Debating the leads that led to…bin Laden

Normally at least once per week, or if all matters are urgent, pressing, or in the “have to get done” basket perhaps once a fortnight (two weeks time) we do our blog crawl and come to a consensus on who we enjoyed the most and as a tribute to the writer and hopefully an enhancement for you we try to either contact the site for permission to reprint with permission or if time is getting away we’ll write and always reference where other information comes from.

Tuesday we feel we hit the “mother load.” There wasn’t time for consensus building insofar as this writing simply was the best. We originally stumbled on this great article which was noted, hat-tipped, and a sidebar feature over at Michelle Malkin’s blog.

It is from RedState.com and was written by Dan McLaughlin and entitled: Inconvenient Facts about the Takedown of Osama bin Laden.

One good rule of thumb if you are arguing politics is that if your argument requires one to prove that something never happens or somebody does nothing good or right, you have started off with two strikes against you. Never is a hard thing to prove and an easy one to disprove.

In the real world, bad ideas work sometimes, bad people do good things sometimes, brilliant plans fail sometimes, and time and chance happen to us all. This is, in fact, why the wise conservative recognizes the wisdom of crowds and the benefit of tradition: things must be tried many times by many people to see what works most, and what works in one situation may not work in another.

Thus, while we can fairly debate the respective amount of credit given to President Obama and his senior advisors for taking out Osama bin Laden, there is no useful cause served in arguing that the Administration should get no credit. Many national leaders far worse than Obama have done something right in office. In the long run, Obama’s political success will stand or fall on his record as a whole.

With those two cautions in mind, we must pity the dilemma of the anti-war Left in facing the enormously popular and inarguably successful takedown of bin Laden.

However the anti-war Left spent most of the Bush years shrieking to high heaven about Bush shredding the Constitution, staining the integrity of the nation, ad nauseam. Everything he did in pursuing the War on Terror had to be the worst thing ever, and every effort made to argue that you were beyond the pale of civilization if you approved of the Iraq War, the detention of unlawful combatants at Guantanamo Bay, or various secret CIA facilities, the use of “enhanced” coercive interrogation techniques or the “assassination” of terrorists.

This is the politics of outrage, the idea that you win arguments by being the angriest man in the room, that rather than argue that policies are not worth the costs and tradeoffs that come with every successful policy, they were inarguably wrong in every particular.

Consider the waterboarding debate. As it turns out, the CIA only waterboarded three men (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri), leading to the question of why the Left made such a colossal stink about it in the first place. Certainly, given those facts, nobody on the Right has argued that waterboarding or any other form of coercive interrogation should be the only or even the first recourse in interrogation.

 But critics of waterboarding have mostly long since painted themselves into the corner of insisting that the tradeoffs involved don’t need to be debated, because coercive interrogation never yields any information of any use in any situation.

This is poor ground to make a stand on.

Initial reports on the extensive detective work that led to cornering bin Laden have indicated a couple of things that are terribly inconvenient for these arguments. First, it appears that the initial lead that allowed bin Laden to be tracked down was the name of his courier (he used one or more couriers so he could stay off cell phones and the internet, a lesson he learned after a criminal trial revealed that our intelligence services were tracking him by cell phone), and that the nom de guerre of the courier was provided by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi to CIA interrogators.

Both men had been held at precisely the sorts of “secret prisons” the Left denounced, and both subjected to coercive interrogation. The Left, being unable to accept even the possibility that waterboarding might have contributed anything ever to anyone, has sprung into full damage-control mode, but inadvertently made many of conservatives’ points for us.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003, with al-Libbi following suit in 2005. A U.S. official tells the Associated Press reports that Mohammed gave up the courier’s nom de guerre, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, while in one of the CIA’s brutal “black site” prisons. According to the Washington Post, al-Libbi confirmed the alias as well.

From what we know so far, that’s about all waterboarding yielded for the hunt for al-Kuwaiti.

The senior administration official told reporters on Sunday that “for years, we were unable to identify his true name or his location.” It took until “four years ago” – 2007, then – for intelligence officials to learn al-Kuwaiti’s real name. By then, President Bush had ceased waterboarding and shuttered the black sites, moving the detainees within them, including Mohammed and al-Libbi, to Guantanamo Bay.

Once again, Spencer Ackerman has to concede basically every other piece of the Left’s argument – against GTMO, against CIA interrogation, against secret CIA prisons – in order to protect the Holy Grail of arguing that waterboarding never, ever, ever works.

It gets worse for Ackerman’s side:

It took more traditional sleuthing to get al-Kuwaiti’s real name, according to the Times. That meant putting more operatives on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan to track him, yielding a partial name. Once they had that, they unleashed “one of their greatest investigative tools”: the National Security Agency’s surveillance net. The NSA monitored email and phone traffic until they had his full name: Shaikh Abu Ahmed.

Last summer, the Associated Press reports, al-Kuwaiti/Ahmed made a fatal mistake: he called someone under NSA surveillance. After showing up on the grid, CIA operatives on the ground were able to hunt him.

You will note the absence of any reference to the NSA getting a search warrant for this. Once again, after all the huffing and puffing and lawsuits about NSA surveillance, it turns out that it, too, played a part in tracking down Public Enemy #1.

 

 A must read!!

About J.Paul

Academia, Constitution, Musicianship, all around Caucasian male, straight, and professes Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life. Guitars -- Classical, Acoustic, A/E, Strat, a real bassist at heart, Les Paul Standard bass.
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1 Response to Debating the leads that led to…bin Laden

  1. Pingback: Leave the waterboard at home, use your eyes | ikners.com

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