Keeping The Public Unaware

The November 13th issue of the Weekly Standard will feature an article by Stephen F. Hayes illustrating how important information was kept from the American public for political gain.

The article reminds us that when Osama Bin Laden was killed, the seal team involved collected a lot of computer information about terrorism.

The article reports:

In the heady days immediately after the May 2 Abbottabad raid, President Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, had described the intelligence haul brought back from Pakistan by the Navy SEALs and CIA operatives as extensive enough to fill a “small college library.” A senior military intelligence official who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on May 7, 2011, said: “As a result of the raid, we’ve acquired the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”


On the penultimate day of the Obama administration, less than 24 hours before the president would vacate the White House, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a press release meant to put to rest what had been a pesky issue for his office. “Closing the Book on Bin Laden: Intelligence Community Releases Final Abbottabad Documents,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) announced. “Today marks the end of a two-and-a-half-year effort to declassify several hundred documents recovered in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound in May 2011.” Accompanying the press release were 49 documents captured during the raid, bringing the total number of documents made public to 571.

A small college library with 571 documents would be pretty pathetic. So what happened?

This is how the limited amount of information was used during the 2012 presidential campaign:

In the spring of 2012, with the Republican presidential primaries nearing an end and shortly before the first anniversary of the successful raid on bin Laden’s compound, Obama’s National Security Council hand-picked 17 documents to be provided to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point for analysis. (Obama’s NSC would later hold back two of those documents. One of them, laying out the deep ties between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda leadership, would complicate Obama administration efforts to launch negotiations with the Taliban, according to an explanation the NSC’s Doug Lute offered to West Point.) The West Point documents were shared with Obama-friendly journalists. Their conclusion was the only one possible, given the documents they were provided: At the time of his death, Osama bin Laden was frustrated and isolated, a relatively powerless leader of a dying organization. In the summer and fall of 2012, Obama would use this theme as the main national security rationale for his reelection: Al Qaeda was alternately “on the run” or “decimated” or “on the path to defeat.”

“Thanks to the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is winding down. Al Qaeda has been decimated. Osama bin Laden is dead,” Obama said in Green Bay, Wis., on November 1, five days before his reelection.

The story continues:

No more. On Wednesday, November 1, CIA director Mike Pompeo announced the release of “nearly 470,000 additional files” from the Abbottabad raid. From 571 to 470,000: The “most transparent administration in history,” you might say, has just been trumped, by nearly three orders of magnitude.

Some of the information might have caused a problem with the Iran nuclear deal:

Bin Laden had described Iran as the “main artery” for al Qaeda in one of the previously released letters recovered in Abbottabad. The details on Iran’s support for al Qaeda, some of them buried until now, led to terrorist designations by the Treasury Department and even caused some intelligence analysts to revisit the assumption that the Shiite radicals in Iran wouldn’t back the Sunni al Qaeda. In a 2011 interview, David S. Cohen, a senior Treasury Department official who went on to become deputy director of the CIA, described the intelligence, which detailed a network of financial support for al Qaeda that operated out of Iran: “There is an agreement between the Iranian government and al Qaeda to allow this network to operate,” Cohen said. “There’s no dispute in the intelligence community on this.” Iran was providing a “core pipeline” of support that included safe haven for al Qaeda members and the facilitation of travel and the flow of money and weapons.

…The CIA release of the additional 470,000 documents includes a 19-page report on al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran authored by an unidentified al Qaeda operative. The author lays out some tensions between al Qaeda and Iran but makes clear those differences don’t preclude cooperation. The document reports that the Iranian regime was giving its “Saudi brothers” in al Qaeda “everything they needed.” This included safe haven in Iran, the facilitation of travel for senior al Qaeda operatives, and “money, arms,” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”

Among other conclusions I can draw from this information, it might be time to revisit the Iran deal keeping Iran’s relationship with al Qaeda in mind.