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Entries in al Qaeda (23)

Friday
Mar082013

Republicans Decry Obama’s Decision to Try Al Qaeda Suspects in Civilian Court

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration’s decision to try Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law in federal court in New York City instead of a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay has reignited a debate over how to deal with suspected terrorists.

It also recalls one of the largest failures of President Obama’s presidency: His unfulfilled promise as a candidate in 2008 to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

As Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, pleaded not guilty to conspiring to kill Americans in New York Federal Court Friday, Republicans in Congress were criticizing the Obama administration for prosecuting a suspected al Qaeda terrorist in a civilian court just about a mile from the 9/11 memorial built over Ground Zero.

“Abu Ghaith has sworn to kill Americans and he likely possesses information that could prevent harm to America and its allies,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote in a statement. “He is an enemy combatant and should be held in military custody.”

The White House claimed there was a “broad consensus” across the federal government, from the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, to prosecute OBL’s son-in-law in civilian court.

“The intelligence community agrees that the best way to protect our national security interests is to prosecute Abu Ghaith in an Article III court,” Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday.

“We’re able to question him as a part of the regular process in detaining individuals like this, but we’re also able to put him through Article III courts to ensure that he’s held accountable for his crimes,” Earnest added. “This is somebody who’s going to be held accountable for his crimes and … that will be done in accordance with the laws and values of this country, and it will be done so in a pretty efficient way.”

Still, McConnell said that the administration’s justification “makes little sense” and the intelligence community “deserve[s] the same access to intelligence and methods of defeating the enemy available to the team that found Bin Laden.”

“At Guantanamo, [Abu Ghaith] could be held as a detainee and fulsomely and continuously interrogated without having to overcome the objections of his civilian lawyers,” McConnell said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said civilian court “is not the appropriate venue” and the administration “should treat enemy combatants like the enemy.”

“Al Qaeda leaders captured on the battlefield should not be brought to the United States to stand trial,” Rogers said. “The president needs to send any captured al Qaeda members to Guantanamo.”

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, who opposes closing Guantanamo and previously fought against efforts by the Obama administration to prosecute 9/11 suspects in New York City, said the speaker “agrees” with Rogers.

New York Republican Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., said he preferred that Abu Ghaith face trial in a military tribunal rather than civilian court, and he questioned what type of standard Friday’s hearing could set.

“While a federal court trial of Abu Ghaith in lower Manhattan would not present the same security issues as a trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I strongly believe as a matter of policy that military tribunals are the proper venue for enemy combatants,” said King, a member of the House committees on Intelligence and Homeland Security. “If the Abu Ghaith trial does go forward in federal court, it must not be used as a precedent for future enemy combatants who should be tried at Guantanamo.”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not respond to requests for comment Friday, nor did New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler or Nydia Velazquez, the lawmakers representing downtown Manhattan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

Al Qaeda Took Advantage of Libyan Protest, CIA Chief Says

Cherie Cullen/Released(WASHINGTON) -- The attack that killed four Americans in the Libyan consulate began as a spontaneous protest against the film “The Innocence of Muslims,” but Islamic militants who may have links to al Qaeda used the opportunity to launch an attack, CIA Director David Petreaus told the House Intelligence Committee Friday according to one lawmaker who attended a closed-door briefing.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intel committee, said Petraeus laid out “a chronological order exactly what we felt happened, how it happened, and where we’re going in the future.”

“In the Benghazi area, in the beginning we feel that it was spontaneous -- the protest -- because it went on for two or three hours, which is very relevant because if it was something that was planned, then they could have come and attacked right away,” Ruppersberger, D-Md., said following the hour-long briefing by Petraeus. “At this point it looks as if there was a spontaneous situation that occurred and that as a result of that, the extreme groups that were probably connected to al Qaeda took advantage of that situation and then the attack started.”

Petraeus did not speak to reporters on his way in or out of the briefing. When he left the meeting, the former four-star general was trailed by about a dozen intelligence officials and a couple of Capitol police officers.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were also briefed Friday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs Admiral James Winnefeld. But senators emerging from that private briefing reported that they believed the attack in Libya was premeditated.

“It was a terrorist attack organized and carried out by terrorists,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the committee said, adding that about 15 “al Qaeda or radical Islamists” were armed with rocket propelled grenades and other lethal weapons.

“This was a calculated act of terror on the part of a small group of jihadists, not a mob that somehow attacked and sacked our embassy,” McCain said. “People don’t go to demonstrate and carry RPGs and automatic weapons.”

“I don’t think any of us are clear yet about who carried out these attacks in Libya, but from all that I’ve heard the murderous attacks on Libya that resulted in the death of four Americans were not accidental,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., added. “They were not just some kind of coincidental protests to this film, this anti-Muslim film. They were a well-planned and professional terrorist attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.”

Friday morning, President Obama notified congressional leaders that he had deployed troops “equipped for combat” to Libya and Yemen to defend U.S. citizens and property, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution.

“It’s just common sense that in view of the situation that we’re looking at right now, we will see enhanced security anywhere across the world where we see the protests,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said after attending the briefing with Petraeus. “We’ve seen how quickly this one began, and how quickly it turned violent and I think that’s something that we have to be aware of and deal with.”

Rep. Pete King, another Republican on the House Intel committee and the chairman of the Homeland Security panel, said that regardless of whether al Qaeda coordinated the attack on the consulate in Libya, “we are very concerned that this could spread” to other countries across the region.

“We’re talking about a very hostile area of the world in many cases, a very turbulent part of the world where there are many enemy forces, very disparate forces, many types of jihadists,” King, R-N.Y., said. “Like Libya there’s many militias that are still there, heavily armed, they do have an al Qaeda presence. You put all that together, it’s very combustible, and it can be many countries besides Libya and Egypt.”

King also criticized the Obama administration’s policies and echoed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by saying Obama has sent “a very mixed message, a confusing message” that has “weakened our position in the Middle East.”

“President Obama’s policies since the summer of 2009 I think have not been helpful to the United States in the Middle East. It’s weakened our position in the Middle East,” he said. “You combine that with the way [President Obama] treats [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu in Israel and the pulling troops out of Iraq without getting a status of forces agreement [with] the apologies. You put it all together and I think that what you saw this week is in many ways a logical result of all of that.”

Across Capitol Hill, McCain was slightly more blunt in his criticism of President Obama.

“Everything is unraveling in that part of the world because the United States is weak,” McCain said. “This president does not understand the importance of American leadership.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May212012

Congressman Calls for FBI Probe of Al Qaeda Leaks

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House committee on Homeland Security, wrote FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III on Monday to formally request that the bureau launch a comprehensive investigation into leaks of detailed and highly classified information about an international anti-terror operation involving al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula earlier this month.

In the letter to Mueller, King deduces that “the leak would have to have emanated from a small universe,” considering “this intelligence matter was handled in the most restricted manner.” In a breach of this magnitude, King demanded that the investigation “must encompass everyone who had access to this vital information.”

Last week, Mueller testified before Congress that the FBI is already investigating leaks to the news media about the recently disrupted plot by al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, also known as AQAP, to smuggle a bomb designed to be concealed in underwear onto a U.S. bound jet.

Reached by phone Monday, King told ABC News that Congress was left in the dark about the operation, which he called “almost unprecedented,” but he suggested that would help narrow the possibilities of who could have disclosed the classified information.

“Nobody in Congress knew about it, so we start off with that,” King, R-N.Y., told ABC News Monday morning. “Even the Speaker of the House [John Boehner] didn’t know about it. It’s almost unprecedented. Even with [Osama] bin Laden, my understanding is certain members of Congress were told about it months in advance, the killing of bin Laden, and I know the speaker is generally briefed on critical intelligence on a regular basis…but in this case no one was briefed.”

“I have no idea where it’s coming from,” he confessed. “It had to be somebody who knew the entire situation, and again it’s a very small universe.”

The leaks revealed that the CIA, along with Britain’s MI-6 secret intelligence service and Saudi Arabian intelligence assets, apparently used a double agent to disrupt the plot by infiltrating the organization, posing as a suicide bomber, and then delivering the bomb to intelligence agents instead of carrying the device onto a U.S.-bound plane.

In his letter Monday, King also requested that the scope of the FBI’s inquiry encompass “the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, federal law enforcement and the White House, including the National Security staff.” He also asks the FBI to investigate whether the lives of “a unique intelligence source” and others may have been jeopardized, to examine whether the operation had to be aborted before its potential was maximized or whether critical intelligence relationships have been damaged as a result of the leaks.

“This [mole] was such a really unprecedented penetration – a very rare penetration of al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” King said. “This really was criminal, and I use the term criminal, but this really was. To put the source at risk, to force the aborting of the operation, to preventing us getting more information than we would have gotten, but also to create real distress with partners that we were involved with in this operation.”

“Ultimately there could have been a way found to get him out…to create a situation where he doesn’t necessarily have to blow his cover,” he added. “Certainly the allies using him and others had not decided at all to admit that they had a source in there. You could have had cover stories, you could have had something done…there could have been ways to have extricated that person without giving up his identity.”

The FBI’s ongoing investigation is likely being run by the Justice Department’s counterespionage section and agents from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is also conducting a separate review with the DNI’s general counsel to see if the leaks originated in any of the 16 agencies that DNI James Clapper oversees.

King said he is unlikely to schedule his own hearings at the Homeland Security committee, but he also sits on the Intelligence committee, where he predicted the first hearings could occur.

“[House Intelligence chairman Mike Rogers] is very concerned about this and because of the security level, because of the classifications, it’s right now I think more appropriate that the intelligence committee do it,” King said. “It’s right now I think more appropriate that the intelligence committee do it. I don’t want to be getting in their way, I don’t want to be duplicating hearings for the sake of duplication here.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr292012

John Brennan: Al Qaeda Remains Focused on Planes

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said on “This Week” Sunday morning that the United States remains “especially vigilant” as the country marks the one year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. But he also cautioned that a threat remains from al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“On a day that marks the one year anniversary of bin Laden being brought to justice, we are especially vigilant,” Brennan said. “At this time we don’t see any active plot that is underway.”

I asked Brennan about the FBI warning this week that there are new efforts to target Western airports by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“They have demonstrated both the intent as well as the capability to try to carry out an attack,” Brennan said. “They are continuing to try to, again, carry out an attack against U.S. persons inside of Yemen as well as against the homeland.”

Brennan also confirmed that Yemeni al Qaeda offshoot remains focused on targeting planes.

“Aviation has been a target, has been a traditional target of al Qaeda,” Brennan said. ” We need to maintain our vigilance, particularly overseas at these last points of departure.”

Brennan noted that al Qaeda’s capability has been “degraded significantly” and that bin Laden’s death has made a “tremendous difference.”

“It’s taken away the founding leader of that organization who was … a symbol of al Qaeda’s sort of murderous agenda worldwide,” Brennan said. “And so, that has had I think a profound impact on the organization.”

Brennan declined to address—what some Republicans have said this week—was the politicization of the killing of bin Laden by President Obama.

“I don’t do politics. I don’t do the campaign. I am not a Democrat or Republican. I’m a counterterrorism adviser to the president,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb282012

WH to Give Itself Maximum Flexibility on Terrorist Custody Law

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House announced Tuesday night that the Obama administration intends to interpret with rather wide latitude a controversial section of the National Defense Authorization Act that requires law enforcement to place into military custody any foreign al Qaeda suspects caught on U.S. soil.

Based on the list of reasons for which the administration can grant itself waivers, thus keeping the alleged terrorist in law enforcement -- and not Pentagon -- hands, the White House is choosing to give itself maximum flexibility in dealing with any future Christmas Day bombers.

The interpretation states that “until an individual is formally designated a covered person, federal law enforcement agencies should follow their standard practices. The procedures also make clear that, even after an individual is determined to be a covered person, a transfer to military custody may only occur once it is clear that it will not disrupt ongoing law enforcement and intelligence operations.”

The waivers can be granted for a broad array of reasons, including if placing the suspect in military custody will impede counterterrorism cooperation or could interfere with efforts to secure an individual’s cooperation or confession. A waiver can also be granted if putting the suspect in military custody could impact a foreign government being willing to extradite or transfer suspects to the U.S.; if the suspect is a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. arrested for conduct taking place in this country; or if the transfer to military custody would interfere with efforts to conduct joint trials with co-defendants about whom the decision has already been made to keep them in law enforcement custody or who are ineligible for military custody.

Moreover, a lot of people will have to sign off on putting a suspect in military custody -- the attorney general makes the final determination but the secretary of state, secretary of defense, secretary of Homeland Security, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and director of National Intelligence all have to sign off as well.  This action has no bearing on the controversial part of the NDAA that reaffirms the government’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of being involved in a terrorist plot, a power courts have ruled was given to the federal government under the Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda in 2001.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct202011

White House Takes Credit for Gadhafi, Bin Laden

Libyan National Transitional Council fighters hold what they claim to be the gold-plated gun of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Kadhafi at the site where the latter was allegedly captured in the coastal Libyan city of Sirte on October 20, 2011. PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images) (WASHINGTON) -- Asked about whether the death of Gadhafi vindicates his foreign policy, President Obama -- at a joint appearance with the prime minister of Norway -- said “we did what we set out to do in Libya,” and the success of the operation “underscores the capacity of us to work together as an international community.”

Norway contributed to the NATO mission in Libya by providing pilots and humanitarian aid. “Increasingly wherever we have the possibility of working with outstanding partners like Norway I think we’re going to be even more effective,” the president said. “On a whole range of international issues, there is enormous capacity, and we are able to leverage greater resources, more effectiveness, at lower cost when we’re able to work together.”

The president emphasized the internationality of the NATO effort, and that’s part of what a senior White House official tells ABC News is the way Obama looks at foreign policy.

“What we’re demonstrating is you can move to a more targeted use of U.S. force and be more successful in achieving our objectives,” a senior White House official tells ABC News. This means a “smaller footprint, a more targeted use of force. It means less of a cost to taxpayers and troops, and also clearly results in our ability to take care of our interests.”

“With al Qaeda, we’re going after them in a very targeted way,” the senior White House official says. “With Libya, we identified the unique capabilities the U.S. has to go after Gadhafi,” and then NATO took the lead. The U.S. role from that point on was to be the “glue” of the operation “keeping the coalition together,” providing “targeting, intelligence, refueling, and command and control.”

“Bin Laden, Awlaki, Gadhafi have all met their demise in some fashion because of decisions the president made” utilizing this foreign policy view, the senior administration official said.

Part of this is pursuing foreign policy based on the different aspirations and abilities in different countries. “We’ve clearly learned that democracy is made by the people in these countries,” the senior White House official said. “Libyans marched into Tripoli. They own their future. They don’t expect the U.S. to do it for them.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep302011

Obama: Al-Awlaki Killing a ‘Major Blow to Al Qaeda’

The White House(FORT MYER, Va.) -- In the first White House reaction to the killing of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, President Obama said Friday that Awlaki’s death “is a major blow to al Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate.”

“Make no mistake, this is further proof that al Qaeda and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world,” Obama said of the news that Awlaki was killed in Yemen overnight. “Working with Yemen and our other allies, we will be determined, we will be deliberate, we will be relentless, we will be resolute in our commitment to destroy terrorist networks that aim to kill Americans.”

The U.S.-born jihadist rose to prominence as chief of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and was instrumental in motivating several jihadist attacks on the United States, including the Fort Hood Massacre, the attempted Christmas Day bombing and the foiled Times Square bomb plot.

“He took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans,” Obama said at the “Change of Office” ceremony for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Fort Myer in Virginia.

The Obama administration has had Awlaki in its sights for some time, and initially thought it might kill him on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In April 2010, the American became the first U.S. citizen ever placed on a White House-approved list for targeted killing.

The president praised the intelligence community for this success and the efforts of Yemen and its security forces, which have worked closely with the United States.

“[Awlaki's] hateful ideology and targeting of innocent civilians have been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims and peoples of all faiths. He has met his demise because the government and the people of Yemen have joined the international community in a common effort against al Qaeda,” Obama said.

Awlaki now joins a long list of terrorists killed under Obama’s watch, including most notably Osama bin Laden.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Sep102011

The Politics of September 11th: From Agreement to Discord

Thomas E. Franklin/The Record(NEW YORK) -- Ten years ago, in the days, weeks and months after Sept. 11, 2001, the country and government came together. Democrats and Republicans worked together to ease a scared nation, but also out of fear that not doing so would have them labeled unpatriotic. Bipartisan approval for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reigned. You rarely heard the word "deficit," and money was poured into not only those wars, but to build the Department of Homeland Security.

Now, the government is bitterly divided. What happened?

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, took to the Senate floor Thursday to call for a return to the bipartisanship and cooperation after Sept. 11.

"What we were able to achieve then in terms of common purpose and effective collective action provides us with a model for action that we in Washington must strive to emulate and even if just in part, even if just sporadically to re-create," Schumer said.

On issues like the $20 billion aid package to New York, the controversial Patriot Act, or approval for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, both sides of the aisle gave a green light.

"To his credit, President Bush did not for one second think about the electoral map or political implication of supporting New York. He asked what we needed and he came through," Schumer said. "If, God forbid, another 9/11-like attack were to happen tomorrow, would our national political system respond with the same unity, non-recrimination, common purpose and effective policy action in the way that it did just ten years ago? Or are our politics now so petty, fanatically ideological, polarized and partisan that we would instead descend into blame and brinkmanship, and direct our fire inward, and fail to muster the collective will to act in the interests of the American people?"

In what she calls a "backhanded compliment to bipartisanship," Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute says the American public has given high marks to both George W. Bush and Barack Obama on the topic of terrorism.

"What's absolutely clear is in a time so critical of Washington, the public has given high marks to the presidents of both parties—George W. Bush for making the country safe and they gave Barack Obama high marks for keeping the country safe," Bowman said, who recently authored a study "The War on Terror: Ten Years of Polls on American Attitudes".

With the economy being the number one issue on Americans' minds, Bowman says terrorism has receded significantly as an area of concern.

"I think terrorism wouldn't recede as an issue if they didn't feel the government made them safe," Bowman said.

But what about the dynamic between the president and Congress?

James Lindsay, senior vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, worked at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. He says the attacks of Sept. 11 "triggered a dynamic as old as the American Republic."

"When the country is under attack and facing a national crisis, power gravitates away from Congress to the president, partly because Americans believe that during times of crisis strong leadership is needed," Lindsay told ABC News. "Also, during times of crisis it's politically safe to rally behind the president. They fear any critique of the White House is taken as an unpatriotic act. That rally around the flag gives enormous power to the president and that power persists as long as the crisis persists."

"As the country returns to more normal times, or if the public is concerned with the failure of the president's policies, power drifts back to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. It's a shifting pendulum of power," said Lindsay, adding that as Americans' concerns have shifted from terrorism to the economy "in a decade we've gone from the age of terror to the age of austerity."

And this age of austerity is seeing some of the more conservative members of Congress question a department they originally supported.

Formed in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security merged 22 federal agencies—among them the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

DHS is now one of the federal government's largest, with an annual budget more than $50 billion and the department employs over 200,000 people.

Although its size was questioned from day one, people asked how it could possibly be efficient. Republicans now feel more free to object its size, especially since it's now under a Democratic administration.

The Government Accountability Office released a report last week assessing DHS. At a Senate committee hearing Wednesday GAO Comptroller Eugene Dodaro praised the department, but added there are still "gaps and weaknesses" that DHS needs to address.

"Has it worked? Has it made us safer as a nation?," asked Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Collins also criticized the "intrusive" screenings that some elderly and young passengers have to endure and expressed concern that people who present a threat to the country get through.

Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of DHS, lectures at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and is the national security and foreign policy columnist for the Boston Globe. She said DHS has changed for the better over the past ten years in terms of prioritizing and interacting with the public and Congress. She points to the example of the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, in May 2010. While the bomber was called inept and inefficient, Kayyem says it was DHS and other agencies like FBI and local responders that prevented a tragedy.

"The Times Square bomber spent very little time training in Pakistan because he was concerned by the length of time spent in the country being scrutinized by immigration officials. He didn't buy more fertilizer and explosive materials because there is monitoring of large purchases of fertilizer. And the 'See Something, Say Something' campaign caused a bystander to realize something was happening," Kayyem said.

Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council of Foreign Relations, added, "I think it takes a fairly brave lawmaker to publicly advocate spending less on counterterrorism. The easy way to go is to blame the expenditures as inefficient or wasting money. The tougher argument is to say, no, we're just doing too much. It exposes political risk if there is a successful attack."

In the weeks following 9/11, Americans were for the most part united that justice against an invisible enemy with no country or uniform needed to be served. Both Democrats and Republicans voted overwhelmingly for intervention to crush Al Qaeda and paralyze and dismantle the terrorist network that wanted to destroy Americans.

Within a few years, Afghanistan was largely forgotten and support for the Iraq war, which always had less unanimous support than Afghanistan publicly but began with widespread bipartisan congressional support, dwindled after it was discovered that Iraq had not been harboring weapons of mass destruction under Saddam Hussein and that there was not a link between Hussein and al Qaeda.

During the election of 2008, says Biddle, when candidate Barack Obama promised to focus on Afghanistan, not Iraq, "people re-discovered the war after seven years" and "people didn't like what they saw.

"When Afghanistan became Obama's war and the Democratic Party owned it, which took place when the president put in place a substantial series of initiatives in waging the war which had not been the policy of George W. Bush, then a lot of Republican started to verbalize they were uncomfortable with the war," he continued. "Republican support for the war in Afghanistan has been very soft since Obama's election."

While many Republicans remain committed to both Afghanistan and steadfast that there not be more cuts to defense spending, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., recently threatened to quit the special deficit super committee if there were more cuts to defense. Biddle explained that those who weren't deeply committed had privately complained that Afghanistan was a "fool's errand." Eventually those private complaints became public. Now several freshman House members openly express concern about continued engagement in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, on both side of the aisle, congressional leaders are echoing Schumer in calling for unity.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, also called on congress to remember the unity of those days. "There were not Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, red states or blue states. We were Americans," Reid said. "We need the bipartisanship of Washington."

In a video message, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, marked the tenth anniversary by praising the troops and encouraging congress to come together as they did after the attacks.

"Let's try to recapture that spirit of 9/11 to work together to solve the hard problems that face us: a mountain of debt, high unemployment, and the threats we face from radical Islam," said Graham. "There is nothing we can't accomplish if we work together."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Sep042011

Cousin of Fort Hood Shooter Speaks Out Against Violent Extremism

Ben Sklar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Nearly two years after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, Nader Hasan still does not know what drove his cousin, former Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, to commit the mass shooting at Fort Hood in November 2009.

That day forever changed the families of the 13 killed, as well as his own.

"We lost our cousin to terrorists. Or at least terrorist rhetoric," Nader Hasan said. "We really don't know what happened. We're still trying to figure that out. We're still processing it."

"I mean from the beginning, I think the shock, the pause—you're just unable to believe," Nader Hasan said. "You still have to keep asking yourself and pinching yourself, is this really what happened?"

On a sunny afternoon on Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist based at Fort Hood, opened fired on colleagues who were preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, firing more than 100 shots in 10 minutes.

Nader Hasan said when he first heard of the shooting, he thought his cousin was a victim, only to learn later that he was the lone gunman.

"We had no idea he was the shooter until getting home and the news just started to play out," Nader Hasan said. "I was on the phone and I'm staring at the TV and now seeing some of these images come up."

He said the man accused of killing 12 soldiers and one civilian that day does not resemble the cousin he grew up with in suburban Virginia, where they were born and raised.

"I think more than anything, I was just talking to myself saying, wait, this can't be him," Nader Hasan said. "He is the last person any of us would have thought. He was never violent ever. He wouldn't kill a bug in the house."

The rampage has left Hasan's family with questions about what changed Nidal Hasan into a killer.

"Almost two years now, since my cousin, I believe, was stolen by some psychotic combination of whatever might have happened, but we lost him," Nader Hasan said. "The Nidal that we knew before Fort Hood is not Nidal from Fort Hood forward."

"People would like to say it's terrorism. People would like to say it's just this Muslim," Nader Hasan said. "And I tell you, the worst thing he did was relate Islam to his act, his horrific act. I mean it's unthinkable."

Hasan's family has remained virtually silent since the days immediately following the shooting.

But now, Nader Hasan is coming forward to launch the Nawal Foundation, an organization named for his mother that he hopes can give a voice to moderate Muslims, and be a force for greater action to oppose "any violence in the name of Islam," and to ensure a "patriotic commitment to the protection of America."

A new Pew Research Center poll released last week showed that nearly half of Muslim Americans do not believe Muslim leaders in the U.S. have done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.

That sentiment, in part, is why Hasan's family has chosen to come forward to speak directly against violence and extremism, saying "the silence is deafening from the moderate voice."

"Our moderate voice needs to speak now," Hasan says. "No violence in the name of our religion ever."

Nader Hasan said he and his cousin Nidal had a typical American upbringing in suburban Virginia, from birthday parties to playing sports to Santa at Christmas.

They did not speak Arabic, and were not very religious growing up.

"Perfect American dream, growing up, being American, being a kid," Nader Hasan said.

Nidal Hasan joined the Army out of high school, and only turned to religion following the death of his mother in 2001. "That was his mom's wish. Know God," Nader Hasan said. "And so he started praying more and becoming more pious. And then all of a sudden, four months later, September 11th happens."

"Now that you might see that as your first challenge as to how much do you believe in your faith," Nader Hasan added. "But who knows what was going on in his head."

Later as an Army psychiatrist, Nidal Hasan was assigned to Walter Reed Medical Center to counsel returning combat soldiers.

His family said their traumatic stories deeply affected him. And as he became more religious and isolated from his family, he began to question the war on terror as a war on his faith—dreading his own deployment.

He even gave a PowerPoint presentation to military colleagues which seemed to solidify his evolution of beliefs, writing on one slide, "It's getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims."

"There was this issue of choosing God and country," Nader Hasan said. "And I think that's where his sickness really started to morph."

But Nader Hasan said he is not certain whether his cousin was directly influenced by al Qaeda to commit murder against his fellow soldiers, despite reported email exchanges between Nidal Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki, the al Qaeda terrorist leader based in Yemen.

While a U.S. Senate investigation later called Nidal Hasan a "ticking time bomb," Nader Hasan said there were few immediate signs that his cousin was a threat. But if there had been, he would have immediately reported him. "Absolutely. No question. No question," Hasan said of whether he would have turned Nidal in to authorities. "That's why we had the FBI come to our house right away" after the shooting. "If there was anybody else out there that we could help, we were happy to." Nidal Hasan was shot three times during the shooting rampage and is now paralyzed from the chest down. He has since been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder—and could face the death penalty if convicted. His trial is set to begin in March 2012.

Nader Hasan does not know whether his cousin will pursue a temporary insanity defense, and said he leaves the final verdict up to the military jury.

"He committed a crime. I don't think there's any question as to who the shooter was. And the question is still why," Hasan said. "He will have his day in court, and he'll be tried by a jury of his peers and they'll make, you know, the ultimate determination."

Some of the Fort Hood families who attended Nidal Hasan's preliminary hearings in 2010 said he showed no signs of remorse. Nader Hasan said he hopes that remorse will come, and that the families impacted have "been in our prayers."

Nader Hasan is hoping the work of his new foundation can be a positive step to spreading a message of non-violence, and his belief that Muslim Americans can be both devoutly Muslim and defiantly patriotic.

"I think the terrorists have really an effective poison that they're putting out there. There seems to be this issue in the community, or at least the terrorists are trying to make it an issue of false choice of choosing God over country," Hasan said. "You can be fully Muslim, you can be fully American and there's no conflict."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug102011

Bin Laden Movie: Did the White House Go Too Far?

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- New York Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House committee on Homeland Security, is calling for an investigation into reports that the Obama Administration has granted Sony Pictures high-level access for a film on the covert mission that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

King writes that he is concerned “regarding ongoing leaks of classified information regarding sensitive military operations” and warns that close cooperation on the Hollywood action-thriller could lead to further leaks that could undermine the success of future operations.

“Leaks of classified information regarding the bin Laden raid have already resulted, according to a June 15, 2011 article in the Washington Post, in the arrests of Pakistanis who were believed by local authorities to have assisted the CIA with the May 1st raid,” King, (R-New York), writes in a letter addressed to Defense Department Inspector General Gordon Heddell and CIA Inspector General David Buckley. “Further participation by JSOC and the Agency in making a film about the raid is bound to increase such leaks, and undermine these organizations’ hard-won reputations as “quiet professionals” -- reputations important for their continued operational success.  And, the success of these organizations is vital to our continued homeland security.”

The film is to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for directing The Hurt Locker -- which won seven Oscars in 2010, including best picture.

“This film project is only in the script development phase, and DoD is providing assistance with script research, which is something we commonly do for established filmmakers," said Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan. "Until there is a script to review, and a request for equipment or other DoD support, there is no formal agreement for DoD support.

"When people working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the Department of Defense request assistance, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct. We do not discuss classified information.”

The Bin Laden project is currently untitled but is expected to be released in October of 2012 -- just a month before the election.

Here is the full text of the letter sent to the inspectors general:

August 9, 2011

The Honorable Gordon S. Heddell
Inspector General
Department of Defense
400 Army Navy Drive
Arlington, VA  22202-4704

The Honorable David Buckley
Inspector General
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, DC  20505

Dear Inspectors General Heddell and Buckley:

I write to express concern regarding ongoing leaks of classified information regarding sensitive military operations.  As reported in a New York Times column on August 6, 2011, Administration officials may have provided filmmakers with details of the raid that successfully killed Usama bin Laden (UBL).  According to that report, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. and movie director Kathryn Bigelow received “top-level access to the most classified mission in history” to produce a movie about the raid, due for release in October 2012.  Reportedly, a Hollywood filmmaker also attended a CIA ceremony in honor of the team that carried out the raid.

The Administration’s first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government.  In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.

Special Operations Command’s Admiral Eric Olson stated that the May 1st raid “was successful because nobody talked about it before, and if we want to preserve this capability nobody better talk about it after,” and that his operators’ “15 minutes of fame lasted about 14 minutes too long.  They want to get back in the shadows.”  Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen stated that “It is time to stop talking,” as “We have gotten to a point where we are close to jeopardizing the precision capability that we have, and we can’t afford to do that.  This fight isn’t over.”  Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that “Too many people in too many places are talking too much about this operation, and when so much detail is available it makes that both more difficult and riskier” for such missions in the future.

Leaks of classified information regarding the bin Laden raid have already resulted, according to a June 15, 2011 article in the Washington Post, in the arrests of Pakistanis who were believed by local authorities to have assisted the CIA with the May 1st raid.  Further participation by JSOC and the Agency in making a film about the raid is bound to increase such leaks, and undermine these organizations’ hard-won reputations as “quiet professionals” − reputations important for their continued operational success.  And, the success of these organizations is vital to our continued homeland security.

Therefore, I request an investigation and classified briefing regarding this matter from the Defense Department’s and CIA’s Inspectors General, including but not limited to the following:

  • What consultations, if any, occurred between members of the Executive Office of the President, and Department of Defense and/or CIA officials, regarding the advisability of providing Hollywood executives with access to covert military operators and clandestine CIA officers to discuss the UBL raid?
  • Will a copy of this film be submitted to the military and CIA for pre-publication review, to determine if special operations tactics, techniques and procedures, or Agency intelligence sources and methods, would be revealed by its release?
  • How was the attendance of filmmakers at a meeting with special operators and Agency officers at CIA Headquarters balanced against those officers’ duties to maintain their covers?  How will cover concerns be addressed going forward?
  • What steps did the Administration take to ensure that no special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures were compromised during those meetings?  
  • To the extent possible to determine, how many human intelligence sources and how many Agency intelligence methods have been compromised due to leaks about the May 1st raid?  What effects have these compromises had on the CIA’s collection capabilities?  Will Agency participation in a film about the bin Laden raid add to or exacerbate the effects of these compromises?


If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Matthew McCabe, Senior Counsel for the Committee on Homeland Security, at (202) 226-8417.  Thank you for your time and consideration of this request.

Sincerely,
PETER T. KING
Chairman


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