Forget Osama's Home Videos, Let's Talk About Pakistan

"When I look at the television,
I want to see me staring right back at me
We all want to be big stars,
... when everybody loves me,
I'm going to be just about as happy as I can be"
What is the big deal about Osama bin Laden watching videos of himself on TV? Who cares? Why release them now? Is it to deflect attention from the bungled narrative Administration officials presented all week as to what happened during the raid on the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad? Does the Administratin think they show us something negative we didn't know about Osama?

The Administration should count its blessings that everyone is glad Osama is dead, otherwise it could be in deep doo-doo over this raid and have a lot more explaining to do, particularly over its relationship with Pakistan's military and intelligence agency, which is costing us a fortune. There sure doesn't seem to be much bang for the buck. [More...]

What needs more attention is the possible role of Pakistan's military and Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) officers, either officially or acting on their own, in keeping Osama hidden for 7 years (by placing him right under their nose near their military complex.)If they were complicit, and I can't see how they weren't, it should make people question the wisdom of both the Bush and Obama Administrations in insisting on expansive sharing of law enforcement information across agencies, particularly those in other countries. How much did the information we provided Pakistan help those who were helping bin Laden?

This issue should come into much greater focus in the next few weeks when the terror trial of David Headley's co-defendant Tahawwur Hussain Rana begins in Chicago for allegedly providing material support to Lashkar e Tayyiba (leT) in the Mumbai bombings and the planned Denmark attack.

The Department of Justice (through Patrick Fitzgerald's team of prosecutors) will be in the unenviable position of vouching for Headley's version of events to convict Rana, even though Headley insists some of his handlers were ISI officers and ISI was up to its neck in the attacks. The Government will try to keep ISI's alleged involvement out of the case, but it may be tricky to keep it from coming in through a back door. Also, just last month, the Government added some ISI officers as defendants in Rana's Second Superseding Indictment, using the names they gave Headley (Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali).

Rana has insisted that his actions related to the Mumbai charges were done at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI, not Lashkar. The Judge ruled he can't raise this as a defense because the "public authority" defense only applies if he's alleging he acted at the behest of a U.S. official. In his order (available on PACER) rejecting Rana's ability to raise the defense, the Judge recounted a paragraph of Headley's grand jury testimony:

During my trip to Chicago, I told [Defendant] about my meetings with Sajid and others in Lashkar. I also told him about my meetings with Major Iqbal, and told him how I had been asked to perform espionage work for ISI. I even told him some of the espionage stories that Major Iqbal had told me. I told [Defendant] about my assignment to conduct surveillance in Mumbai. I asked [Defendant] if it was okay with him that I set up a First World immigration office in Mumbai. I explained to him that the immigration office would provide a cover story for why I was in Mumbai. I told him that Major Iqbal would be providing money to pay for the expenses associated with setting up and operating the office. [Defendant] agreed.

The Judge explained Rana's request:

Defendant argues that the ISI has authority to act in India to protect Pakistan’s national interests. Therefore, he contends, he relied on a public authority, one that he argues is immune from criminal prosecution in United States courts under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1602, et seq., when he engaged in activities such as allowing Headley to open a First World immigration office in Mumbai. This reliance, Defendant argues, negates the scienter required for him to be found guilty of
the three charges.

He held that Rana cannot rely on the authority of a foreign government agency or official to authorize his violations of United States federal law. Which means Rana can't get this in through the front door. But what about through the back door? What will come out when Rana's lawyers cross-examine Headley? Here's more on what Headley told Indian officials about the ISI's role in the attacks.

The Government is very concerned about the jury (and everyone else) from hearing Headley's allegations against the ISI. In a motion seeking to prevent Rana from introducing the Indian report on Headley's statement, it wrote:

The government seeks an order from this court finding that the interview summaries prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency of the Government of India are not statements of the witness under the Jencks Act, and to preclude the defense from introducing the contents of these reports to the jury or otherwise suggesting to the jury that the reports are statements of the witnesses who did not write them or adopt them.

...[T]he government is providing to the defense a written report prepared by the National Investigation Agency of the Government of India which purports to summarize an interview of David Headley by their agents. While the Indian report of interview is written in the first person, this interview was not tape recorded, was not taken down by a court reporter, and the written summary represents a collaboration of several Indian investigators. Further, it was not approved or adopted by David Headley.

...Inasmuch as these reports are not statements of the witnesses, but summaries prepared by agents, the defense should be limited in their use of them. In particular, the defense should be precluded from using the contents of an FBI interview report or an interview report of the Indian investigators to impeach the witness on the basis of any prior inconsistent statement because the report is not the statement of the witness.

Moreover, the defense should be precluded from publishing the contents of the reports to the jury, otherwise suggesting to the jury that the report is a statement of the witness.

Also, the families of the Americans killed in Mumbai have sued, among others, the ISI and ISI Director General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and former ISI Director General Najeem Taj in U.S. federal court (Eastern District of New York.) All three are represented by lawyers in the New York office of law firm Locke, Lord, Bissell & Lidell. Their first motion to dismiss (based on doctrines involving sovereign immunity, political question, comity, and Act of State ) was due yesterday, but hasn't been entered as of now on PACER yet.

The lawsuit alleges that during the time Headley took directions from his ISI handlers, Iqbal and Samer Ali, the ISI and its Director Generals, Taj and Pasha, were in control and aided and abetted LeT in the Mumbai attacks.

From April, 2006 until September, 2007, Najeem Taj was the Commandant of the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, Abbottabad. According to the Pakistanis, Osama was living in Abbottabad in 2006 to 2007. Right under Taj's nose.

Pakistan emphatically denies any ISI officers were involved in the Mumbai attacks, and it claims it can't identify Major Iqbal or Samir Ali. It is insulted that anyone would question Pasha or Najeem Taj.

I think media interest in the Tahawwur Hussain Rana terror trial, which begins May 16, is about to get a big (and much deserved) boost.

For more on the alleged involvement of Pakistan's ISI and the Mumbai attacks, don't miss Pro Publica's Pakistan and the Mumbai Attacks: The Untold Story by Sebastian Rotella. For later and shorter recaps and new questions about the ISI raised by Osama bin Laden's killing, see Rotella's latest at Pro Publica, Pakistan’s Terror Ties at Center of Upcoming Chicago Trial.

Our many posts about the Headley-Rana case are available here.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I don't understand the (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat May 07, 2011 at 07:52:39 PM EST
    bungled narrative. It seems to me that they could have had a meeting and get everybody on the same page before anyone talked to the press or at least said nothing until the seals were all debriefed.

    They (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by lentinel on Sat May 07, 2011 at 08:02:06 PM EST
    are just trying to spin different narratives to see which one will have the most positive effect on Obama's reelection campaign.

    I don't think the ground zero escapade, Bush redux, went so well.
    When Bush did it, it turned my stomach, and my stomach saw no reason not to be turned this time around.

    They can't decide on a narrative because although the facts might be simple, they are trying to construct what amounts to a screenplay - or a miniseries - or a Sunday sermon - or a snazzy catch phrase... and people are just too weary to be interested.


    I think (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat May 07, 2011 at 08:31:14 PM EST
    you're probably right. They wanted to create this "strong leader" narrative when they would have been better just stating the facts and actually were caught flat footed when the GOP started turning the conversation to torture.

    Why release them now? (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by hilts on Sat May 07, 2011 at 10:59:07 PM EST
    By releasing the video of bin Laden watching himself on tv, the White House is hoping to diminish his stature in the Muslim world.  I have my doubts about the White House being able to change any minds in the Middle East.

    How many times (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Sat May 07, 2011 at 08:10:47 PM EST
    has bin Laden died now?

    And this time they shot him in the head, have photos but won't release them, took DNA samples, dumped him in the ocean so no one can compare the DNA samples to a body, and finally settled on an Obama version of "just trust us"?

    One could get the impression that this was an extremely hastily "planned" and off the cuff "operation", which might explain the "bungled narrative"?

    But there sure is a lot of heel clicking and swooning adulation going around for the kind of frontier "justice" bush was famous for.

    Sorry Edger (none / 0) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 08, 2011 at 05:10:30 PM EST
    Only once that I know of.  Plenty of silly rumors though.

    I know. (none / 0) (#19)
    by Edger on Sun May 08, 2011 at 07:43:32 PM EST
    "Just trust us".

    Not saying that either (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 09, 2011 at 07:30:39 AM EST
    I know that too, MT (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Edger on Mon May 09, 2011 at 01:06:48 PM EST
    ;-) I know you well enough from all the years of blogging and talking to you that you have a clear thinking head and x-ray eyes when it comes to watching the government, regardless of who is in power.

    Bunglegate State Department! (none / 0) (#7)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sun May 08, 2011 at 01:59:21 AM EST
    The problem with the USA has more to do with the Bungle-gate Sate Department than any other organization in the USA.

    In Iraq, Secretary Powell thought that Turkey, "our good ally" would let the 4ID (4th Infantry Division, our most advanced armor division) through their territory to allow for a wider multi-pronged attack.  Didn't happen. They floated around at sea for quite a while.
    The good news was that it turned out that the USA didn't need them after all and the 3ID got the honor of rolling through Baghdad first, instead.

    We have worked and worked with Pakistan but essentially they are Islamist and work against the USA for their own reasons while pretending to be our friends enough to keep the money flowing to them.  Here it isn't just Sec Clinton, but a long line of State employees.  They pretend they are in control, but are not. Maybe they even believe it. Obama fell into that trap also.

    In Libya, Sec. Clinton, Susan Rice and one other that I can't recall right now, persuaded Obama to get into a third war despite the misgivings and resistance of the military.  (I thought the State Department's job was to keep us out of wars.)

    please stay on topic of Pakistan 's ISI (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Sun May 08, 2011 at 11:39:58 AM EST
    involvement. Put other discussions in open threads. Thank you.

    Isn't that the idea? (none / 0) (#10)
    by itscookin on Sun May 08, 2011 at 08:18:21 AM EST

    Mr. President (none / 0) (#14)
    by Rojas on Sun May 08, 2011 at 09:40:23 AM EST
    Would you tell me a bedtime story?

    It seems silly to have to point out, to those who would pave the road to hell, there is no functioning democracy when the government has effective message control such as has been suggested here.

    In fact, to the extent that ours has become pretty seriously dysfunctional, it is in large part because large numbers of the voting population have forgone any rational analysis in lieu of adopting the talking points of two tribal factions.

    The successful use of effective message control marched us into Vietnam, loosed the gas on the children of Mt. Carmel, sent us running into Iraq and has put untold thousands of innocent people into our prison system.


    please stay on topic of (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jeralyn on Sun May 08, 2011 at 11:41:41 AM EST
    Pakistan's ISI involvement

    I don't understand your take on (none / 0) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Sun May 08, 2011 at 05:08:38 PM EST
    any of this.  Our relationship with Pakistan, its military, and its ISI is what it is.  It is a country largely affected by tribalism, plenty of support for terrorism and terrorists, and plenty of nukes.  We aren't going anywhere there, and I strongly suspect that our CIA has infilitrated the ISI and the military in an attempt to keep the whole globe safe if it can.  The country isn't the United States Jeralyn, and its culture has precious little in common with ours, how things work there often make no sense to us.  But if Pakistan nukes India and India nukes them back your life will never be the same and it will never ever again possess the same of quality of life that you have.  So you can say it isn't your problem, but whether we like it or not, because of the global affect of a Pakistan/India nuclear war, it is.

    you need to re-read the post (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Mon May 09, 2011 at 12:26:07 AM EST
    obviously I do think the involvement of ISI is important. And a man in Chicago who is facing life in prison is about to go on trial, at which information could come out. But the Government seems intent on keeping the evidence limited to LeT members and excluding the ISI handlers, even though both the current defendant and the former defendant, who is now a cooperating witness, insist the LeT members had specific ISI handlers who they both met with.

    The U.S. chose to bring this case in U.S. federal court. I'm examining the legal aspects, and figuring out the connections, which seem very relevant to how Osama bin Laden could have hidden in Abbottabad for so long.


    You act like Pakistan's ISI (none / 0) (#25)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 09, 2011 at 08:26:07 AM EST
    is an institution of law enforcement with a reliable structure and people working within it having somewhat reliable ethics.  It is not that, it never has been that.

    Site Violater nanayda (none / 0) (#27)
    by sj on Mon May 09, 2011 at 01:16:22 PM EST
    Although a very cleverly obsequious one.