Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Deadly Mole

Recently, 7 CIA officers and a Jordanian intelligence officer, were killed, 6 injured, when someone got in Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. It was a shocking event, especially as reports surfaced that the bomber was freely admitted to the camp. How could that possibly be that he would be allowed on base without even being scrutinized?

The answer to that question is even more disturbing, as the video below explains:

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Yes, this Jordanian doctor was a double agent. This article, NBC: Al-Qaida Double-Agent Killed CIA Officers ; Officials: Perpetrator of Afghan attack was supposed to infiltrate al-Qaida, goes into more detail regarding how and why this attack was carried out:
The suicide bombing on a CIA base in Afghanistan last week was carried out by a Jordanian doctor who was an al-Qaida double-agent, Western intelligence officials told NBC News.

Initial reports said that the attack, which killed seven CIA officers, was carried out by a member of the Afghan National Army.

According to Western intelligence officials, the perpetrator was Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, 36, an al-Qaida sympathizer from Zarqa, which is also the hometown of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant Islamist believed responsible for several devastating attacks in Iraq.

Al-Balawi was arrested by Jordanian intelligence more than a year ago. He had moderated the main al-Qaida chat forum before his arrest and was known online as Abu Dujanah al-Khurasani.

“Abu Dujanah was an active member of jihadi forums,” said Evan Kohlmann, who tracks jihadi Web sites for NBC News. “He was actually an administrator on the now-defunct Al-Hesbah forum, previously al-Qaida's main chat forum.”

The Jordanians believed that al-Balawi had been successfully reformed and brought over to the American and Jordanian side. They set him up as an agent and sent him to Afghanistan and Pakistan to infiltrate al-Qaida.

His specific mission, according to officials, was to find and meet Ayman al Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s No. 2, also a physician.

However, a Taliban spokesman, quoted on the Al-Jazeera Web site, said al-Balawi misled Jordanian and U.S. intelligence services for a year. The spokesman, Al-Hajj Ya'qub, promised to release a video confirming his account of the Afghanistan attack.

I cannot even begin to guess how it was determined that this doctor had "turned," and was going to work against Al Qaeda. I leave such questions to Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and expert on Counter-terrorism, who knows far more about this than I could ever even hope to, or want to, know (and you can catch a number of recent appearances by Larry Johnson on CNN discussing the CIA, Yemen, and TSA HERE). That a doctor could do this to other people, though, is just staggering to me It flies in the face of everything doctors are supposed to stand for: Do No Harm. Just like the Fort Hood terrorist, Army Major Nidal Hasan. How can this happen? What would drive someone whose life work is supposed to be helping people:
On martyrdom
After he arrived in Afghanistan last year, al-Balawi was interviewed by one of al-Qaida’s main Internet sites, the Vanguards of Khurasan, on the subject of martyrdom.

“When you ponder the verses and hadiths that speak about jihad and its graciousness, and then you let your imagination run wild to fly with what Allah has prepared for martyrs, your life become cheap for its purpose, and the extravagant houses and expensive cars and all the decoration of life become very distasteful in your eyes,” he told the interviewer.

He added, “They say 'there's love that kills.' And I only see that as truthful in the love for jihad, as this love is either going to kill you in repentance should you choose to sit away from jihad, or will kill you as a martyr for the cause of Allah if you choose to go to Jihad, and the human must choose between these two deaths.”

Last week, according to the Western officials, al-Balawi reportedly called his handler to say he needed to meet with the CIA’s team based in Khost, Afghanistan, because he said he had urgent information he needed to relay about Zawahiri.

Ah yes - there it is. "There's love that kills." I have a fair amount of theological training, but I must say, this is a shocking interpretation, in my humble opinion, that is.

The doctor/bomber was convincing:
Close relations with Jordanian intelligence

His handler was a senior intelligence official, identified in Jordanian press accounts as Sharif Ali bin Zeid.

But bin Zeid was not just a Jordanian intelligence officer; he was also a member of the Jordanian royal family and was a first cousin of the king and grandnephew of the first king Abdullah.

Bin Zeid’s prominent role offers rare insight into the close partnership between American and Jordanian intelligence officials and how crucial their relationship has become to the overall counterterrorism strategy.

"We have a close partnership with the Jordanians on counterterrorism matters," a U.S. official told The Washington Post. "Having suffered serious losses from terrorist attacks on their own soil, they are keenly aware of the significant threat posed by extremists."

Jordan's official news agency, Petra, said bin Zeid was killed "on Wednesday evening as a martyr while performing the sacred duty of the Jordanian forces in Afghanistan" and provided no further details about his death.

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reported that al-Balawi's family refused to speak to the media on instructions from Jordanian security services.

Sources close to the family told Al-Jazeera's Web site that Jordanian Intelligence arrested the perpetrator's younger brother and ordered his father not to set up a condolence tent for his son so that it would not turn into a gathering place for jihadist sympathizers.

I would say that was the very least they could do, especially given this quote: "on Wednesday evening as a martyr while performing the sacred duty of the Jordanian forces in Afghanistan"...Holy shit.

This bombing has a huge impact, as one might imagine:
Key base for CIA

According to Western officials, bin Zeid, along with the seven CIA officers, were killed when al-Balawi, the formerly trusted informant turned double-agent, detonated his suicide belt at Camp Chapman.

Some of the officers had flown in from Kabul for what was thought to be an important meeting.

The base was used to direct and coordinate CIA operations and intelligence gathering in Khost, a hotbed of insurgent activity because of its proximity to Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, former CIA officials said. Among the CIA officers killed was the chief of the operation, they said.

Six other people were wounded in what was one of the worst attacks in CIA history.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC the CIA is "looking closely at every aspect of the Khost attack."

"The agency is determined to continue pursuing aggressive counterterrorism operations. Last week’s attack will be avenged. Some very bad people will eventually have a very bad day,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Qari Hussain, a top militant commander with the Pakistani Taliban who is believed to be a suicide bombing mastermind, said last week that militants had been searching for a way to damage the CIA's ability to launch missile strikes on the Pakistani side of the border.

Using remote-controlled aircraft, the U.S. has launched scores of such missile attacks in the tribal regions over the past year and a half, aiming for high-value al-Qaida and other militant targets. The most successful strike, in August, killed former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud at his father-in-law's home.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA base has been at the heart of overseeing this covert program. The newspaper cited two former intelligence officials who have visited Chapman as saying that U.S. personnel there are heavily involved in the selection of al-Qaida and Taliban targets for the drone aircraft strikes. (Richard Engel is NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent; Robert Windrem is a senior NBC News Producer.)

I love a good spy thriller as much as the next person, but this isn't Hollywood. What this tragedy brings home forcefully is that this is not a movie, this is not some script crafted by some Intelligence wannabe. This is real. Real people lost their lives in service to this country, a service that is too often unsung or unappreciated, getting recognition not for what goes right, but for what goes wrong. The work they do, often referred to as "cloak and dagger," is beyond most of our imaginings. It is done, though, for our benefit, for our safety, for our protection. And those who lost their lives are real people, with families, with small children. They have devoted their lives to trying to stop the kinds of attacks we saw here on 9/11, to stop Al Qaeda. And they were betrayed by someone they thought they could trust.

Intelligence work, obviously, is not an exact science. How does one know for sure when someone is telling the truth, when someone is truly on your side? Sadly, in this one instance, they did not. And now, more stars will be going up on the wall.

If you are so inclined, there is a fund for the families of these fallen officers, which include 8 children. The address is: The CIA Officers Memorial Fund, c/o Arnold & Porter LLP, 555 12th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004.


Mary Ellen said...

Thanks for this great post, Rev. Amy. I was thinking the same thing this morning, that when this was reported there was little attention paid to those individuals who lost their lives. Unfortunately, many in this country don't think when they read the number of soldiers that are killed per day in Afghanistan or Iraq. They are just numbers.

Just today I came across this quote by retired General McCaffrey:

“What I want to do is signal that this thing is going to be $5 billion to $10 billion a month and 300 to 500 killed and wounded a month by next summer. That’s what we probably should expect. And that’s light casualties,” said McCaffrey, who is also president of his own consulting firm in Arlington, Va., and has conducted numerous trips to the war zones to assess the political and military challenges at hand.

And our young men and women are dying for what?

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Thanks, ME! I appreciate that...

I couldn't agree more - what of those who are lost? What of their families?

And if they realized what was abt to happen, these brave officers, how could they not have died realizing the betrayal, the ultimate betrayal, that was befalling them? Just horrible...

The McCaffrey quote was powerful indeed...Thanks, ME.

Anonymous said...

This is so heartbreaking, Rev. I can't imagine the grief of the families and friends of these fallen heroes. And how long was it before Barry took time from his vacation to acknowledge these brave men and women?

I guess there's a lesson to learn here: Once a jihadist, always a jihadist. A terrorist cannot be reformed.

This terrorist doctor was obviously first and foremost a terrorist. I'm sure he did not adhere to "First do no harm." He was too busy with "the love that kills" philosophy.

I think they've got it wrong when they call him a "formerly trusted informant turned double-agent". I have no doubt that he was a double-agent for Al Qaida from the get-go...no reforming done, he was an infiltrator, and apparently a good one.

I bet the attack will be revenged. And I hope the CIA gets all the back-up and support they need to do so!

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Hey, SF -

I imagine you are right abt the doctor, that he was always an agent for Al Qaeda. Even as a perpetual student of people, I don't know how you can be sure someone like that really is on your side, you know? I think I would always be a bit wary of them, but I have no idea what their techniques are, either. Even as I say that, in this case, they failed.

It is sad for their families and friends, and no doubt, a setback for the CIA itself.

I have to admit - when I was in grad school, I routinely demonstrated against the CIA and FBI. But as I was reflecting on this, I realized that I was young, uninformed, and going to change the world.

Would I prefer we lived in a world in which organizations like the CIA didn't exist? Of course I would. That being said, I cannot imagine what these people go through, how they do what they do, how lonely and isolating their work must be, how frustrating to not be able to tell their loved ones what they do for a living, the sacrifices they make for this country, without ever getting recognition, unless it is something like this (or Valerie Plame being outed).

Does that make any sense?

Anyway, yes, Obama could have stepped up - AGAIN - and said something abt this tragedy in a timely fashion, but no. And I am sure he will figure out a way to not have to say anything abt terrorism...

I still want to know what he hopes to gain by his denial...

Anonymous said...

You make perfect sense, Rev. I can remember in the 60s demonstrating against the war in Vietnam, and thinking the FBI and CIA were evil gunslingers. Yes, I was young and idealistic and didn't fully understand the kind of life they live to keep us safe. I can remember when I lived in Hawaii in 1970-72 with my husband-to-be. He was in the Navy, and when they'd go out to sea, he could never tell me where they were going, what they were doing, or how long they'd be gone. It was awful, but at least I knew he wasn't in 'Nam and wasn't likely to see action. I can't imagine the families of these agents who have to live in the dark about where their loved ones are or what they're doing every day.

Like you, I wish we lived in a world where the CIA and FBI weren't necessary. Unfortunately, we don't. I have a greater respect for the intelligence community now, in my old age, then I did...especially after 9/11. We have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, what terrorist actions they've managed to stop. If there was decent leadership, someone with the ability to bring all the different intel groups together, rather than working at odds, we'd be much safer. But no, our leader is busy playing golf.

And yes, it does look like whatever procedures they used with this double-agent did fail. How heartbreaking that it was such a devastating lesson.

I don't know what O hopes to gain by being so tepid about the terrorists. What is he afraid of? WHO is he afraid of? Does he have so little soul that there's nothing he would fight for? I don't get it.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Thank you, SF - you said it perfectly. That was what I was struggling to say (I am going to claim it was because it was dinner time and I was rushing. Yeah. that's the ticket.). Young, idealistic, etc., etc. I, too, have learned as I've gotten older that it is nowhere NEAR that black/white.

So yes - we need them, their job is pretty damn thankless, with their only recognition seeming to come when something bad happens - then they become the convenient scapegoat (Obama is all over the intelligence community for the Dec. 25th event).

Oh, so I guess that answers your question. He is more than happy to demonize people who give their lives for this country, but is a mamby pamby when it comes to terrorists, referring to their acts as "isolated." Please.

Again, thank you - you absolutely nailed what I was trying to say, SF!