitive answer to that question -- you know, in short hand, does torture produce actionable information? We may never know.
IGNATIUSWell, I -- just to repeat what I wrote Monday in the hours immediately after the raid, a moral ambiguity to this operation is that, as best I've been able to establish, the identification of the courier who was living in that house in Abbottabad that led us to bin Laden was obtained through a series of interrogations that included in several instances so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, which we now -- are now widely regarded as torture. And that's not to state this positive view about whether the raid was right or wrong. It's just to state a fact, and people will have to think about that and think about what it means. I don't mean to say it was the decisive evidence. But it's part of the story, and it has to -- we have to be -- observe it.
REHMDo you agree with that, Frank?
CILLUFFOI think David laid it out very well, yes. And there are a number of questions. And to Bruce's point, I'm not sure we really can completely know what role it played in and of itself.
REHMFrank Cilluffo of George Washington University, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We've got many callers. Let's go to Athens, Ohio, and to Scott. Good morning to you.
SCOTTGood morning to all. You know, I think the -- looking at this analytically, I think we've way over -- way, way over-worried about information that's being leaked at this point. I don't think the United States government is going to give out any more information than what they think is not going to be detrimental to this situation. I think the other side of this is all of that information, other than locations or who people are, I mean, al-Qaida is not a nonprofit organization having bake sales on the weekends to raise money. These guys -- is a multi-facet, multibillion dollar organization.
SCOTTThey change course in just a matter of minutes. So, I mean, I just -- I hear people worrying about what's being released. And I think the biggest thing is what the one gentleman said, they learn well from their mistakes and a lot from our successes.
IGNATIUSWell, I think it's important to note that the information that has been released has been released by senior officials more or less openly, that these have not been leaks. These have been Tom Donilon, the National Security advisor, the President of the United States himself in -- on the record statements on television or clearly authorized senior officials, who have been told you can go into this. What did they say? The first thing they said was, we have evidence of planning to go after commuter rail, and they did that because they were notifying state and local government of the information they had.
IGNATIUSWe can only guess at what they're not releasing, but it's an enormous amount. And I think it's important to note that they're being selective. They're releasing things, I would think, because of a particular plan and because of an understanding that the American people are going to want to know something about what this is all about. It's a big national issue. The country cares about it. If you said nothing, it could be tough for people.
REHMAll right. To Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Castor. You're on the air.
CASTORYes, hi, Diane. Thank you very much for giving me a chance. I really love your show.
CASTORIt's really very informative. Diane, I have a question that, when the helicopter crashed, the whole -- the local people, the local residents, according to the state television, they came outside at the site. And how come the Pakistani officials didn't know the whole thing? And I -- it seems like they just closed their eyes and they let the helicopter to flew away safely. It seems very, very strange that the helicopter crashed and a lot of people are there, but the military, they didn't know. And the ISI, they didn't know. It seems very strange.
REHMStrange, indeed, David.
IGNATIUSWell, the problem the Pakistani military and ISI have is they either look like they're knaves who knew and didn't do anything with it or fools that they didn't know, and that's a lose-lose situation for them. I think we'll hear more from ISI in the next weeks.
REHMBut, I mean, just think about this helicopter crash, people coming out in the streets. And this was, what, the newest stealth helicopter, this silent going in, but it crashes. What does the ISI do?
CARLEWell, I don't think the ISI will be on every street corner or at the end of every lane...
REHMBut, surely, police would.
CARLEWell, they will respond, and the planes from the air force were scrambled. And I assume that local authorities would have responded, too. But it takes a number of minutes to respond to any sort of event, whether you're a fireman or policeman or in a garrison a mile or two away.
REHMSo put me inside those CIA, those SEAL heads. When that first helicopter crashes, what did they do?
CARLEWell, I had the, really, great honor of working with those folks a little bit, and they're spectacularly impressive professionals. So they will have gone through every contingency in those that none of us could imagine multiple times, but this is not a -- this is a bad thing to have happened. Why it happened, you know, who knows? But they will -- the commanders will have had a plan B and C, as John Brennan said, and they had backup helicopters. And that's a bad event, but they plan and assume that bad events will occur. And I would say that they'll have 15 or 20 minutes to respond before authorities show up.
REHMGlenn Carle, he's a career CIA clandestine services officer. When we come back, we're going to talk a little more about that. I think others would like to add comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd as one of our guests, Glenn Carle, a career CIA clandestine services officers just said, the SEALs five years ago had the highest rate of fatality in the services. I know that you, Frank Cilluffo, want to comment on that crash of the helicopter and what happened next.
CILLUFFONo. I think, Diane, the first thing going through people's heads, as would always be the case, is to destroy the evidence. The actual technology that is embedded in our stealth use is of great value, not only to the terrorist adversary but to foreign intelligence services. And, clearly, that was something that they had trained for, and sometimes it's impossible to destroy all the evidence.
REHMAll right. To Mary in Rochester, N.Y. Good morning.
MARYThank you. I wondered what the value of bin Laden is. I understand the symbolic. I understand now his involvement and planning still continuing, apparently, to plan attacks. But is he also "the rainmaker?" Does he provide -- what did he provide -- facilitate contributions and encourage those? And as the symbol of this, was he the one who really brought in the money?
HOFFMANWell, I think bin Laden's value was really multifaceted. Probably the biggest one is that individuals in al-Qaida swore personal oath of loyalty to him. So he commanded, I think, a respect and, indeed, a fidelity, that I'm not sure anybody else in al-Qaida or anyone else could actually match. Certainly, in its early days, al-Qaida, after it was founded almost 23 years ago, he was instrumental in tapping into his friends and his wealthy network in Saudi Arabia. I'm not necessarily sure, though, in recent years, that was his main role in al-Qaida. I think it was much more hands-on and less of a risk of actually attempting to raise money for the organization.
REHMAll right. To Greensboro, N.C. Good morning, Robert.
ROBERTGood morning, Diane. I took issue with something that you said in the intro to your show today. I'm a former Marine, and I wanted to say that SEAL Team 6 did not retreat from bin Laden's compound. They made a withdrawal after a successful operation. I realize that you're not military, but I wanted to make sure that people don't get the wrong idea there.
REHMI don't think I used the word retreat. I said, when U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden last Sunday, they seized documents, videos, computers and handwritten notes.
ROBERTWell, I apologize if I misheard you.
REHMThat's all right. Not a problem. Thanks for calling.
REHMTo Henniker, N.H. Good morning, Dale.
DALEGood morning, Diane. My comment or question for the panel is whether Barack Obama will ever regret having go on immediately to the TV to announce this and not waiting 24 or 48 hours for the intelligence services to have a chance to take the low-hanging fruit, especially those phone numbers that were on his body. While it wouldn't attempt to hold him, to allow them to go capture those individuals before they knew the genie was out. And I'll wait for my answer off the air.
REHMThanks for calling. David.
IGNATIUSI suspect that, certainly, the CIA and probably also the president would have preferred to wait for precisely that reason to exploit this information, get a little bit of a head start. I was told in the hours immediately after the operation that one of the things the Pakistanis had strongly requested after we had informed them was that President Obama go soon, before Pakistan woke up the next morning and announce what this was. And the reason was that the Pakistanis were afraid that if there was an unexplained U.S. raid on Pakistani territory that people might assume it was an attack on Pakistanis, not on Osama bin Laden, that it might -- a broader conspiracy narrative might have been woven.
IGNATIUSSo the Pakistanis said to us, flat out, you need to announce this now. And I suspect that overrode what would have been the, you know, reasonable desire, to get a little bit of time to exploit the intelligence.
REHMSo how does this entire operation, the killing of bin Laden, the gathering of the information, the taking into custody the wife and the child, how does all this affect our relationship with Pakistan now, Glenn?
CARLEWell, our relationship has always been schizophrenic, and it's unavoidably that way. So I'm not sure it will change the nature, although it might exacerbate the tensions that have existed for decades, actually. They are a critical ally. They are a crucial country that we need to sustain and support. They are a frustrating opponent. Our interests do not coincide identically and never will, and that's how it goes with nation states. But here, the issues are acute and involve life, death, the future of other nations, so it's a major crisis for the moment. But I don't think it fundamentally changes the problematic nature of our relations with them.
CILLUFFODiane, I think that Glenn laid it out very well. This has been a complex relationship and will continue to be. And, clearly, we do have, in our best national interests, to be able to work to some extent with Pakistan, the security services and the intelligence services. But it's worth noting, they just outed another chief of station and CIA's point man in Pakistan. So I think that that -- we can only go so far in terms of what it is we're going to share with Pakistan. And I might note that this episode is going to get a lot more heated because there's a case right now with Daood Gilani, a.k.a. David Headley. This was the person who helped provide surveillance for the Mumbai attacks. And in those -- in the indictment itself, you have former ISI and, I believe, a current ISI officer identified.
HOFFMANWell, that's just what I was going to say, that there's a case planned out in Chicago Federal Court right now that is really explosive in terms of just the detail that's involved, how Pakistani intelligence, especially the ISI, was not only involved in the planning of the Mumbai 2008 attacks in India, but also even in the targeting specifically of Americans on Chabad House, but also American tourists. And coming on the heels now of our uncertainty about how complacent or just how ignorant Pakistan was with bin Laden, combined together, you have, potentially, the perfect storm in Pakistani-American relations.
CARLEI think it's important to remember that no nation has friends. We only have interests. And...
CARLE...some of our interests overlap, and sometimes they don't. So the expectation that we will have a pure relationship of a friend or an enemy, and if they do something that we don't like, we have to become their enemy and oppose them, is dangerously simplistic. And we will always have relations with every state -- and particularly with Pakistan -- of all that are contradictory but necessary.
REHMBut the billions of dollars that are going to Pakistan each year help to enflame the American people's attitude about our ongoing relationship with Pakistan, the nature thereof. And this particular incident doesn't seem to help that relationship.
CARLEIt's not a good thing to have aired, certainly, but at the same time that there are these frustrations or points of legitimate anger and concern that we have to oppose and pressure Pakistan for. There are things that we obtain that are beneficial to us from our relationship.
REHMHere is a tweet. "How much funding is behind al-Qaida now? How much funding did bin Laden have left at the time of his death?" David.
IGNATIUSThat's one of the things that we don't know and that, hopefully, this treasure trove of intelligence information will help reveal.
REHMBut I think that money would be all over the world.
IGNATIUSAgain, how al-Qaida is financed, how it moves money is one of the big secrets, one of the big mysteries. We've tried, in different ways, to learn about it, through interrogation, through other means. We have our best chance yet to look into that world, I think, with the material that we've taken.
CARLESorry, Frank. A point to keep in mind, though, is that there is still an assumption, certainly among the general populace, that al-Qaida or terrorism takes a lot of money to perform. Being a terrorist is a very low-rent profession. It doesn't take much money to do this. All you need is enough money for an airline ticket, if that, and to sustain an individual with, you know, a cheap meal.
REHMA willingness to blow himself up.
CARLEThat's it. It doesn't take a lot of money, unfortunately.
CILLUFFOIt -- but it takes a little bit of money, logistics, training...
CILLUFFO...recruiting. I mean, it's about -- in under-governed spaces, they need the time and space to be able to train, plot, recruit, radicalize. And I would just note that al-Masri, we got their CFO last year, in May of 2010. And I might also note that you've already seen, they were pleaing (sic) for money. There was video after video. I guess they included the return address, which is a nice thing. But the bottom line here is you've also seen how al-Qaida's affiliates have turned to criminal activity to raise funds. Al-Qaida and the Islamic Maghreb is in the kidnapping and ransom business. Many of them are in the drug trafficking business. So you've already seen their funding operations diversified.
REHMHere's an email from John who says, "There is a good reason to let the world know of the existence of the information seized in the raid. It is to let al-Qaida know the information has been seized, therefore keeping them psychologically and logistically off balance. Al-Qaida must now assume that every plan they have in the works is compromised, and they must abort these plans." Do you agree with that, Bruce?
HOFFMANWell, certainly. I think that's behind the psychology of releasing information is to sow discord, certainly to force them to move and flee. And, of course, terrorists in movement are more easy to get than terrorists hiding.
REHMAll right. Let's take a caller here in D.C. Good morning, Mohammad. Are you there, sir? Mohammad? Okay. To...
REHMGo right ahead, sir.
REHMYes, sir. Go right ahead, please.
MOHAMMADYeah, I'm calling just to say that based on our intelligence, that we keep asking for their expertise, it got us into Iraq on false intelligence, and it wasn't correct. And we ended up killing over thousands -- hundreds of thousands of people. And, again, we go (unintelligible) and we ask our intelligence about whereabouts of bin Laden. And he's been right under our nose for 10 years. And if bin Laden is gone, if we don't change our policies in the overseas area, there will be other bin Ladens coming out. (unintelligible)
REHMChange policies, how, sir?
MOHAMMADOur policies as far as appointing people like Hosni Mubarak to oppress his people, so the interest of -- the national interest of the United States will be saved.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for your call. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Glenn Carle, do you agree with that?
CARLEWell, there's a worldwide assumption and myth that the CIA is behind every tree and bush and that when a streetlight goes out in La Paz, Bolivia, there's some meaning behind it that the CIA has plotted. Would that it were so from the CIA's perspective, but, unfortunately, we're far less powerful and pervasive than that, and we are constantly responding to things, not shaping them.
REHMTo Jacksonville, Fla. Good morning, Larry.
LARRYGood morning. You know, what I don't understand is that we, as a country -- we fear from a terrorist a nuclear attack of some kind more than anything. And here is a country with 100 nuclear warheads, and their CIA is so inept that they're not able to tell whether the head terrorist in the world is sitting right in their living room. I wonder, has anybody asked the Pakistanis, how can we be assured that you're going to be taking care of these nuclear warheads if you're so ineffective?
CARLEThat's a great, great comment by the caller. I mean, security and safeguards of their nuclear material and people with the expertise has been an issue. We've -- obviously, with (word?) and others, we've had to deal with over the years, but the material protection, control and accountability of nuclear material and expertise is something. That's one of the reasons why it's in our best interest to continue to work with Pakistan.
IGNATIUSOthers on the panel may know more about this than I do, but I would just note that one program that the United States has had -- quiet program in the last decade is to work with the Pakistanis to put better safeguards on their materials, nuclear materials. We have control systems for our own nuclear weapons. We've tried to share that technology with the Pakistanis, so that the military, the professional military at the top of the system will have control. And I think people in our military feel that that program has been fairly effective.
REHMHere's an email from Anne, probably a question many people are wondering about. She says, "No one seems to be following the money. His wanted poster stated a reward of $25 million given to anyone giving information, leading to the capture of bin Laden. Who is going to be $25 million richer? No one seems to be asking the question." And you, gentlemen, are all smiling. Why is that? Bruce Hoffman?
HOFFMANWell, this is an -- at least, I think, from al-Qaida's perspective, a divinely ordained struggle, so that the money doesn't matter. And it was -- and you've seen in past historical terrorist instances, often rewards bore quite a lot of fruit. This is an incident -- a campaign that really hasn't had many people coming for money.
REHMBecause of loyalty to bin Laden?
HOFFMANWell, the personal oath of loyalty that I described, but also, in general, he has framed this in religious terms. And you're not going to violate God's will by accepting -- you know, cravenly accepting cash.
REHMDo you agree, Glenn?
CARLEI do. I mean, even like the broader point that most people commit espionage for personal reasons, not for money, some people, however, you know, want money. But, for most, it's a motivation that's much deeper. And, certainly, with terrorism, Islamic terrorism, it's -- theology is involved, too, which is deeper still, so money doesn't count that much.
CILLUFFOI would just say, share it with the nameless, faceless men and women inside our intelligence community and armed services. Probably about 25 million of which who played -- obviously, a joke -- played a significant role in this big, momentous day.
REHMDavid, last word.
IGNATIUSI think as the story is fully told over the next months and years, we'll learn that there were some key pieces in this puzzle. I hope some of those people get the dough.
REHMDavid Ignatius, Frank Cilluffo, Glenn Carle, Bruce Hoffman, thank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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