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The New York Times

Published: May 1, 2012

Good evening from Bagram Air Base. This outpost is more than seven thousand miles from home, but for over a decade it has been close to our hearts. Because here, in Afghanistan, more than half a million of our sons and daughters have sacrificed to protect our country.

Today, I signed an historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries – a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states; a future in which the war ends, and a new chapter begins.

Tonight, I’d like to speak to you about this transition. But first, let us remember why we came here. It was here, in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden established a safe-haven for his terrorist organization. It was here, in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda brought new recruits, trained them, and plotted acts of terror. It was here, from within these borders, that al Qaeda launched the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children.

And so, ten years ago, the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us. Despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated. In 2002, bin Laden and his lieutenants escaped across the border and established safe-havens in Pakistan. America spent nearly eight years fighting a different war in Iraq. And al Qaeda’s extremist allies within the Taliban have waged a brutal insurgency.

But over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan Security Forces. We devastated al Qaeda’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set – to defeat al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild – is within reach.

Still, there will be difficult days ahead. The enormous sacrifices of our men and women are not over. But tonight, I’d like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan.

First, we have begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Already, nearly half the Afghan people live in places where Afghan Security Forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.

As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.

Second, we are training Afghan Security Forces to get the job done. Those forces have surged, and will peak at 352,000 this year. The Afghans will sustain that level for three years, and then reduce the size of their military. And in Chicago, we will endorse a proposal to support a strong and sustainable long-term Afghan force.

Third, we are building an enduring partnership. The agreement we signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: as you stand up, you will not stand alone. It establishes the basis of our cooperation over the next decade, including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions. It supports Afghan efforts to advance development and dignity for their people. And it includes Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans – men and women, boys and girls.

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Smoke billows from the World Trade Center in New York, on September 11, 2001. (Photo: Ruth Fremson / The New York Times)

Report: Intelligence Unit Told Before 9/11 to Stop Tracking Bin Laden

Monday 23 May 2011

by: Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout

A great deal of controversy has arisen about what was known about the movements and location of Osama bin Laden in the wake of his killing by US Special Forces on May 2 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Questions about what intelligence agencies knew or didn’t know about al-Qaeda activities go back some years, most prominently in the controversy over the existence of a joint US Special Forces Command and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) data mining effort known as “Able Danger.”

What hasn’t been discussed is a September 2008 Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general (IG) report, summarizing an investigation made in response to an accusation by a Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) whistleblower, which indicated that a senior JFIC commander had halted actions tracking Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. JFIC is tasked with an intelligence mission in support of United States Joint Force Command (USJFCOM).

The report, titled “Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11 Commission,” was declassified last year, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists.

The whistleblower, who the IG report identified as a former JFIC employee represented only by his codename “IRON MAN,” claimed in letters written to both the DoD inspector general in May 2006 and, lacking any apparent action by the IG, to the Office of the National Director of Intelligence (ODNI) in October 2007, that JFIC had withheld operational information about al-Qaeda when queried in March 2002 about its activities by the DIA and higher command officials on behalf of the 9/11 Commission. The ODNI passed the complaint back to the IG, who then opened an investigation under the auspices of the deputy inspector general for intelligence.

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CIA Spied On Bin Laden From Safe House

TPM MUCKRAKER

Eric Lach | May 6, 2011, 9:45AM

The CIA had for months been spying on the compound where Osama bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. forces earlier this week, according to reports.

The agency maintained a rented safehouse near bin Laden’s compound, where a small team of spies “relied on Pakistani informants and other sources to help assemble a ‘pattern of life’ portrait of the occupants and daily activities at the fortified compound where bin Laden was found,” officials told The Washington Post.

A variety of technologies were used, according to The New York Times:

Observing from behind mirrored glass, C.I.A. officers used cameras with telephoto lenses and infrared imaging equipment to study the compound, and they used sensitive eavesdropping equipment to try to pick up voices from inside the house and to intercept cellphone calls. A satellite used radar to search for possible escape tunnels.

Despite the efforts, technology and millions of dollars used in the operation, agents were never able to photograph or record the voice of the man living on the top floor of the compound. According to the Times, agents called a man who took regular walks in the compound’s courtyard “the pacer,” but they were never able to confirm that he was bin Laden.

“You’ve got to give him credit for his tradecraft,” a former senior CIA official who played a leading role in the manhunt told the Post.

On the other hand, the official said, bin Laden’s decision to go to Abbottabad left him vulnerable. While it was not an obvious place to hide, and took him out of range of the U.S. drones that patrol the border with Afghanistan, Abbottabad is a place where “anybody can go.”

“It makes it easier for the CIA to operate,” the official said.

According to the Post, the safehouse was shut down after the raid.

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Abu Faraj al-Libi and the Trail to Osama bin Laden

Emptywheel

By: emptywheel Monday May 2, 2011 6:26 am

According to reports, we first started tracking the couriers who would ultimately lead us to Osama bin Laden over four years ago.

The stream of information that led to Sunday’s raid began over four years ago, when U.S. intelligence personnel were alerted about two couriers who were working with al Qaeda and had deep connections to top al Qaeda officials. Prisoners in U.S. custody flagged these two couriers as individuals who might have been helping bin Laden, one official said

“One courier in particular had our constant attention,” the official said. He declined to give that courier’s name but said he was a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a “trusted assistant” of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a former senior al Qaeda officer who was captured in 2005.

“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few couriers trusted by bin Laden,” the official said. The U.S. intelligence community uncovered the identity of this courier four years ago, and two years ago, the U.S. discovered the area of Pakistan this courier and his brother were working in.

In August 2010, the intelligence agencies found the exact compound where this courier was living, in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The neighborhood is affluent and many retired Pakistani military officials live there.

The reference to Abu Faraj al-Libi is notable in this context for two reasons. He was one of the last High Value Detainees picked up. The Red Cross dates his capture to May 2, 2005 (though he appears to have been held in joint Pakistani-US custody for a time and his Detainee Assessment Brief says he was transferred to US custody on June 6, 2005), and of the HVDs moved to Gitmo in September 2006, he was the last to be picked up.

More interesting, though, are some details from his DAB. In 2003, OBL assigned al-Libi to be “the official messenger” between himself and others in Pakistan. And, apparently at that point, al-Libi moved with his family to Abbottabad, the city where OBL was found.

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Osama Bin Laden Dead, Obama To Reportedly Announce

HuffPost-  First Posted: 05/ 1/11 10:49 PM ET Updated: 05/ 1/11 10:54 PM ET

Osama Bin Laden is dead, President Obama will announce, according to multiple television networks.

DEVELOPING…

MORE HERE AS IT COMES IN

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Panetta: “Not much choice’ but to use Blackwater

RAW STORY- By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer
Sunday, June 27th, 2010 — 12:33 pm

CIA director says ‘at most’ 50 to 100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

How can a company allegedly responsible for killing 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad in 2007 continue to get State Department and CIA contracts? CIA Director Leon Panetta says there is “not much choice” because few companies have the capabilities of Blackwater.

“Since I have become director, I have asked our agency to review every contract we have had with Blackwater and whatever their new name is now — Xe — to ensure first and foremost that we have no contract in which they are engaged in any CIA operations. We’re doing our own operations. That’s important that we not contract that out to anybody,” Panetta told ABC’s Jake Tapper Sunday.

“But at the same time I have to tell you that in the war zone, we continue to have needs for security. You’ve got a lot of forward bases. You’ve got a lot of attacks on some of those bases. We’ve got to have security. Unfortunately, there are few companies that provide that kind of security,” Panetta continued.

“State Department relies on them. We rely on them to a certain extent. So, we’ve bid out some of those contracts. They provided a bid that underbid everyone else by about $26 million and a panel that we had said that they can do the job, that they’ve shaped up their act,” he said.

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Thanks To Obama’s Rejection Of Torture, Abdulmuttalab Has Been Providing Intel On Al Qaeda

Think Progress- By Matt Duss at 12:35 pm

President Obama’s counter-terrorism approach — especially his decision to publicly reject torture — received a huge vindication yesterday with the news that the FBI has been working with the family of the failed Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab, and that “Abdulmuttalab has been cooperating with authorities and sharing intelligence since last Thursday”:

The agents and key family members arrived in back in the US on January 17th. The family members met with officials from the Justice Department and the FBI to plan a way forward.

“One of the principal reasons why his family came back is because they had complete trust in the US system of justice and believed that Umar Farouq would be treated fairly and appropriately,” the senior official said. “And that they would be as well.”

The FBI and Abdulmuttalab’s family approached the subject and “gained his cooperation. He has been cooperating for days,” the official said.

A key point here is that there is very little chance that Abdulmuttalab’s family would have agreed to cooperate with the U.S. government in getting Abdulmuttalab to talk if they suspected that he was in any danger of being tortured. This is a clear example of how President Obama’s bringing U.S. counter-terrorism practices back within the rule of law is making Americans safer.

A federal official told the New York Times that “the intelligence gained has been disseminated throughout the intelligence community,” and “the best way to get him to talk was working with his family.”

ABC also reported that “Abdulmuttalab was talking to FBI agents on Saturday, at the same time Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, issued the Republican response to the president’s weekly address, decrying Abdulmuttalab’s presence in the criminal justice system.”

It’s ironic that that Abdulmuttalab was providing information at the very moment conservatives were hyperventilating about the administration’s terrorism approach. The case also indicates that Obama’s decision to try the terrorist in criminal court has not served to cut off any information the U.S. could glean from Abdulmuttalab, as many critics have claimed. As CAP’s Ken Gude recently wrote, “The facts are clear: Criminal courts are a far tougher and more reliable forum for prosecuting terrorists than military commissions”:

The record of recent terrorism investigations demonstrates that interviews with terrorists who have attorneys have produced “an intelligence goldmine.”

False assumptions are driving the debate about the tools available to fight terrorism. President Obama needs to cut through the noise and use the tough and proven criminal justice system as a vital weapon in the fight against Al Qaeda.

Fortunately, it seems the president is doing just that.

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