Top Intel Official: Al Qaeda Worked on WMD in Iran


New evidence of the bin Laden-Iran connection.

Weekly Standard, by Stephen F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn, July 12, 2016:

Al Qaeda operatives based in Iran worked on chemical and biological weapons, according to a letter written to Osama bin Laden that is described in a new book by a top former U.S. intelligence official.

The letter was captured by a U.S. military sensitive site exploitation team during the raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad headquarters in May 2011. It is described in Field of Fight, out Tuesday from Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“One letter to bin Laden reveals that al Qaeda was working on chemical and biological weapons in Iran,” Flynn writes.

Flynn’s claim, if true, significantly advances what we know about al Qaeda’s activity in Iran. The book was cleared by the intelligence community’s classification review process. And U.S. intelligence sources familiar with the bin Laden documents tell us the disclosure on al Qaeda’s WMD work is accurate.

Flynn notes that only a small subset of bin Laden’s files have been released to the public. The “Defense Intelligence Agency’s numerous summaries and analyses of the files remain classified,” too, Flynn writes. “But even the public peek gives us considerable insight into the capabilities of this very dangerous global organization.”

It’s not just al Qaeda.

“There’s a lot of information on Iran in the files and computer discs captured at the Pakistan hideout of Osama bin Laden,” Flynn writes in the introduction. The authors note that the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda “has always been strained” and “[s]ometimes bin Laden himself would erupt angrily at the Iranians.” Previously released documents and other evidence show that al Qaeda kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in order to force a hostage exchange and bin Laden was very concerned about the Iranians’ ability to track his family members.

And yet the book makes clear that Flynn believes there is much more to the al Qaeda-Iran relationship than the public has been told. And that’s not an accident. Obama administration “censors have been busy,” Flynn writes, blocking the release of the bin Laden documents to the public and, in some cases, to analysts inside the U.S. intelligence community. “Some of it—a tiny fraction—has been declassified and released, but the bulk of it is still under official seal. Those of us who have read bin Laden’s material know how important it is…”

Not surprisingly, Obama administration officials bristle at Flynn’s characterization of their lack of transparency and lack of urgency on jihadists and their state sponsors. “Mike Flynn, in true Kremlin form, has been peddling these baseless conspiracy theories for years. Anyone who thinks Iran was or is in bed with al Qaeda doesn’t know much about either,” an Obama administration official told THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

It’s an odd line of attack, given the fact that the Obama administration has repeatedly accused Iran of directly aiding al Qaeda. The Treasury and State Departments publicly accused the Iranian regime of allowing al Qaeda to operate inside Iran in: July 2011, December 2011, February 2012,July 2012,October 2012, May 2013, January 2014, February 2014, April 2014, and August 2014. In addition, in congressional testimony in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship as a “marriage of convenience.”

Asked about the administration’s own repeated statements pointing to the Iranian regime’s deal with al Qaeda, the administration official who dismissed Flynn’s claim as a “baseless conspiracy” theory declined to comment further.

The Flynn/Ledeen claim about al Qaeda’s WMD work in Iran comes with an interesting wrinkle. The authors preface their disclosure of al Qaeda’s work on “chemical and biological weapons in Iran” by suggesting that the revelation was included in documents already public.

But the only document released to date that seems to touch on the subject is a March 28, 2007, letter to an al Qaeda operative known as “Hafiz Sultan.” The letter, which discussed the possibility of Iran-based al Qaeda operatives using chlorine gas on Kurdish leaders and includes a likely reference to Atiyah ‘Abd-al-Rahman, was released by the administration via the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in May 2012. President Obama’s Treasury Department has claimed that Rahman was appointed by Osama bin Laden “to serve as al Qaeda’s emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials.” It is not, however, addressed to bin Laden and it does not include a reference to biological weapons.

And while the U.S. Treasury and State Department have repeatedly sanctioned al Qaeda’s operatives inside Iran and offered rewards for information on their activities, as noted, statements from Treasury and the State Department do not mention al Qaeda’s “chemical and biological weapons” work inside Iran.

The takeaway: It does not appear that the al Qaeda document referenced by Flynn has been released by the U.S. government.

Flynn and others who have seen the documents say there are more explosive revelations in the bin Laden files kept from the public. Those already released give us a hint. One document, released in 2015, is a letter presumably written by Osama bin Laden to the “Honorable brother Karim.” The recipient of the October 18, 2007, missive, “Karim,” was likely an al Qaeda veteran known Abu Ayyub al Masri, who led al Qaeda in the Iraq (AQI) at the time.

Bin Laden chastised the AQI leader for threatening to attack Iran. The al Qaeda master offered a number of reasons why this didn’t make sense. “You did not consult with us on that serious issue that affects the general welfare of all of us,” bin Laden wrote. “We expected you would consult with us for these important matters, for as you are aware, Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication, as well as the matter of hostages.”

That language from bin Laden sounds a lot like the language the Obama administration used in July 2011, when a statement from the U.S. Treasury noted that the network in Iran “serves as the core pipeline through which Al Qaeda moves money, facilitators and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia.”

David Cohen, who was then a top Treasury official and is now the number two official at the CIA, told us back then: “There is an agreement between the Iranian government and al Qaeda to allow this network to operate. There’s no dispute in the intelligence community on this.”

Why, then, is the Obama administration attempting to dismiss the cooperative relationship between Iran and al Qaeda as a “baseless conspiracy?” Good question.

And it’s one that releasing the rest of the documents could help answer.

Note: Flynn’s co-author Michael Ledeen is a colleague of Thomas Joscelyn at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Obama Did Not Ask for an Intel Brief the Day After the Benghazi Attack

 (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

And other revelations from the House Select Committee’s report.

Weekly Standard, by Stephen F. Hayes, June 28, 2016:

Among the many revelations that will emerge from the voluminous majority report of the Benghazi Select Committee when it is released Tuesday is this one: Barack Obama skipped his daily intelligence briefing one day after the Benghazi attacks on September 11, 2012. The president’s briefer handed a written copy of the presidential daily briefing to a White House usher and then briefed Jack Lew, who was then serving as White House chief of staff. But Obama, who sometimes avails himself of the oral briefing that is offered along the written intelligence product, did not ask for such a briefing the day after the attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya.

That disclosure came during the Benghazi committee’s transcribed interview with the executive coordinator of Obama’s presidential daily briefing (or PDB, for short), a veteran intelligence officer who rose through the ranks in Army intelligence and then the Defense Intelligence Agency before serving as the president’s top briefer. It is buried deep in the committee’s report, in Appendix H—a 14-page examination of how that briefer came to include an assessment in the PDB that the Benghazi attacks were likely a planned attack and not a protest gone awry. It’s not unusual for Obama to skip his oral briefing, but his decision to pass on the PDB on September 12, 2012, will no doubt generate additional questions.

The disclosure also sheds some additional light on the president’s engagement during and after the attacks—an area that has remained something of a black hole throughout previous Benghazi investigations. The White House has provided little detail on Obama’s activities throughout the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath, refusing to answer to questions from journalists about the president’s whereabouts and actively working to keep information from investigators with the Select Committee. During the interview with the president’s briefer, a lawyer from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who sat in on the session, twice ended exchanges between committee staff and the briefer.

The first time, Obama’s briefer was describing in general terms how Obama asks questions during his oral briefings:

Executive Coordinator: If he has questions—usually the only questions he usually asks—

Lawyer: We’re not going to talk about what the President said or your conversations with him.

The second time, a committee staffer asked about what information was briefed to the White House chief of staff from the original situation report prepared by the CIA:

Committee staffer: Okay. And with Mr. Lew, did you talk about this SITREP?

Lawyer: We’re not going to discuss what specific information was provided to any White House staff in any PDB.

The appendix explores a fascinating intra-intelligence community dispute over language that appeared in that PDB, which the Select Committee calls “the very first written piece produced by CIA analysts regarding the Benghazi attacks.”

The dispute centered on this line: “…the presence of armed assailants from the outset suggests this was an intentional assault and not the escalation of a peaceful protest.” That assessment would prove accurate—the Benghazi attack was an intentional, planned assault and was not the escalation of a peaceful protest, because no such protest took place. But that conclusion did not come from the work product prepared by CIA analysts in the early morning hours of September 12, 2012. Rather, it was a line added by the executive coordinator herself.

The executive coordinator testified to the committee that she made the call in part based on her “gut feeling” that the attacks were too sophisticated to have been spontaneous. The executive coordinator told investigators that she spoke to others on the PDB team and they agree with her assessment. She said she would never include such an assessment based solely on intuition and she testified that others on her team spoke with individuals on the ground and that this information helped shape her views. The CIA analyst who prepared the report that the executive coordinator rewrote to include in the PDB, however, “was pretty convinced that this was a spontaneous attack, that it was, you know, as a result of this confluence of events – the 9/11 anniversary, the video being released, the protest in Cairo,” the executive coordinator testified.

CIA officials interviewed by the committee testified that the inclusion of this “bottom line” was highly inappropriate and highly unusual. The executive coordinator, however, told the committee that while the intensity of the dispute with the CIA analysts was unusual, such judgment calls were not uncommon as she and her team prepared PDBs for executive branch officials.


Gowdy: Obama Administration Was More Worried About Libyans’ Feelings Than Benghazi Consulate

The Terrorists Freed by Obama

The Obama administration in recent days has proclaimed a “milestone” in its efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after achieving its long-held goal of reducing the remaining population to fewer than 100 detainees. With the expedited release this month of 14 detainees, the total now stands at 93.

This is nothing to celebrate.

In reducing these numbers, the White House has freed dangerous terrorists and set aside military and intelligence assessments warning about the risks of doing so. The Obama administration has deceived recipient countries about the threats posed by the jihadists they’ve accepted. And President Obama has repeatedly misled the American people about Guantanamo, the detainees held there, and the consequences of releasing them.

On Jan. 6, as part of the Obama administration’s accelerated Guantanamo process, Mahmmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef was transferred to Ghana, along with another detainee named Khalid Mohammed Salih al Dhuby. Ghana’s government portrayed the deal as an act of “humanitarian assistance,” likening the Yemeni men to nonthreatening refugees from Rwanda and Syria, noting that they “were detained in Guantanamo but have been cleared of any involvement in terrorist activities, and are being released.”

That description isn’t true for either of the men. Mr. Atef, in particular, is a cause for concern. Long before his transfer, the intelligence analysts at Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) assessed him as a “high risk” and “likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” (The JTF-GTMO threat assessments of 760 Guantanamo detainees, many written in 2008, were posted online in 2011 by WikiLeaks.) It is easy to understand the analysts’ worry about Mr. Atef. He was, they said, “a fighter in Usama bin Laden’s former 55th Arab Brigade and is an admitted member of the Taliban.” He trained at al Farouq, the infamous al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, “participated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces, and continues to demonstrate his support of UBL and extremism.”

Most ominously, the report warns that he “has threatened to kill US citizens on multiple occasions including a specific threat to cut their throats upon release.”

The obvious question: Why did officials in Ghana claim that Mr. Atef had been “cleared”? Perhaps because that is what the Obama administration led them to believe. Jojo Bruce-Quansah, the information minister at Ghana’s embassy in Washington, D.C., told us that the U.S. government provided assurances that Mr. Atef was “never involved in terrorism” and presented little risk. “If that assurance was not there,” he said, there is “no way” his government “would have taken the detainees.”

How does the White House square the intelligence assessment of Mr. Atef with the assurances the administration gave Ghana? Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the National Security Council, wouldn’t address that question directly, instead telling us that Mr. Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force, which included officials from six government agencies, approved him for transfer “nearly six years ago.” Mr. Caggins declined to address the damning JTF-GTMO assessment.

But there is another problem with Mr. Caggins’s explanation. The president’s Guantanamo task force, which finished its work in January 2010, didn’t clear either Mr. Atef or Mr. Dhuby of involvement in terrorist activities, nor did the task force recommend their release.

The Obama administration is understandably reluctant to be forthcoming about the risks associated with closing Guantanamo—because the risks are significant. If the two detainees released to Ghana, or any of the 10 Yemeni men sent from Guantanamo to Oman on Thursday, return to waging jihad, they will hardly be alone among their former fellow detainees. According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 196 ex-detainees are now confirmed as, or suspected of, having returned to the fight; 122 of these recidivists are currently at-large.

Mr. Obama has failed in his effort to shut Guantanamo, in part, because Congress has blocked efforts to move the detainees to the U.S. mainland. For now, the president simply keeps shipping detainees elsewhere, reiterating excuses for emptying Guantanamo that are entirely without merit. To counter the White’s House’s inaccurate claims, let us review some basic facts:

• President Obama inherited a population of high-risk detainees.

In its leaked threat assessments, JTF-GTMO gauged the threat posed by each detainee, based on his intent and capability, and then divided the population into three risk categories: low, medium and high.

By the time Mr. Obama took office in January 2009, 240 detainees remained at Guantanamo. But nearly all of the low-risk detainees and most of the medium-risk ones already had been transferred or released. Of the detainees left, the joint task force deemed approximately 180 (or 75%) to be high risk. In other words: If released, they were “likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” Fifty-eight (or 24%) were considered medium risk because they “may” pose a threat. Just two of the detainees (1%) were low risk.

Today, 93 detainees are held at the facility. At least 83 of them—almost 90%—are high risk, according to the JTF-GTMO reports.

• President Obama’s own task force didn’t find any innocent goat herders or charity workers in Guantanamo.

Upon taking office, Mr. Obama created a panel to re-evaluate the detainees. The findings of the Guantanamo Review Task Force, which completed its work in January 2010, were broadly consistent with those of JTF-GTMO. The task force grouped the 240 detainees as of January 2009 into one of five categories: “Leaders, operatives, and facilitators involved in terrorist plots against U.S. targets” (10% of the detainees); “Others with significant organization roles within al-Qaida or associated terrorist organizations” (20%); “Taliban leaders and members of anti-Coalition militia groups” (10%); “Low-level foreign fighters” (55%); and “Miscellaneous others” (5%).

It is important to note that just because a detainee was designated “low-level” doesn’t mean he posed little threat. “Low-level” fighters carry out suicide attacks, or they can graduate to more important roles. JTF-GTMO deemed many “low-level” fighters to be “high risk” for this reason.

It is often reported that a detainee has been “cleared for release,” implying that he is no longer thought to be a threat. This is not true. Mr. Obama’s task force did not recommend that a single detainee be freed. Nor did the task force “clear” any detainees of wrongdoing. Instead, the task force used the phrase “approved for transfer,” meaning “release from confinement subject to appropriate security measures.” This key distinction is often lost.

The task force also placed 30 Yemeni detainees in “conditional detention,” meaning they were “approved for transfer” under certain circumstances, but not back to their home country unless the security situation there dramatically improved. Both Mr. Atef and Mr. Dhuby were placed in this “conditional detention” category. They were not supposed to be outright “released,” as Ghana claimed. Mr. Obama’s task force envisioned that some sort of security assurances would be implemented in whichever country ultimately accepted the pair—procedures that often fail on the rare occasions that they are actually put in place.

• Detainees transferred by the Obama administration have gone back into the fight, and some have become senior al Qaeda leaders.

In many cases, the Obama administration relies on foreign governments to keep tabs on jihadists who are transferred. But the rising number of recidivists shows that, in practice, this is nearly impossible. As noted above, the intelligence community acknowledges that 196 ex-detainees are confirmed or suspected recidivists; that number is almost certain to rise as we learn more about detainees’ activities after being freed.

One notable example: In July 2010, Ibrahim al Qosi, a high-risk detainee who had served Osama bin Laden in a variety of roles, accepted a favorable plea agreement from military prosecutors. Two years later, he was transferred to his home country of Sudan. By 2014 he had joined al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has repeatedly tried to strike the U.S. Last month AQAP revealed that Mr. Qosi has become one of its senior leaders.

Most of the Guantanamo recidivists were freed by the Bush administration. But by transferring Mr. Qosi and other high-risk detainees, Mr. Obama is repeating his predecessor’s mistakes. Under President Bush, dozens of high-risk detainees were transferred, including Said Ali al-Shihri, who helped establish AQAP in early 2009. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2013. Mr. Qosi has effectively taken his place.

Guantanamo is not a “recruitment brochure” for jihadists.

President Obama has repeatedly attempted to justify the transfers by describing Guantanamo as a major recruiting tool for Islamic State and al Qaeda. “The existence of Guantanamo,” the president claimed in 2009, “likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” At his year-end news conference in December, Mr. Obama called the prison a “key magnet” for jihadist recruitment. His administration has not offered any evidence to support this assertion. A careful review of jihadist propaganda reveals that it is simply not true.

We reviewed more than 200 videos produced by Islamic State and al Qaeda since 2014 and failed to find a single one that focused on Guantanamo. The 12 extant issues of Dabiq, Islamic State’s English-language magazine, contain only four references to Guantanamo. None of these mentions it in the context of recruiting. On the occasions that Inspire, al Qaeda’s English-language magazine, has mentioned Guantanamo, it has done so mainly to note that some of the group’s most senior leaders were once held there. If anything, Inspire highlights the dangers of Mr. Obama’s policy. Guantanamo has held far more terrorists than it ever created.

Mr. Obama’s obfuscation is not limited to his specious claim about Guantanamo’s importance for jihadist recruitment. In an interview last month with Yahoo News, the president said he expected that “a handful” of detainees would return to the fight once freed. “The bottom line,” he said, “is that the strategic gains we make by closing Guantanamo will outweigh, you know, those low-level individuals who, you know, have been released so far.”

As the numbers from the Director of National Intelligence and the examples above make clear, that’s simply not true. Nearly 200 former detainees have returned to jihad or are suspected of having done so, and they include senior leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In a quest to burnish his record by fulfilling a campaign promise to close Guantanamo, President Obama is courting a dangerous legacy.

Mr. Hayes is a senior writer for the Weekly Standard. Mr. Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Lying About Gitmo

Weekly Standard, by Stephen F. Hayes, Dec.28, 2015:

Let’s begin with the conclusion: Barack Obama is releasing dangerous terrorists against the recommendations of military and intelligence professionals, he’s doing so at a time when the threat level from radical Islamists is elevated, and he is lying about it. He is lying about how many jihadists he has released and lying about their backgrounds, all part of his effort to empty the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.

We write this knowing the accusation is a strong one and that the word lying will offend the sensibilities of the establishment media. There is an unwritten rule that requires euphemizing lies with gentler descriptions, especially when talking about the president of the United States. There is a veritable thesaurus of verbal politeness one can deploy: deceiving, dissembling, misleading, prevaricating, being duplicitous, evasive, fallacious, mendacious, dishonest, disingenuous, specious, spurious, untruthful.

Not this time. The president is lying.

The facts: Ibrahim al Qosi was a senior al Qaeda operative and a close associate of Osama bin Laden. An 11-page classified assessment of Qosi from U.S. military and intelligence professionals on Joint Task Force Guantánamo was made public by WikiLeaks. From that assessment: “Detainee is an admitted al Qaeda operative and one of Usama bin Laden’s (UBL) most trusted associates and veteran bodyguard.” And: “Following a 1994 assassination attempt against UBL, UBL chose detainee to be one of approximately ten individuals assigned to his protection detail.” And: “Detainee has been very forthright regarding his commitment to UBL and al Qaeda. He explains his commitment to UBL as a religious duty to defend Islam and fulfill his obligation to jihad.” The assessment concluded: “Detainee is assessed to be a HIGH risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies.”

Barack Obama approved Qosi’s transfer to Sudan in July 2012.

Earlier this month, Qosi resurfaced as a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, appearing in a propaganda video for the group, which administration and intelligence officials have consistently identified as a direct threat to the United States. He joins a growing list of terrorists once held in American detention facilities and now leading the global jihadist movement and plotting attacks against the United States—a list that includes Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

In an interview broadcast December 14, Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News, asked Obama about Qosi and Guantánamo.

Obama reiterated his call to close Guantánamo and repeated his disputed claim that jihadists use Guantánamo as a major recruiting tool.

Then he lied:

“Keep in mind that between myself and the Bush administration hundreds of people have been released and the recidivism rate—we anticipate,” Obama said. “We assume that there are going to be—out of four, five, six hundred people that get released—a handful of them are going to be embittered and still engaging in anti-U.S. activities and trying to link up potentially with their old organizations.”

A total of 653 detainees have been released. Of those, 196 are confirmed (117) or suspected (79) of returning to jihadist activity. That’s not a “handful.” It’s almost a third. The president knows this. The numbers come from the man he chose as the nation’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Military and intelligence officials who study the global jihadist movement tell The Weekly Standard that Clapper’s assessment undoubtedly understates the recidivism rate, given the uneven commitment to tracking former jihadists by host countries and the lag times between release and reintegration.

The president continued. And he lied again:

“The bottom line is that the strategic gains we make by closing Guantánamo will outweigh, you know, those low-level individuals who, you know, have been released so far.”

There’s scant evidence to support the president’s assertion about “strategic gains” associated with the closure of Guantánamo. But it’s a speculative claim, impossible to disprove. That’s not true of his claim that those released from Guantánamo “so far” have been “low-level individuals.”

That’s demonstrably false.

President Obama himself approved the exchange of the so-called Taliban Five, all senior leaders, for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Not one member of the Taliban Five can be considered “low-level.” Indeed, all five were senior Taliban commanders judged “high risks” to the United States and its allies by Joint Task Force Guantánamo. All five worked with al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks. U.S. intelligence officials suspect that one or more of them has already reconnected with jihadist brethren and may be assisting the Taliban’s fight. When U.S. intelligence officials asked a foreign intelligence service, likely the Saudis, to rank more than 100 detainees by threat level, Youssef Mohammed al Shihri, transferred in 2007, ranked fourth. Other released detainees fought alongside Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, played senior roles in al Qaeda’s financial front groups, and led al Qaeda affiliates. And, of course, the Guantánamo recidivist who prompted the question, Ibrahim al Qosi, was “one of Usama bin Laden’s closest associates.”

Obama has also downplayed the threats from Guantánamo releasees in other ways. He describes the detainees as “embittered,” as if the hatred that inspires them grows from their time in Guantánamo rather than their devotion to a murderous cause. Instead of rejoining the war, the recidivists are merely “trying to link up with their old organizations.” Perhaps most bizarre is his description of the process he’s using to determine which detainees can be transferred or set free. “The judgment that we’re continually making is: Are there individuals who are significantly more dangerous than the people who are already out there who are fighting? What do they add? Do they have special skills? Do they have special knowledge that ends up making a significant threat to the United States?”

Those are the criteria? Detainees can be released if the White House determines that they are no more dangerous than, say, the leaders of ISIS, AQAP, Boko Haram, Jabhat al Nusra, the Haqqani network, the Khorasan group? If this is actually the way the administration evaluates potential releases, it would explain why so many veteran jihadists have been freed. It’s a process that prioritizes emptying the facility over the security of the country.

Obama’s comments on Guantánamo come in the middle of a concerted White House public relations campaign to convince the American people that the president is redoubling efforts to abate the threat from radical Islam (which the administration persists in calling “violent extremism”). In the space of two weeks, Obama delivered an Oval Office address on ISIS, traveled to the Pentagon for a meeting and photo-op on the military campaign in Iraq and Syria, and paid a visit to the National Counterterrorism Center for a briefing and remarks to reporters. The president didn’t announce any significant changes to his strategy. But with his approval on handling terrorism at just 34 percent, the lowest level of his presidency, Obama has been eager to demonstrate he’s paying attention to the issue.

It’s a political solution to a national security problem. And the entire exercise has been revealed as a fraud by the president’s dishonesty on Guantánamo, which conceals a policy that will increase the very threats he’d have us believe he’s now taking seriously.

We would think all of this might be newsworthy: The president of the United States is releasing dangerous terrorists, and he’s lying about it. And yet none of the country’s leading newspapers or broadcast networks has reported Obama’s comments. If you get your news exclusively from theNew York Times and the Washington Post, or from ABC, CBS, and NBC, you have no idea what the president said about Guantánamo. And you certainly don’t know what he said was untrue.

Not a peep from the legion of self-styled fact-checkers, either. PolitiFact scrutinizes seemingly every guttural noise that emanates from Donald Trump but cannot find the time to assess specious claims from the president on the most pressing issue of the day.

So the president believes, not unreasonably, that he can stack lie upon lie with impunity. Workplace violence. Isolated extremist. One-off attack. Decimated. On the run. Jayvee. Contained. And on it goes.

Three days after Obama’s interview with Yahoo, the New York Times published an article on Guantánamo. The top of the article broke news: The administration is planning to accelerate the pace of detainee transfers, with as many as 17 coming before the end of January. The rest of the piece amounted to a long complaint about the lack of media access to the facility and those who run it. And what about Obama’s lies?

Not a single word.

Also see:


The Benghazi Report – An ongoing intelligence failure

WELL.v20-14.2014-12-15.Hayes-Josc.NewscomBY STEPHEN F. HAYES AND THOMAS JOSCELYN:

After a long day on November 13, 2013, Speaker of the House John Boehner walked down the marble hallways of the Longworth House Office Building to the personal office of Representative Devin Nunes for a drink, a cigarette, and maybe a brief reprieve.

But Boehner’s visit was not a social call. He was there to see three CIA officers who had fought in Benghazi, Libya. Their identities were unknown to all but a small group of U.S. government officials with high-level security clearances, and the details of their harrowing stories were unknown to virtually everyone who was not a colleague or relative.

And the fact that the meeting was taking place at all was unknown to the man who, under different circumstances, might have been expected to host it. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was not invited.

Rogers was sick of Benghazi. Some of his Republican colleagues had spun themselves into a frenzy of conspiracy theorizing, publicly making wild claims that had no basis in fact or hinting at dark conspiracies that had the president of the United States willfully and eagerly arming its enemies. Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, long the Republican face of Benghazi investigations, accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of giving a “stand-down” order to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Representative Louie Gohmert claimed that Senator John McCain deserved some of the blame for Benghazi because McCain, like Barack Obama, had supported opposition forces in Libya. Normally responsible Republicans pretended that Hillary Clinton’s famous “what difference at this point does it make” line was not so much a tone-deaf question about how the attacks happened, which deserved the criticism it earned, but a declaration of indifference that the attacks happened, which was absurd. Rogers complained about these excesses regularly to his staff and colleagues.

This frustration, however, wasn’t the reason Boehner and Nunes cut him out of the meeting with CIA officers. They shared his frustration, as it happened.

Their concern was deeper. Rogers had long been reluctant to commit more time and resources to investigating Benghazi. At a meeting of intelligence committee Republicans in early 2013, just four months after the attacks, Rogers laid out his priorities for the new Congress. Not only was Benghazi not on that list, according to three sources in the meeting, he declared to the members that the issue was in the past and that they wouldn’t be devoting significant time and resources to investigating it. Whatever failures there had been in Benghazi, he explained, they had little to do with the intelligence community, and his intelligence committee would therefore have little to do with investigating them.

In the months that followed, more troubling details about the Benghazi story emerged in the media. Among the most damaging: Internal emails made clear that top Obama administration officials had misled the country about the administration’s role in the flawed “Benghazi talking points” that Susan Rice had used in her Sunday television appearances following the attacks, and that former acting CIA director Michael Morell had misled Congress about the same. Other reports made clear that intelligence officials on the ground in Benghazi had reported almost immediately that the assault was a terrorist attack involving jihadists with links to al Qaeda—information that was removed from the materials used to prepare administration officials for their public discussion of the attacks. A top White House adviser wrote an email suggesting that the administration affix blame for the attacks on a YouTube video.

The revelations even roused the establishment media from their Benghazi torpor and generated extraordinarily hostile questioning of White House press secretary Jay Carney by reporters who had trusted his claims of administration noninvolvement.

None of this convinced Rogers to make Benghazi a priority—a fact that frustrated many of the committee’s members. Boehner received a steady stream of visits and phone calls from House members who complained that Rogers wasn’t doing his job. In all, seven members of the intelligence committee took their concerns directly to the speaker or his top aides. Boehner’s presence at the secret meeting in Nunes’s office demonstrated that he shared those concerns long before he decided to impanel a select committee to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the Benghazi attacks. And what happened to the CIA officers as they attempted to share their story with congressional oversight committees suggests that those concerns were well founded.

As lawmakers headed home for Thanksgiving two weeks ago, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a report concluding that there were no intelligence failures related to the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi and otherwise bolstering claims by the administration and its defenders that the controversy surrounding the attacks and their aftermath was rooted more in the imaginations of critics than in reality.

For many of those who had been following the story closely, the report was bizarre and troubling. Key events were left out. Important figures were never mentioned. Well-known controversies were elided. Congressional testimony on controversial issues was mischaracterized. The authoritative tone of the conclusions was undermined by the notable gaps in evidence presented to support them.

“If this was a high school paper, I would give it an F,” says John Tiegen, a former CIA officer who fought on the ground that night in Benghazi and lived through many of the events the report purports to describe. “There are so many mistakes it’s hard to know where to begin. How can an official government report get so many things wrong?”

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