More Criticism of Mirandizing the Christmas Day Bomber

Yikes! Thanks to Paul Cassell for this lead:

Yesterday I expressed my concern about the decision to Mirandize the Christmas day bomber. Today’s Wall Street Journal has this excellent editorial forcefully criticizing the Administration’s decision to do so. Here’s an excerpt:

(…) As the facts are emerging, it appears that this was a mistake of the first order. Abdulmutallab admitted he was from al Qaeda and was speaking “openly.” But then he was given a break and given Miranda warnings, after which he apparently stopped giving useful information.

It is instructive to compare the solicitude for Abdulmutallab’s Miranda rights with this headline story in today’s news:  â€œReport: Al-Qaeda Aims to Hit U.S. with WMDs: Huge Attack is Top Strategic Goal, Not ‘Empty Rhetoric,’ Ex-CIA Official Says.” Would Abdulmutallab have given us useful leads to pursue in stopping such an attack had he been questioned further rather than Mirandized? Unfortunately, we will never know.

Please continue reading Volokh Conspiracy.

We need to make this Pakistan's war

Brookings Institution’s Bruce Riedel interviewed by Trudy Rubin — available as MP3 podcast or transcript. Riedel says that Pakistan “is the most dangerous country in the world today”:

Bruce Riedel: I actually wrote those lines for the first time ten years ago in a memo for then-President Clinton. I think Pakistan is the most dangerous country because all of the nightmares of the twenty-first century that should concern Americans come together in Pakistan in a unique way. This is a country with nuclear weapons. This is a county with a history of proliferating nuclear technology. This is a country that has fought four wars with its neighbor, and at least one of those wars went very close to becoming a nuclear war. This is a country that has been the host of numerous international terrorist organizations and is today the safe haven and stronghold of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. This is a country also awash in drugs, narcotics, and this is a country where the clash between reactionary Islamic extremism and democracy is being fought out literally in front of us. All of those issues come together in this one place like nowhere else in the world. That is why it is so important to Americans.

Here’s an excerpt of what is being learned from the British prosecution of the 2006 bombers:

TR: How dangerous is al Qaeda to us? As you know, some terrorism experts have begun to downplay its importance in Pakistan and globally there was a much-commented about article in The New Yorker recently by Lawrence Wright, talking about dissent within al Qaeda, especially amongst imprisoned leaders, and some experts argue that grassroots groups springing up in Europe are more significant than al Qaeda in the caves and mountains of the border areas of Pakistan. Is al Qaeda still the most dangerous group?

BR: According to our own intelligence community, and the British intelligence community, German intelligence community, and other Western intelligence communities, it is. And they have said that in public, not just this year but for the last several years. Larry Wright, who has written probably the seminal book about 9/11, has written some very insightful things about the arguments that are going on within the jihadist movement today. But he does not argue there, as far as I can tell, that the al Qaeda movement is not a threat anymore. I think of al Qaeda as being much like a multinational corporation that operates on a global stage. You have the headquarters in Pakistan with the CEO, Osama bin Laden. Then around the Islamic world it has various franchises, just like a McDonald’s or a Toyota has franchises. Some of those franchises at any one time are doing well and growing, for example, their franchise in North Africa, in Magrab, and their franchise in Libya. Others are not doing as well. Currently the one in Iraq is in a phase of retreat, and the al Qaeda franchise in Saudi Arabia has been badly damaged by the Saudi authorities. But all of these franchises in some way report back to the al Qaeda center. Do they take orders? Well, they take general instructions. We know this because they say they take general instructions. And then beyond these franchises we have cells, principally in Western Europe, but also in other parts of the world, small al Qaeda cells which are also taking instructions. The British, for example, say that every major terrorist operation foiled in the United Kingdom in the last five years was linked back to the al Qaeda center. We can all take great comfort from the fact that we have not been attacked inside the United States again since 9/11. But comfort should not lead to wishful thinking that the threat has gone away. I would point you to the trial that is going on in London right now with regard to the plot in August of 2006 to simultaneously blow up over the north Atlantic ten jumbo jets. That plot, had it succeeded, would have been worse than 9/11. More people would have died and we would not have known who did it because all the forensic evidence would be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. What we know is, the bomb worked. That is why Americans cannot take a soda on an airplane anymore. Second, we know that they had the martyrs ready to commit suicide, because we have their martyrdom videos, which have been introduced into court. Third, we know the flights that they wanted to attack because they were on their Blackberries. That was a serious attempt by al Qaeda to outdo 9/11. Thanks to British security and intelligence it was thwarted. It is a wake-up call to us all, that these guys are still plotting evil from that lair in Pakistan.

Riedel says the genesis of jihadi support stems from the conflict with India

BR: I think that is one of the most important things we can do. If you look at the itch that Pakistan has been scratching for the last thirty years that has produced this jihadist culture, it is all about India, and in the end it is all about Kashmir. The conflict in Kashmir is what drives the Pakistani army’s pursuit of supremacy within the country. The conflict in Kashmir is what has been at the heart of the ISI’s relationship with terrorist organizations. There is a unique opportunity here; for the first time in many years the battlefield in Kashmir is relatively quiet. India and Pakistan have begun negotiations about trying to improve their relationship, and they have made some important moves in that regard. The United States ought to, very quietly and very discreetly, be encouraging that process. We ought to be giving assurances to both New Delhi and Islamabad that if they continue down this process, the United States is right there with them and will help them in every way possible, economic assistance, diplomatic assistance, whatever it takes; it has to be done with discretion and reliability, quietly, but I think this is one of the great opportunities that the next president will have.

But the only policy prescription he offers is more foreign aid.

Terror is on the decline – sorry Obama, we are safer

James Taranto:

Did the liberation of Iraq make America less safe? Conventional wisdom says yes, but Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria begs to differ. He notes that U.S. government figures show big increases in terrorism …But Zakaria notes that a Canadian think tank, the Simon Fraser Institute, argues that that attacks in Iraq, a war zone, should not be included:

Including Iraq massively skews the analysis. In the NCTC and MIPT data, Iraq accounts for 80 percent of all deaths counted. But if you set aside the war there, terrorism has in fact gone way down over the past five years. …the U.S.-based IntelCenter published a study in mid-2007 that examined “significant” attacks launched by Al Qaeda over the past 10 years. It came to the conclusion that the number of Islamist attacks had declined 65 percent from a high point in 2004, and fatalities from such attacks had declined by 90 percent.

The Simon Fraser study notes that the decline in terrorism appears to be caused by many factors, among them successful counterterrorism operations in dozens of countries and infighting among terror groups. But the most significant, in the study’s view, is the “extraordinary drop in support for Islamist terror organizations in the Muslim world over the past five years.”

…An ABC/BBC poll in Afghanistan in 2007 showed support for the jihadist militants in the country to be 1 percent.

…With every new terrorist attack, public support for jihad falls. “This pattern is repeated in country after country in the Muslim world,” writes [study director Andrew] Mack. “Its strategic implications are critically important because historical evidence suggests that terrorist campaigns that lose public support will sooner or later be abandoned or defeated.”

Power Line’s John Hinderaker has a list of attacks on the U.S. and U.S. interests overseas starting in 1988 and, per Zakaria and Mack’s advice, omitting those in Afghanistan and Iraq. The list has no new entries since October 2003. One may debate how decisive the liberation of Iraq was in diminishing terrorism, but anyone who argues that it’s made us less safe ought to be laughed off stage.

Look at Hinderaker’s compilation — it will make you feel better, and safer too. John speculates on various reasons that anti-terror efforts may have been successful. We won’t really know until classified records become available to future historians — who will likely conclude that some is due to counter-terrorism efforts, some to self-inflicted damage, some to changes in Muslim attitudes.

The Airline Bomb Plot

One sometimes gets the feeling that our policy debates over national security and the journalism that travels with them float, as it were, at 30,000 feet above the reality of the threat on the ground.

Good analysis by Daniel Henninger:

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain brought their presidential campaigns to the Petraeus-Crocker hearings on Iraq this week. An Iraq-based reporter appearing on one of the cable networks in the evening said the hearings struck him as oddly decoupled from the daily reality of war for the Iraqi people and U.S. troops there. Yup, never hurts to pinch yourself hard on entering presidential campaign space right now.

The three candidates addressed Gen. David Petraeus in tones of high gravitas equal to the thin altitude of the American presidency. Sen. Obama colloquied with Gen. Petraeus about the status of al Qaeda in Iraq – asking whether the terrorist organization could “reconstitute itself” and said that he was looking for “an endpoint.”

Here’s another hypothetical: Would this conversation be different today if in August 2006 seven airliners had taken off from Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport, bound for the U.S. and Canada and each carrying about 250 passengers, and then blew up over the Atlantic Ocean?

It is a hypothetical because, instead of the explosions, British prosecutors this week presented their case against eight Muslim men arrested in August 2006 and charged with conspiring to board and blow up those planes.

The details emerging from that case are quite remarkable and will be summarized shortly. Pause to reflect on the ebb and flow of public debate that has occurred over how free societies should order themselves after two airliners full of passengers knocked down the World Trade Center Towers on Sept. 11 in 2001.

The view that 9/11 “changed everything” did not hold up under the weight of our politics. Divisions re-emerged between Democrats and Republicans, in office and on the streets. These fights reignited over the Patriot Act, Guantanamo and the warrantless wiretap bill (or “FISA” revision). These arguers stopped to stare momentarily at their televisions when Islamic terrorists committed mass murder in the 2004 Madrid train bombing and the 2005 London subway bombing.

Here in the U.S., our politics has spent much of the year unable to vote into law the wiretap bill, which is bogged down, incredibly, over giving retrospective legal immunity to telecom companies that helped the government monitor calls originating overseas. Even granting there are Fourth Amendment issues in play here, how is it that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cannot at least say that class-action lawsuits against these companies are simply wrong right now?

Philip Bobbitt, author of the just released and thought-provoking book, “Terror and Consent,” has written that court warrants are “a useful standard for surveillance designed to prove guilt, not to learn the identity of people who may be planning atrocities.” Planning atrocities is precisely the point.

“Atrocity” is a cruel and ugly word, but it has come to define the common parameters of the world we inhabit. It is entertaining to watch the candidates trying to convince the American people of their ability to be presidential. It would be more than nice to know, before one of them turns into a real president this November, what they will do – or more importantly, will never do – to stop what those eight jihadists sitting in the high-security Woolwich Crown Court in London planned for seven America-bound airliners over the Atlantic Ocean.

Why air travelers can't carry large quantities of liquids

Some of the technical facts of the gels/liquids threat is beginning to emerge in the U.K. trial of the eight jihadis:

Two thousand passengers would have died in the plot by eight fanatics working “in the name of Islam”, the jury was told.

It could have involved up to 18 suicide bombers. And they were almost ready to strike.

…Liquid explosives disguised with food colouring and mouthwash would be smuggled past security and on to the flights.

There they would be hooked up to homemade detonators powered by tiny camera batteries and set off to cause mid-air carnage, the court heard.

After the alleged plot was uncovered, in August 2006, the authorities banned passengers from carrying most liquids on board aircraft.

The main ingredient of the homemade bombs was said to be hydrogen peroxide, commonly used as hair bleach and easily available on the high street, mixed with other chemicals which the Daily Mail is not naming.

The plan was to drill small holes in the bottom of 500ml plastic bottles of Oasis and Lucozade and pour away the drinks, the jury heard.

Then the conspirators would use a syringe to inject the ready-mixed explosive liquid into the bottles. Prosecutor Peter Wright QC said the hole would be closed with glue to give the appearance of a “factory sealed” bottle.

Once on board the aircraft, the improvised bombs would be hooked up to a detonator disguised as a standard AA 1.5-volt battery, containing a substance known as HMTD – produced from a mixture of household and commercial ingredients which are freely available.

The detonator would be ignited using metal wire, a small bulb or the flash from a disposal camera, said Mr Wright.

He said improvised bombs using similar ingredients had been used in other terrorist attacks.

Blue-Eyed Jihadis Observed

April 4, 2008: The debate between left and right over whether “profiling” is an appropriate tool, is one of several aspects of the “War on Terror” where people [are] talking about something that is essentially a non-issue. The debate is welcomed by al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, since it diverts attention from more serious discussion of tactics and strategy.

More at Strategy Page

The Sunni-Shiite Terror Network

I’ve not read the referenced Obama speech — but I’ve found Amir Taheri to be a reliable source on Middle East and Iranian affairs.

The American presidential election campaign took a bizarre theological turn recently when Barack Obama accused John McCain of not being able to distinguish Sunnis from Shiites.

The exchange started when Sen. McCain suggested that the Islamic Republic in Iran, a Shiite power, may be helping al Qaeda, a Sunni outfit, in its murderous campaign in Iraq and elsewhere. Basing its position on received wisdom, the Obama camp implied that Sunnis and Shiites, divided as they are by deep doctrinal differences, could not come together to fight the United States and its allies.


Iraqi documents: listen to what Hamas says

Last week The Australian gave extensive coverage to some of the thousands of newly translated documents from the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein, which indicated a promiscuous and intense relationship between Saddam’s government and international terrorism.

Saddam was a great backer of Palestinian terrorism, including Hamas. The documents show that after the 9/11 attacks a Palestinian leader, presumably a Hamas leader, told the Iraqis that Hamas had 35 armed terror cells across the world, mingled with refugee populations, including in France, Sweden and Denmark.

…Other documents detail the Iraqis learning of the depth of Iranian involvement in Hamas. A report from August 1, 1998, reads: “An agent supplied us with information about a pact between (Hamas leader) Sheik Ahmad Yasin and the Iranian leadership. The most significant information was Iran’s support for the Hamas movement and the appropriating of $15 million a month, as well as supplying Hamas with commando teams to carry out operations abroad, and forming a new organisation named Hezbollah-Palestine to divert suspicion away from Hamas in case it carries out sensitive operations and assassinations.”

…As this column has previously assessed, Israel will eventually have to respond. I believe there will be a big Israeli campaign and this will convulse the Middle East. Because to really remove the rocket threat, Israel will have to take back control of the Gaza-Egypt border, establish military intelligence and response posts at least in some parts of Gaza, and possibly occupy some of what have been the rocket launch points in northern Gaza.

More from Greg Sheridan

Saddam, the terrorist’s friend

We get too little real journalism about these subjects and too much “churnalism”, in which a single sometimes misleading wire report is repeated by thousands of commentators while nobody bothers to read the source document.

The Federation of American Scientists has made available the just-released report by the Iraqi Perspectives Project, Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents. The report comprises five volumes, totaling some 200MB of PDF downloads. It is a formidable document to digest. Predictably no big media analysis has emerged so far — based on actually reading the report.

That said, reliable source Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian, has had a go, resulting in the best analysis I’ve come across so far. Best to read the entire article, half being devoted to an interview with visiting Israeli cabinet minister Isaac Herzog. Here’s just the last paragraphs on the captured documents report:

…the new report details a dizzying promiscuity in Saddam’s terrorist operations and support for terrorists in many parts of the world. Saddam tried to kill the wife of French president Francois Mitterrand. He targeted Western journalists directly.

One of the most wry and unconsciously amusing exchanges involves a complaint by Iraqi embassies that they cannot dispose of the vast quantities of weapons and explosives that they have transported in part by diplomatic pouch and accumulated across the globe. There are Iraqi terrorist training schools with dozens of non-Iraqi Arabs. There is support for Pakistani terror groups. An agent is sent to the Philippines to look for opportunities. There is a close relationship with Hamas, which boasts of its armed cells in France, Sweden and Denmark. There is a call for Iraqi authorities to find recruits willing to undertake suicide missions. There is the desire to kill Americans in different parts of the world. And all this comes from translated official Iraqi government documents.

The Bush administration, and its coalition allies in Britain and Australia, never, ever claimed that Iraq was responsible for 9/11.

They said something else entirely. The then US deputy secretary of state, Rich Armitage, said to me at the time of the Iraq invasion that Saddam’s connections with terrorists was “at the top of our concerns”.

That was just exactly where they should have been

The Iraqi Perspectives Project was originally referred to as “The Harmony Database” [which I first wrote about here in 2006]. It has taken three years to assemble some preliminary conclusions — I understand largely due to the severe shortage of Arabic linguists. A glimpse of the value of the work can be gleaned from the table of contents:

Executive Summary ES-l

Terror as an Instrument of State Power 1

Infrastructure for State Terrorism l

State Sponsorship of Suicide Operations 7

State Relationships with Terrorist Groups 13

Managing Relationships 13

Nurturing Organizational Relationships 15

Outreach Program 20

“Quid Pro Quo” 24

Iraq and Terrorism: Three Cases 27

The Abu aI-Abbas Case 27

Attacks on Humanitarian Organizations 30

Destabilizing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait 35

The Business of Terror 41

Venture Capitalists for Terrorists .41

The Terror “Business” Model of Saddam Hussein 42


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How Personal Income and CIA Interrogation Techniques are Alike

I wish I had written this essay. But unsurprisingly, it is prof. John Wixted’s work, and not to be missed. It is a bit lengthy, because the topic is subtle — unlike typical press coverage:

The debate over waterboarding never ceases to amaze me. A sensible debate would ask this question:

What is the harshest method of interrogation that can be used against high-level al Qaeda detainees in a time of crisis?

That’s an excellent question, and phrasing it that way helps to avoid the moral exhibitionism that generally accompanies any discussion about this issue. However, to almost everyone (especially in the mainstream media), the real question is this:

Does waterboarding amount to torture?

This is a silly question that elicits copious amounts of holier-than-thou finger pointing.

Read the whole thing.

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