Wed. Aug 06, 2008
In the past several days, we’ve learned of two instances where it would appear the “safety” from “terror” that’s been “created” over the past seven years or so is largely illusory.
Case One: The bioterrorist in the anthrax attacks of 2001 was employed by the military. And, no, I’m not entirely basing that on the news of a suicide by a Fort Detrick scientist the feds were allegedly on the verge of charging. They had previously settled on another Fort Detrick scientist, Stephen Hatfill, as their primary “person of interest.” And ended up having to pay him $5.8 million in damages for publicizing that, as well as publicly declare that he was not a suspect.
So, could they be wrong about this guy? Sure. Some are claiming the evidence is largely circumstantial. He’s not around to defend himself anymore, and it is perfectly plausible that a weak personality could crack under the pressure of an investigation and take their own life.
But in an article about the investigation that I read a couple of weeks ago (and cannot find today), it was reported that this entire department of scientists were shown samples of the anthrax used in the attack, and some of them were reportedly stunned to see that they were nearly identical to very specialized samples of anthrax prepared by one of their peers at Fort Detrick. And clearly, at the cost of over $5.8 million, the investigation eventually has focused on this group.
There appears to be zero doubt that the anthrax used came from Fort Detrick, likely from someone disgruntled at the lack of priority given to bio-defense. Or, were anthrax letters part of plan to test a cure? “Anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and severely rattled the post-9/11 nation may have been part of an Army scientist’s warped plan to test his cure for the deadly toxin, officials said Friday.”
We may never know for sure. But we appear to have someone who used the attacks of 9/11 to press and further a pre-existing agenda. Shocking, eh?
Speaking of which, you might recall that in the early days of the anthrax analysis, it was reported that the samples used bentonite as an agent to keep the spores from clumping. And it was also reported that only Iraq was known to use bentonite in such a manner. Of course, we now know that no chem/bio-weapon stocks were found in Iraq, and there was no bentonite in the samples. And some journalists now have some pointed questions about those early reports.
So in those first weeks after 9/11 when we genuinely feared a second wave of attacks of some type, someone stepped up to fill the void, but not who we expected at all. Still, it was indeed terrorism, an attempt to kill innocents and generate fear in order to advance an agenda, but it now appears it was done in the American tradition of fine folks like Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph.
And it took us nearly eight years to get the still vague info that we know today. Eight years for the government to find a terrorist in their own employ. Who might be the guy.
Case Two: The intelligence service of an “ally” we’ve sent over $10 billion to fight extremists within their borders are actually helping those extremists attack us in Afghanistan.
American intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan’s powerful spy service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to United States government officials.
The conclusion was based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack, the officials said, providing the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat militants in the region.
The American officials also said there was new information showing that members of the Pakistani intelligence service were increasingly providing militants with details about the American campaign against them, in some cases allowing militants to avoid American missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Concerns about the role played by Pakistani intelligence not only has strained relations between the United States and Pakistan, a longtime ally, but also has fanned tensions between Pakistan and its archrival, India. Within days of the bombings, Indian officials accused the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, of helping to orchestrate the attack in Kabul, which killed 54, including an Indian defense attaché.NYTimes.com: Pakistanis Aided Attack in Kabul, U.S. Officials Say
In some ways, the ISI reminds me of the peak era of abuses by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s FBI was an institution unto itself, that outlived many presidencies. And we now know that it was at times way outside the law in its activities, and again, outside the control of the executive branch.
In Pakistan, the civilian government that took Musharaf’s place tried to rein in the ISI, by moving their control from one department to another. It lasted about a week:
Despite its great importance for U.S. interests in Afghanistan and the region, the failed, rather clumsy attempt by the Pakistani civilian government to rein in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and place it under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior has not received nearly as much comment as it should. Coming in the wake of the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul earlier this month, which was backed by elements within the ISI (detailed in the 7/28 TAC print edition), and the recent coordinated bombings in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, both the issuing and the reversal of the administrative order are particularly ominous. Having attempted to assert control and been rebuffed under pressure from the military, the civilian government has shown its limitations and exposed itself to a backlash from the same forces that are trying to foment disorder in Afghanistan and India. The inability of Gilani’s government to control the ISI is at the heart of the ongoing threat to the security of Afghanistan and the unreliability of Pakistan as an effective ally.Pakistan And The ISI
The ISI and their ties to the Taliban go back to the mid to late 1990’s, as the Taliban began to become a force within Afghanistan. Pakistan feared Indian meddling in Afghanistan could weaken them in their fight over Kashmir, creating a new front. So their means of “securing their rear” was to make the Taliban their “client,” and make sure they got the funding and arms they needed to consolidate power.
Bin Laden’s arrival in Afghanistan in 1996 had nothing to do with the Taliban or the ISI. In fact, at first Bin Laden was not sure the Taliban would allow him to stay when they took power. Only later did he make an alliance with Mullah Omar, and secure his base of operations.
And only after 9/11 did the ISI ever consider not supporting the Taliban. As it turns out, it was only a brief respite.
Now we have the Taliban and Al Qaeda well established in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Areas which the government of Pakistan has always said (and shown) it only has nominal “control.” And within these uncontrollable areas, an uncontrollable intelligence service is helping extremists in their efforts to attack us.
So when I hear John McCain talk about how we must restrain ourselves from attacking valid targets in those tribal areas because Pakistan is a “sovereign state,” I have to wonder if he’s been following the news lately.
The Bush administration and its allies are pressing Pakistan to end its support for Afghan insurgents linked to al Qaida, but Pakistani generals are unlikely to be swayed because they increasingly see their interests diverging from those of the United States, U.S. and foreign experts said.
The administration sought to ratchet up the pressure last month by sending top U.S. military and intelligence officials to Pakistan to confront officials there with intelligence linking Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence to the Taliban and other militant Islamist groups.
When that failed to produce the desired response, U.S. officials told news organizations about the visit, and then revealed that the intelligence included an intercepted communication between ISI officers and a pro-Taliban network that carried out a July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
“The fact that we’re reduced to trying to send messages to the Pakistanis by putting stories in (newspapers) tells you we don’t have any good options,” said a former senior intelligence official knowledgeable about South Asia. “It also suggests that the high-level, face-to-face contacts haven’t worked so far. The trouble is, these kinds of public threats are likely to backfire.”
The Americans also documented other support that ISI officers have been giving the Taliban and other militant groups, including advance warnings of U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region, said the State Department official and senior NATO defense official.
“There is good evidence that elements of the ISI have re-engaged with the Taliban,” said the senior NATO defense official.
Gilani and his delegation heard similar complaints in Washington, according to American and Pakistani officials. Pakistan Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told a television interviewer that Bush asked during a White House meeting, “Who is in control of ISI?”Why Pakistan is unlikely to crack down on Islamic militants
It appears to me it’s September 10th all over again. Al Qaeda, and their Taliban allies, with the occasional support of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, once again have a secure base from which they can plot and launch attacks against both the government of Afghanistan, and potentially, the US.