Chilcot: we know Blair was to blame for Iraq, so this is already a work of history

The best war inquiry was into the Charge of the Light Brigade. It was conducted by the poet Alfred Tennyson in eight weeks, and reached a one-line conclusion, “Someone had blunder’d.” It has never been bettered.

Everyone knows who blundered in Iraq. It was Tony Blair. Mild interest may still attach to the question, why? But no one is sitting in an agony of suspense. No great issue turns on the verdict. Even the Labour party, whose cringing submission to the whim of Blair must mean it carries a share of blame, has purged itself of guilt. The Iraq war is yesterday. It is history.

So why the shocked headlines about “Chilcot verdict delayed”? History is always late. We do not read “Mantel’s delayed verdict on Boleyn execution”; we do not read “Starkey late with verdict on Magna Carta”. The Chilcot inquiry was a ploy of Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, somehow to get his own back. At the time, in 2009, David Cameron said it was “an establishment stitch-up”. He little imagined it would be still be there when he was the establishment, and had to defend it.

The writing of Chilcot – its hearings ended in 2011 – has become a ghostly whodunnit. It has taken longer to write than War and Peace, and at a rumoured million words is near double the length. A post-edit, called Maxwellisation, grants a right of reply to those criticised, not just before publication but, it appears, before the conclusions are written. This mechanism is a victims’ racket for delay. It compares ill with the US Congress’s laudably savage report on the CIA and Iraq, published last month with no right-of-reply nonsense. (Will Chilcot, I wonder, disclose his Maxwellisation exchanges under freedom of information?)

The chief victim, Blair, has furiously protested that he is not playing a delaying game. He now seems to regard Iraq as a personal matter between him and God. More serious objection has come from the security service. Its addiction to prying into other people’s secrets is not reciprocated when others want to pry into its own. In addition, the American friends are apparently coy about Anglo-American relations in 2002-3. In particular, the disclosure of private chats between Blair and George Bush at Camp David would mean such chats would end, for ever.

I have some sympathy with the Americans (and the Brits) on this confidentiality. But Chilcot has already said he will redact such minutes and convey only the gist of them. Besides, what is new? Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack, published back in 2004, was based on interviews with Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and 74 others, with access to “personal notes, calendars, official and unofficial records, phone transcripts and memos”. It contains verbatim calls with Blair. With that and the witness evidence from the Chilcot hearings, notably from the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, it is hard to believe there are still “lessons to learn”.

Chilcot is a mountain made from a molehill. No recent event has been so scrutinised as the Iraq war, with the standard bibliography running to some 200 entries. It was always an American fiasco, with Britain as a bit player. Blair’s role was summed up in the excruciating “cojones” exchanges with Bush. The truth is that Chilcot should really be investigating a personal infatuation, not an invasion.

At some stage the concept of blame and responsibility has to pass from politicians and lawyers to historians. Some people feel that as long as there are victims, such as families of dead soldiers and civilians, there must be a quasi-judicial closure. I disagree. Like the current craze for “historical” sex prosecutions and repeated Hillsborough inquests, the cost of deflecting police and court resources must be prohibitive.

Chilcot can only be a work of history. The Iraq war was a tragedy for all concerned, apart from defence contractors, and one from which that country is suffering more than ever. There was no shortage of prior warnings. Like Vietnam, Iraq was a classic folly as described by the historian, Barbara Tuchman: “one perceived as counterproductive in its own time … recognised by contemporaries.”

Inquiries into such follies are political acts, conforming to the mood of the day, usually to exonerate or whitewash those in power at the expense of their enemies. The war in Afghanistan was every bit as foolish as Iraq, but it was regarded as a “good” intervention, and one that could hardly be pinned on Blair. No inquiry is in the offing.

The Franks report on the causes of the Falklands war was meant to expiate Thatcher’s guilt for leaving the islands undefended, and thus enable her to revel in her victory. Franks was shameless in confining any guilt to the body of his report, leaving Thatcher the joy of a final exoneration. He later attributed his whitewash to “the mood of the day”.

In the case of Bloody Sunday, “guilt” was erased by the mind-numbing delay of the Saville report, eventually published 38 years after the event, at a cost of £400m. Chilcot is a peccadillo against this shocker. Each of these inquiries gets longer. Between the world wars, they took an average of two months. By the 1960s, this had stretched to 11 months; since then the average is 20 months, not counting Saville and Chilcot. This has to be dreadful governance. Legal process obliterates clarity. “Fairness to all” is code for fees. The years roll by and guilt dissolves into tedium.

A public inquiry is a lantern on the stern, not a searchlight on the bow. The longer it takes, the less it is visible and the less people care. The ideal inquiry is immediate and quick, whatever the risk of unfairness. Better still would be Alice in Wonderland: “Inquiry first, decision afterwards.” Why was there no inquiry before Andrew Lansley’s reform to the NHS? Why none today into Trident renewal, or HS2, or last year’s “return to Iraq”, or those many government decisions of which, one day, someone will ask: who was the idiot? It is reminiscent of Orwell’s Crimestop, “the faculty of protective stupidity”.

David Davis MP calls the delay to Chilcot “incomprehensible”. The SNP’s Angus Robertson calls it “an absolute scandal”. But surely it is just a very expensive history book. I can see the old timers shrugging and switching the television to Wolf Hall. That is their sort of inquiry.

Simon Jenkins
Wednesday 21 January 2015 19.22 GMT Last modified on Thursday 22 January 2015 00.04 GMT

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© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Chilcot report on Iraq war delayed until after general election

Outcry at yet another postponement to findings of inquiry, which stopped taking evidence in 2011

The six-year-longBritish inquiry into the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath will not be published before the general election, prompting an outcry from those demanding that the long overdue reckoning should be put before the voters.

Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the inquiry, will set out his reasons for the further postponement in an exchange of letters with David Cameron on Wednesday. The inquiry was set up in 2009 and took public evidence from its last witness in 2011.

The prime minister has already expressed his personal frustration at the repeated delays, and a cross-party group of backbenchers had been due to stage a debate and vote in parliament on 29 January, demanding publication before the election.

Tony Blair, the prime minister at the time of the war, has insisted he is not the culprit behind the delay in publication; his allies have suggested the blame lies with the civil service and sensitivities about the relations between the UK and US intelligence agencies.

There has been a stand-off between those demanding that the personal exchange of messages between the former US president George W Bush and Blair in the run-up to the war be published, and those saying such a move would represent an unprecedented breach of confidence concerning one of the most sensitive episodes in British foreign relations.

It is understood the publication date of the inquiry was discussed by the UK and American delegations when Cameron met Barack Obama at the White House last week. But the threat of a Commons vote will have added urgency to the issue.

In June last year Chilcot announced he was satisfied that the “gist” of talks between Blair and Bush could be made public, removing a big obstacle to publication of his report. Chilcot is understood to have sent “Salmon letters” to those who were to be criticised to give them an opportunity to respond before the report’s publication, which will have led to further delays following objections from those criticised.

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, reacted furiously, saying the public, soldiers and families affected needed closure after six years of delay, adding that the public will think the findings are being “sexed down” to meet the needs of the establishment.

In a letter to Chilcot, he said: “I welcome your efforts to ensure the inquiry has been methodical, rigorous and fair in its approach. I also support your efforts to allow individuals criticised in the report to see the draft criticism and make representations to the inquiry before publication.

“However, neither administrative processes nor a constant back and forth between the inquiry and witnesses criticised should frustrate an independent report so important to the country’s future from being published as soon as possible.

“The public have waited long enough and will find it incomprehensible that the report is not being published more rapidly than the open-ended timetable you have now set out.

“We need to see a much clearer and more defined timetable, known publicly, with strict deadlines and a firm date for publication.

“If the findings are not published with a sense of immediacy, there is a real danger the public will assume the report is being ‘sexed down’ by individuals rebutting criticisms put to them by the inquiry, whether that is the case or not.”

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader said: “If Chilcot is to be delayed again it would be an absolute scandal.”

Blair previously said he wanted the Chilcot report to be published as soon as possible and that he resented claims he was to blame for its slow progress.

He has made repeated attempts to justify the highly controversial invasion, but has conceded that, for a variety of reasons, including disputes in the Bush administration, the detail and quality of post-war planning was inadequate.

Blair is determined to rebut the argument that he lied to parliament over the intelligence he had been given over the likelihood that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The basis of this claim and the key informants have emerged and been discredited. Ministers have conceded that if the final report were not completed by the end of February, it would be wrong to release it in the heat of a closely fought election campaign.

Although Ed Miliband was not in parliament at the time of the invasion, and has said he would have opposed the war, Labour probably has least to gain from the reopening of the debate about the basis of the invasion and its continuing consequences, including the rise of Islamic State, or Isis.

The Conservatives, including an agonised Cameron, backed the invasion at the time, but the Tories subsequently said they had been misled about the intelligence. Although Cameron pushed through military action in Libya, and, in principle, air strikes to punish Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria, the prime minister has generally been a sceptic about humanitarian military action. The Liberal Democrats opposed the war and probably would gain most politically from publication.

David Davis, the former shadow home secretary who has been a leading voice in calling for the report to be published before the election, said it was incomprehensible that the report was being delayed until after the election.

Davis told the Guardian: “Frankly this is not good enough. It is more than five years since it started. It is incomprehensible as to why this is [being delayed]. We need to know why. This is not simply some formality. This is for the whole country to understand why we made a terrible mistake in Iraq. Simply putting it off is not good enough.

“Why has this taken so long? What is going on that is preventing this? The report was created in the first place by a Labour government in order to get an understanding of what went wrong. I can think of no reason why this should be deferred.”

Davis has been a driving force behind the backbench Commons vote next week that would call on Chilcot to publish in a few weeks. He said the vote would not bind Chilcot in case there was complex legal justification for the delay. But Chilcot would have been expected to explain to MPs the delay. “We are getting neither. We are getting neither the report nor the explanation,” he said.

Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt
Wednesday 21 January 2015 00.21 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 21 January 2015 09.17 GMT

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© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

They bombed al-Jazeera’s reporters. Now the US is after our integrity (2010)

A lot can change in five years. In December 2005 the Guardian opened its pages for me to respond to a leak – the Bush-Blair memo in which both leaders discussed the possibility of bombing Al-Jazeera’s Qatar HQ, where more than 1,000 people work. While those who leaked the memo were imprisoned, its detailed contents were never disclosed. Earlier this year I learned from a senior US official that the discussions had indeed taken place.

I was not surprised. Our bureaus in Kabul and Iraq had previously been bombed by the US in an attempt to stifle the channel’s independence; one of our journalists in Iraq was killed. But this did not deter us from our mission to provide “the opinion and the other opinion” – our motto; to give a voice to the voiceless; to hold centres of power to account; and to uphold our editorial independence no matter what the cost. We maintained these values even as the US bombed our offices, continuing our coverage of both sides of the story.

The Arab world, the region in which we are located, continues to see its share of bloodshed and war. Our audience, often the victim of these conflicts, demands honesty, credibility and integrity. If we get a story wrong, or are biased, it could mean the difference between life and death for viewers. They have come to expect independence as a standard.

This week our independence was once again called into question. Cables from the US embassy in Doha were made accessible by WikiLeaks, alleging that Qatar was using Al-Jazeera as a tool for its foreign policy. While nothing could be further from the truth, US diplomats had the freedom to express their opinions. But interpretation and conjecture cannot take the place of analysis and fact. They focused on the source of our funding rather than our reporting, in an attempt to tarnish our work. Judgments made in the cables are plainly erroneous, such as the assertion that we softened our coverage of Saudi Arabia and the Iranian elections due to political pressure – one needs only to look at our reporting of these events to see that this is not the case. We are journalists not politicians – we are not driven by political agendas, for or against anyone.

Journalists across the world picked up the story, and while some were careful to place it in context, many uncritically took the claims as fact. The Guardian’s report went well beyond even what was stated in the cables; the article clearly misunderstood the rhetorical statements reportedly made by Qatar’s prime minister, which then fed the false claim that al-Jazeera was being used as a “bargaining chip”. Those who understand the Middle East also know that Al-Jazeera’s coverage is no obstacle to a durable peace in the region. Context, analysis and a deep knowledge of the region are essential to a proper reading of the cables. Without these, journalism is another unwitting tool for centres of power.

The region where we are situated is host to some of the most repressive governments in the world, where freedom of expression is silenced, journalists languish in prisons, and independent civil institutions are rare. Allegations that we lack independence are part of our daily routine – they no longer surprise us.

But we take measures to protect our editorial integrity in spite of intimidation from governments and regimes – our journalists have been banned, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Al-Jazeera’s bureaus have routinely been closed, many times by Arab regimes with which Qatar has good relationships. Although banned in these countries, we continue to cover their stories with depth and balance. To institutionalise our independence we have ensured diversity among our staff, and have more than 50 nationalities represented – with no majority of any one nationality.

Questions about al-Jazeera’s independence and its relationship with Qatar, our primary source of funding, are asked in almost any interview I give. Because the region has a history of state-controlled media it’s assumed our host country must impact upon our editorial policy. But the Qatari government has kept its distance – it is similar to the kind of model one sees in other publicly funded arm’s length broadcasters such as the BBC. Qatar’s prime minister openly criticises al-Jazeera, and has talked about the “headaches” caused by our independence. But we subject state officials to the same hard questions and journalistic standards we have for everyone else. Al-Jazeera has strong editorial policies to protect its independence from the influence of power – one only has to look at the screen to witness this.

While we don’t claim to get it right all of the time (we are only human), we have got it right most of the time. We have placed a great deal of value on reporting from the field. Had the US diplomats actually watched al-Jazeera’s reports, they would have heard the voices and players who were shaping conflicts, wars and emerging democracies. By analysing our content they would have gained insights into the region. When George Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq and most media outlets echoed his simplistic version of events, al-Jazeera was providing pictures and analyses that predicted the coming storm. At the time we were roundly criticised, often by states who had friendly relations with Qatar. And in Afghanistan, while others broadcast images of progress and calm, al-Jazeera highlighted the growing influence of the Taliban, reflecting the politics on the ground. In these cases and many others, time has vindicated our reporting. Had these diplomats listened to the voices reflected in our coverage perhaps some of their mistakes could have been averted.

Those who lobby against al-Jazeera seek to delegitimise the work of dedicated and courageous journalists who put their lives on the line. For 14 years we have committed ourselves to safeguarding our editorial independence. Our audiences rely on us for this, and we will not be affected by pressure from regimes, states, media or other centres of power. We have full confidence in our mission as journalists.

Wadah Khanfar
The Guardian, Friday 10 December 2010 21.46 GMT

Find this story at 10 December 2010

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Fury at US as attacks kill three journalists (2003)

Al-Jazeera quits Iraq as Americans accused over deaths

The Arab satellite television channel al-Jazeera is to pull its reporters out of Iraq after one of them was killed during a US air raid on Baghdad.

“I cannot guarantee anyone’s safety,” the news editor, Ibrahim Hillal, told reporters. “We still have four reporters in Baghdad, we will pull them out. We have one embedded with US forces in Nassiriya; we want to pull him out.”

The move followed a day in which three journalists were killed by US fire in separate attacks in Baghdad, leading to accusations that US forces were targeting the news media.

Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, 35, was killed when an American tank fired a shell directly at the Reuters suite on the 15th floor at the Palestine hotel, where many journalists are staying.

Jose Couso, 37, a cameraman for the Spanish television channel Tele 5, was wounded in the same attack and died later in hospital. Samia Nakhoul, the Gulf bureau chief of Reuters, was also injured, along with a British technician, Paul Pasquale, and an Iraqi photographer, Faleh Kheiber.

Earlier, al-Jazeera cameraman Tarek Ayyoub, a 35-year-old Palestinian who lived in Jordan, was killed when two bombs dropped during a US air raid hit the satellite station’s office in the Iraqi capital.

American forces also opened fire on the offices of Abu Dhabi television, whose identity is spelled out in large blue letters on the roof.

All the journalists were killed and injured in daylight at locations known to the Pentagon as media sites. The tank shell that hit the Palestine hotel slammed into the 18-storey building at noon, shaking the tower and spewing rubble and dirt into hotel rooms at least six floors below.

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The attack brought pandemonium in the hotel which lies on the east side of the Tigris. It was adopted by all remaining western journalists in the city after advice from the Pentagon to evacuate from the western side of the river.

Central command in Qatar said its troops had been responding in self-defence to enemy fire but witnesses dismissed that claim as false. According to a central command statement, “commanders on the ground reported that coalition forces received significant enemy fire from the hotel and consistent with the inherent right of self-defence, coalition forces returned fire”.

The statement added: “Sadly a Reuters and Tele 5 journalist were killed in this exchange. These tragic incidents appear to be the latest example of the Iraqi regime’s continued strategy of using civilian facilities for military purposes.”

But journalists in the hotel insisted there had been no Iraqi fire.

Sky’s correspondent, David Chater, said: “I never heard a single shot coming from the area around here, certainly not from the hotel,” he said.

BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar added that none of the other journalists in the hotel had heard any sniper fire.

Chater said he saw a US tank pointing its gun at the hotel and turned away just before the blast. “I noticed one of the tanks had its barrel pointed up at the building. We went inside and there was an almighty crash. That tank shell, if it was an American tank shell, was aimed directly at this hotel and directly at journalists. This wasn’t an accident. It seems to be a very accurate shot.”

Geert Linnebank, Reuters editor-in-chief, said the incident “raises questions about the judgment of the advancing US troops who have known all along that this hotel is the main base for almost all foreign journalists in Baghdad”.

Journalists, a watchdog group that defends press freedoms, demanded an invesigation in a letter to the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. “We believe these attacks violate the Geneva conventions,” the letter said, adding that even if US forces had been fired on from the Palestine hotel “the evidence suggests that the response of US forces was disproportionate and therefore violated humanitarian law”.

During the Afghan war, two supposedly smart US bombs hit the Reuters office in Kabul and many suspect the attack was no accident. It happened at a strategic moment, two hours before the Northern Alliance took over the city.

US military officials at central command said they were investigating and added that the casualties were “regrettable”. “We know that we don’t target journalists,” said Brigadier General Vince Brooks, deputy director of operations.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayyoub was broadcasting live to the satellite station’s 7am news bulletin when US aircraft fired two missiles at the bureau building, killing him and injuring a colleague. Two Iraqi staff are missing.

Ibrahim Hilal, al-Jazeera’s chief editor at its headquarters in Qatar, said a US warplane was seen above the building before the attack. “Witnesses saw the plane fly over twice before dropping the bombs. Our office is in a residential area and even the Pentagon knows its location,” he said.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Majed Abdul-Hadi said the bombardment was probably deliberate.

In Doha last night al-Jazeera’s chairman, Hamad bin Thamer, said the channel “could not ascertain” if its Baghdad bureau had been targeted by the US. But he dismissed American claims that there had been gunfire coming from the building at the time of the attack.

“This was absolutely and categorically denied by other reporters and our reporters present on the ground,” he said.

Mr Ayyoub, 35, a Palestinian born in Kuwait, had not intended to go to Baghdad but as the war dragged on he felt he had to work there, and al-Jazeera agreed to let him work in Baghdad.

His widow, Dima Ayyoub, launched a vitriolic attack on America: “My message to you is that hatred breeds hatred,” she said in a live telephone link-up from her home in Amman, Jordan. “I cannot see where is the cleanness in this war. All I see is blood, destruction and shattered hearts. The US said it was a war against terrorism. Who is committing terrorism now?”

Suzanne Goldenberg in Baghdad, Rory McCarthy in Doha, Jonathan Steele in Amman and Brian Whitaker
Wednesday 9 April 2003 07.30 BST

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© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

KSM Questioned About al Qaeda-Iraq Ties During Waterboarding (2011)

Some of the first questions asked of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed upon his capture and during the time during which he was waterboarded were about possible connections between al Qaeda and Iraq, according to a review of several reports on U.S. intelligence operations.

The mastermind of the September 11 attacks was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and according to Office of Legal Counsel memos released last month, was waterboarded 183 times that same month.

The substance of the intelligence that was being sought from him has been an object of some speculation, with several defenders of the interrogation practice arguing that the goal was to prevent an impending attack on America. But a line buried on page 353 of the July 2004 Select Committee on Intelligence report on pre-Iraq war intelligence strongly suggests that the interrogation was just as centered on a possible Iraq-al-Qaeda link as terrorist activity.

“CTC [Counter Terrorist Center] noted that the questions regarding al-Qaida’s ties to the Iraqi regime were among the first presented to senior al-Qaida operational planner Khalid Shaikh Muhammad following his capture.”

Revelations that KSM was questioned about possible al Qaeda ties to Iraq at roughly the same time that he was undergoing waterboarding provides some key insight into the purpose of the CIA interrogations. A recently de-classified Senate Armed Services Committee report quoted army psychologist Maj. Paul Burney as saying that a large part of his time on a Behavioral Science Consultation Team was “focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.” McClatchy newspapers, meanwhile, published an article last month citing a former intelligence official acknowledging that the Bush administration had pressured interrogators to use harsh techniques to produce evidence connecting the terrorist organization and Iraq’s regime.

The efforts at establishing a link never bore fruit. Burney went on to note that “we were not being successful in establishing a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.” Meanwhile, earlier in the July 2004 Select Committee on Intelligence report, it is noted that KSM was “unaware of any collaborative relationship between al-Qaida and the former Iraqi regime, citing ideological disagreements as an impediment to closer ties. In addition, he was unable to corroborate reports that al-Qada associate Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi had traveled to Iraq to obtain medical treatment for injuries sustained in Afghanistan.”

That said, reports showing that waterboarding would be used as a means of establishing a link between Iraq and al Qaeda does appear to diffuse the notion that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were only being used in “ticking time bomb” scenarios.

Some former senior Bush administration officials have publicly echoed this version of events. “[W]hat I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 — well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion — its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S.,” wrote former Colin Powell chief of staff and prominent Bush critic, Lawrence Wilkerson, on the Washington Note, “but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.”

Sam Stein
Posted: 06/15/2009 5:12 am EDT Updated: 05/25/2011 1:20 pm

Find this story at 25 May 2011

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Powell aide says torture helped build Iraq war case (2009)

(CNN) — Finding a “smoking gun” linking Iraq and al Qaeda became the main purpose of the abusive interrogation program the Bush administration authorized in 2002, a former State Department official told CNN on Thursday.

The allegation was included in an online broadside aimed at former Vice President Dick Cheney by Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff for then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. In it, Wilkerson wrote that the interrogation program began in April and May of 2002, and then-Vice President Cheney’s office kept close tabs on the questioning.

“Its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at preempting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al Qaeda,” Wilkerson wrote in The Washington Note, an online political journal.

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said his accusation is based on information from current and former officials. He said he has been “relentlessly digging” since 2004, when Powell asked him to look into the scandal surrounding the treatment of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

“I couldn’t walk into a courtroom and prove this to anybody, but I’m pretty sure it’s fairly accurate,” he told CNN.

Most of Wilkerson’s online essay criticizes Cheney’s recent defense of the “alternative” interrogation techniques the Bush administration authorized for use against suspected terrorists. Cheney has argued the interrogation program was legal and effective in preventing further attacks on Americans.

Critics say the tactics amounted to the illegal torture of prisoners in U.S. custody and have called for investigations of those who authorized them.

Representatives of the former vice president declined comment on Wilkerson’s allegations. But Wilkerson told CNN that by early 2002, U.S. officials had decided that “we had al Qaeda pretty much on the run.”

“The priority had turned to other purposes, and one of those purposes was to find substantial contacts between al Qaeda and Baghdad,” he said.

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The argument that Iraq could have provided weapons of mass destruction to terrorists such as al Qaeda was a key element of the Bush administration’s case for the March 2003 invasion. But after the invasion, Iraq was found to have dismantled its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, and the independent commission that investigated the 2001 attacks found no evidence of a collaborative relationship between the two entities.

Wilkerson wrote that in one case, the CIA told Cheney’s office that a prisoner under its interrogation program was now “compliant,” meaning agents recommended the use of “alternative” techniques should stop.

At that point, “The VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods,” Wilkerson wrote.

“The detainee had not revealed any al Qaeda-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, ‘revealed’ such contacts.”

Al-Libi’s claim that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s government had trained al Qaeda operatives in producing chemical and biological weapons appeared in the October 2002 speech then-President Bush gave when pushing Congress to authorize military action against Iraq. It also was part of Powell’s February 2003 presentation to the United Nations on the case for war, a speech Powell has called a “blot” on his record.

Al-Libi later recanted the claim, saying it was made under torture by Egyptian intelligence agents, a claim Egypt denies. He died last week in a Libyan prison, reportedly a suicide, Human Rights Watch reported.

Stacy Sullivan, a counterterrorism adviser for the U.S.-based group, called al-Libi’s allegation “pivotal” to the Bush administration’s case for war, as it connected Baghdad to the terrorist organization behind the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

And an Army psychiatrist assigned to support questioning of suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba told the service’s inspector-general that interrogators there were trying to connect al Qaeda and Iraq.

“This is my opinion,” Maj. Paul Burney told the inspector-general’s office. “Even though they were giving information and some of it was useful, while we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between aI Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful in establishing a link between aI Qaeda and Iraq. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

Burney’s account was included in a Senate Armed Services Committee report released in April. Other interrogators reported pressure to produce intelligence “but did not recall pressure to identify links between Iraq and al Qaeda,” the Senate report states.

Cheney criticized Powell during a television interview over the weekend, saying he no longer considers Powell a fellow Republican after his former colleague endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

Wilkerson said he is not speaking for his former boss and does not know whether Powell shares his views.

May 14, 2009 — Updated 0311 GMT (1111 HKT)
By Matt Smith

Find this story at 14 May 2009

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Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link (2009)

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would’ve provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and Saddam’s regime.

The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush’s quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.

“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”

Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information,” he said.

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

Excerpts from Burney’s interview appeared in a full, declassified report on a two-year investigation into detainee abuse released on Tuesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., called Burney’s statement “very significant.”

“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.

A senior Guantanamo Bay interrogator, David Becker, told the committee that only “a couple of nebulous links” between al Qaida and Iraq were uncovered during interrogations of unidentified detainees, the report said.

Others in the interrogation operation “agreed there was pressure to produce intelligence, but did not recall pressure to identify links between Iraq and al Qaida,” the report said.

The report, the executive summary of which was released in November, found that Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other former senior Bush administration officials were responsible for the abusive interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld approved extreme interrogation techniques for Guantanamo in December 2002. He withdrew his authorization the following month amid protests by senior military lawyers that some techniques could amount to torture, violating U.S. and international laws.

Military interrogators, however, continued employing some techniques in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.

Bush and his top lieutenants charged that Saddam was secretly pursuing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in defiance of a United Nations ban, and had to be overthrown because he might provide them to al Qaida for an attack on the U.S. or its allies.

(John Walcott and Warren P. Strobel contributed to this article.)

BY JONATHAN S. LANDAY
McClatchy Newspapers April 21, 2009

Find this story at 21 April 2009

Copyright McClatchy DC

Isis not comparable to al-Qaida pre-9/11, US intelligence officials say

Leading counterterrorism expert said despite group’s dramatic rise, it does not pose a direct threat of major attack on a US city

US intelligence officials have concluded that Islamic State (Isis) militants do not currently pose a direct threat of a major attack on an American city and, despite the group’s dramatic rise to prominence in the Middle East, is not comparable to “al-Qaida pre-9/11”.

Details of the current US intelligence community’s assessment of Isis were made public on Wednesday in rare public remarks by Matthew Olsen, the departing director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Speaking a day after a video emerged showing Isis fighters murdering Steven Sotloff, the second American journalist beheaded by the group in a month, Olsen conceded the militant group had made dramatic territorial gains in Syria and Iraq, and displayed an unprecedented skill at using the internet for propaganda.

He said it viewed itself as “the new leader in the global jihadist movement” although US intelligence officials maintain al-Qaida currently poses a more serious adversary.

But Olsen played down the risk of a spectacular al-Qaida-style attack in a major US or even European city, adding: “There is no credible information that [Isis] is planning to attack the United States”. He added there was “no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States – full stop”.

The leading counterterrorism expert said said it was “spot on” to conclude that Isis is significantly more limited than al-Qaida was, for example, in the run-up to 9/11, when it had underground cells across Europe and the US. “We certainly aren’t there,” Olsen said. “[Isis] is not al-Qaida pre-9/11”.

His assessment – effectively the view of the US government’s foremost terrorist monitoring agency – contrasts with the flurry of reports indicating alarm and even panic in western governments over the prospect of foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq.

The response has been particularly heated in the UK, the source of as many as 500 fighters who have traveled to the region to fight with Isis. The masked militant who appeared on video beheading both Sotloff and another American journalist, James Foley, is British, and the UK government has vowed a fierce response against returning jihadists.

Olsen said that returning fighters were what the US was “most concerned about”, but said they were most likely to commit lone attacks and played down the chances of a more sophisticated terrorist atrocity.

In comments at the Brookings think tank, he charted the rapid rise of Isis, which has exploited the three-year civil war in Syria, making stunning territorial gains, carving out a sanctuary from which to coordinate its expansion across northern Iraq. He said the group now commands 10,000 fighters and has laid claim to an area of Syria and Iraq roughly the size of the UK.

In doing so, the militant organisation has gained weapons, equipment and helped build on a financial war chest which, the US estimates, grows by $1m each day from illicit oil sales, smuggling and ransom payments.

But Olsen cautioned: “As dire as all of this sounds, from my vantage point it is important that we keep this threat in perspective and we take a moment to consider it in the context of the overall terrorist landscape.” He added that the core al-Qaida remained the dominant group in the global jihadist movement, even if though it has recently been outpaced by Isis’s sophisticated propaganda machine.

Olsen said that more than 1,000 Europeans and more than 100 Americans are believed to have traveled to the Syria to fight in the civil war, and a substantial portion are believed to have aligned themselves with Isis.

He acknowledged the risk they could return to their countries of origin, or travel to other locations in the Middle East, to attack other western targets. He said that “left unchecked, [foreign fighters loyal to Isis] will seek to carry out attacks closer to home”.

But he said the potential risk was of “individuals – one, two” attacking the US, rather than a coordinated, larger-scale atrocity. The acutest threat, Olsen insisted, was against US assets and personnel in the region, particularly in Baghdad. An attack on the US mainland was more likely to be “a smaller scale attack; brutal, lethal, but nothing like a 9/11 kind of attack”.

Paul Lewis in Washington
Wednesday 3 September 2014 21.06 BST

Find this story at 3 September 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.

How ISIS Evades the CIA America’s high-tech spies aren’t equipped to penetrate low-tech terrorist organizations.

The inability of the United States government to anticipate the ISIS offensive that has succeeded in taking control of a large part of Iraq is already being referred to as an “intelligence failure.” To be sure, Washington has unparalleled technical capabilities to track money movements and to obtain information from the airwaves. It is adept at employing surveillance drones and other highly classified intrusive electronic methods, but there is an inherent problem with that kind of information collection: knowing how the process works in even the most general way can make it relatively easy to counter by an opponent who can go low tech.

Terrorists now know that using cell phones is dangerous, that transferring money using commercial accounts can be detected, that moving around when a drone is overhead can be fatal, and that communicating by computer is likely to be intercepted and exposed even when encrypted. So they rely on couriers to communicate and move money while also avoiding the use of the vulnerable technologies whenever they can, sometimes using public phones and computers only when they are many miles away from their operational locations, and changing addresses, SIM cards, and telephone numbers frequently to confuse the monitoring.

Technical intelligence has another limitation: while it is excellent on picking up bits and pieces and using sophisticated computers to work through the bulk collection of chatter, it is largely unable to learn the intentions of terrorist groups and leaders. To do that you need spies, ideally someone who is placed in the inner circle of an organization and who is therefore privy to decision making.

Since 9/11 U.S. intelligence has had a poor record in recruiting agents to run inside terrorist organizations—or even less toxic groups that are similarly structured—in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Information collected relating to the internal workings of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, dissident Sunni groups in Iraq, and now ISIS has been, to say the least, disappointing. To be fair this is often because security concerns limit the ability of American case officers to operate in areas that are considered too dangerous, which is generally speaking where the terrorist targets are actually located. Also, hostile groups frequently run their operations through franchise arrangements where much of the decision making is both local and funded without large cash transfers from a central organization, making the activity hard to detect.

In the case of ISIS, even the number of its adherents is something of a guesstimate, though a figure of 5,000 fighters might not be too far off the mark. Those supporters are likely a mixed bag, some motivated to various degrees by the ISIS core agenda to destroy the Syrian and Iraqi governments in order to introduce Sharia law and recreate the Caliphate, while others might well be along for the ride. Some clearly are psychological outsiders who are driven by the prospect of being on a winning team. They are in any event normally scattered over a large geographical area and divided into cells that have little in the way of lateral connection. They would, however, be responsive to operational demands made by the leadership, headed by Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Moving in small groups while lacking a huge baggage train or infrastructure, it was relatively easy to concentrate to push into Iraq and link up with dissident Sunni tribesmen without necessarily coming to the attention of spies in the sky, American drones flying out of Turkey.

It should be assumed that the U.S. intelligence community has no spies inside ISIS at any level where it might be possible to collect significant or actionable information. In the past, successful penetration of a terrorist organization has come about when a dissident member of the group surfaces and volunteers his services in return for money or other considerations. This is how law enforcement and intelligence agencies broke the Euro terrorists who were active in the 1970s and 1980s, but its success depended on the radical groups being composed largely of middle-class students who were ideologically driven but by nature not necessarily loyal to a political cause or its leaders. The defector model does not appear to have been repeated successfully recently with the demographically quite different radical groups active in Syria, at least not at a level where actionable intelligence might be produced.

Lacking a volunteer, the alternative would be to run what is referred to as a seeding operation. Given U.S. intelligence’s probable limited physical access to any actual terrorist groups operating in Syria or Iraq any direct attempt to penetrate the organization through placing a source inside would be difficult in the extreme. Such efforts would most likely be dependent on the assistance of friendly intelligence services in Turkey or Jordan.

Both Turkey and Jordan have reported that terrorists have entered their countries by concealing themselves in the large numbers of refugees that the conflict in Syria has produced, and both are concerned as they understand full well that groups like ISIS will be targeting them next. Some of the infiltrating adherents to radical groups have certainly been identified and detained by the respective intelligence services of those two countries, and undoubtedly efforts have been made to “turn” some of those in custody to send them back into Syria (and more recently Iraq) to report on what is taking place. Depending on what arrangements might have been made to coordinate the operations, the “take” might well be shared with the United States and other friendly governments.

But seeding is very much hit or miss, as someone who has been out of the loop of his organization might have difficulty working his way back in. He will almost certainly be regarded with some suspicion by his peers and would be searched and watched after his return, meaning that he could not take back with him any sophisticated communications devices no matter how cleverly they are concealed. This would make communicating any information obtained back to one’s case officers in Jordan or Turkey difficult or even impossible.

All of the above is meant to suggest that intelligence agencies that were created to oppose and penetrate other nation-state adversaries are not necessarily well equipped to go after terrorists, particularly when those groups are ethnically cohesive or recruited through family and tribal vetting, and able to operate in a low-tech fashion to negate the advantages that advanced technologies provide. Claiming intelligence failure has a certain appeal given the $80 billion dollars that is spent annually to keep the government informed, but it must also be observed that it is also a convenient club for Republicans to use to beat on the president, which might indeed be the prime motivation.

The real problem for Washington is that penetrating second-generation terrorist groups such as those operating today is extremely difficult, and is not merely a matter of throwing more money and resources into the hopper, which has become the U.S. government response of choice when confronted by a problem. Success against terrorists will require working against them at their own level, down in the trenches where they recruit and train their cadres. It will necessitate a whole new way of thinking about the target and how to go after it, and will inevitably result in the deaths of many more American case officers as they will be exposed without elaborate security networks if they are doing their jobs the right way. It is quite likely that this is a price that the U.S. government will ultimately be unwilling to pay, and that unreasonable expectations from Congress will only result in more claims that there have been yet more intelligence failures.

By PHILIP GIRALDI • July 23, 2014
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

Find this story at 23 July 2014

Copyright http://www.theamericanconservative.com

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: How US involvement in Iraq shaped the rise of ISIS leader

BAGHDAD: When American forces raided a home near Fallujah during the turbulent 2004 offensive against the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, they got the hard-core militants they had been looking for. They also picked up an apparent hanger-on, an Iraqi man in his early 30s whom they knew nothing about.

The Americans duly registered his name as they processed him and the others at the Camp Bucca detention center: Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry.

That once-peripheral figure has become known to the world now as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State, and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East.

“He was a street thug when we picked him up in 2004,” said a Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “It’s hard to imagine we could have had a crystal ball then that would tell us he’d become head of ISIS,” he said, using a former abbreviation of the Islamic State group.

At every turn, Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq – most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action. And now he has forced a new chapter of that intervention, after Islamic State military successes and brutal massacres of minorities in its advance prompted President Barack Obama to order airstrikes in Iraq.

Baghdadi has seemed to revel in the fight, promising that the group would soon be in “direct confrontation” with the United States.

Still, when he first latched on to al-Qaida, in the early years of the US occupation, it was not as a fighter, but rather as a religious figure. He has since declared himself caliph of the Islamic world, and pressed a violent campaign to root out religious minorities, like Shiites and Yazidis, that has brought condemnation even from al-Qaida leaders.

Despite his reach for global stature, Baghdadi, in his early 40s, in many ways has remained more mysterious than any of the major jihadi figures who preceded him.

American and Iraqi officials have teams of intelligence analysts and operatives dedicated to stalking him, but have had little success in piecing together the arc of his life. And his recent appearance at a mosque in Mosul to deliver a sermon, a video of which was distributed online, was the first time many of his followers had ever seen him.

Baghdadi is said to have a doctorate in Islamic studies from a university in Baghdad, and was a mosque preacher in his hometown, Samarra. He also has an attractive pedigree, claiming to trace his ancestry to the Quraysh Tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.

Beyond that, almost every biographical point about Baghdadi is occluded by some confusion or another.

The Pentagon says that Baghdadi, after being arrested in Fallujah in early 2004, was released that December with a large group of other prisoners deemed low level. But Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi scholar who has researched Baghdadi’s life, sometimes on behalf of Iraqi intelligence, said that Baghdadi had spent five years in an American detention facility where, like many Islamic State fighters now on the battlefield, he became more radicalized.

Hashimi said that Baghdadi grew up in a poor family in a farming village near Samarra, and that his family was Sufi – a strain of Islam known for its tolerance. He said Baghdadi came to Baghdad in the early 1990s, and over time became more radical.

Early in the insurgency, he gravitated toward a new jihadi group led by the flamboyant Jordanian militant operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Though Zarqawi’s group, al-Qaida in Iraq, began as a mostly Iraqi insurgent organization, it claimed allegiance to the global Qaida leadership, and over the years brought in more and more foreign leadership figures.

It is unclear how much prominence Baghdadi enjoyed under Zarqawi. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer now at the Brookings Institution, recently wrote that Baghdadi had spent several years in Afghanistan, working alongside Zarqawi. But some officials say the American intelligence community does not believe Baghdadi has ever set foot outside the conflict zones of Iraq and Syria, and that he was never particularly close to Zarqawi.

The American operation that killed Zarqawi in 2006 was a huge blow to the organization’s leadership. But it was years later that Baghdadi got his chance to take the reins.

As the Americans were winding down their war in Iraq, they focused on trying to wipe out al-Qaida in Iraq’s remaining leadership. In April 2010, a joint operation by Iraqi and American forces made the biggest strike against the group in years, killing its top two figures near Tikrit.

A month later, the group issued a statement announcing new leadership, and Baghdadi was at the top of the list. The Western intelligence community scrambled for information.

“Any idea who these guys are?” wrote an analyst at Stratfor, a private intelligence company that then worked for the US government in Iraq, in an email that has since been released by WikiLeaks. “These are likely nom de guerres, but are they associated with anyone we know?”

In June 2010, Stratfor published a report on the group that considered its prospects in the wake of the killings of the top leadership. The report stated, “the militant organization’s future for success looks bleak.”

Still, the report said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq, then an alternative name for al-Qaida in Iraq, “I.S.I.’s intent to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq has not diminished.”

The Sunni tribes of eastern Syria and Iraq’s Anbar and Ninevah provinces have long had ties that run deeper than national boundaries, and the Islamic State group was built on those relationships. Accordingly, as the group’s fortunes waned in Iraq, it found a new opportunity in the fight against President Bashar Assad’s government in Syria.

As more moderate Syrian rebel groups were beaten down by the Syrian security forces and their allies, the Islamic State group increasingly took control of the fight, in part on the strength of weapons and funding from its operations in Iraq and from jihadist supporters in the Arab world.

That fact has led US lawmakers and political figures, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to accuse Obama of aiding the group’s rise in two ways: first by completely withdrawing American troops from Iraq in 2011, then by hesitating to arm more moderate Syrian opposition groups early in that conflict.

“I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if we had committed to empowering the moderate Syrian opposition last year,” Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a recent hearing on the crisis in Iraq. “Would ISIS have grown as it did?”

But well before then, American actions were critical to Baghdadi’s rise in more direct ways. He is Iraqi to the core, and his extremist ideology was sharpened and refined in the crucible of the US occupation.

The American invasion presented Baghdadi and his allies with a ready-made enemy and recruiting draw. And the American ouster of Saddam Hussein, whose brutal dictatorship had kept a lid on extremist Islamist movements, gave Baghdadi the freedom for his radical views to flourish.

In contrast to Zarqawi, who increasingly looked outside of Iraq for leadership help, Baghdadi has surrounded himself by a tight clique of former Baath Party military and intelligence officers from Saddam’s regime who know how to fight.

Analysts and Iraqi intelligence officers believe that after Baghdadi took over the organization he appointed a Saddam-era officer, a man known as Hajji Bakr, as his military commander, overseeing operations and a military council that included three other officers of the former regime’s security forces.

Hajji Bakr was believed to have been killed last year in Syria. Analysts believe that he and at least two of the three other men on the military council were held at various times by the Americans at Camp Bucca.

Baghdadi has been criticized by some in the wider jihadi community for his reliance on former Baathists. But for many others, Baghdadi’s successes have trumped these critiques.

“He has credibility because he runs half of Iraq and half of Syria,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New American Foundation.

Syria may have been a temporary refuge and proving ground, but Iraq has always been his stronghold and his most important source of financing. Now, it has become the main venue for Baghdadi’s state-building exercise, as well.

Although the group’s capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, appeared to catch the US intelligence community and the Iraqi government by surprise, Baghdadi’s mafia-like operations in the city had long been crucial to his strategy of establishing the Islamic caliphate.

His group earned an estimated $12 million a month, according to US officials, from extortion schemes in Mosul, which it used to finance operations in Syria. Before June, the Islamic State group controlled neighborhoods of the city by night, collecting money and slipping in to the countryside by day.

The United Nations Security Council is considering new measures aimed at crippling the group’s finances, according to Reuters, by threatening sanctions on supporters. Such action is likely to have little effect because, by now, the group is almost entirely self-financing, through its seizing oil fields, extortion and tax collection in the territories it controls. As it gains territory in Iraq, it has found new ways to generate revenue. For instance, recently in Hawija, a village near Kirkuk, the group demanded that all former soldiers or police officers pay an $850 “repentance fine.”

Though he has captured territory through brutal means, Baghdadi has also taken practical steps at state-building, and even shown a lighter side. In Mosul, the Islamic State has held a “fun day” for kids, distributed gifts and food during Eid al-Fitr, held Quran recitation competitions, started bus services and opened schools.

Baghdadi appears to be drawing on a famous jihadi text that has long inspired al-Qaida: “The Management of Savagery,” written by a Saudi named Abu Bakr Naji.

Fishman called the text, “Che Guevara warmed over for jihadis.” William McCants, an analyst at the Brookings Institution who in 2005, as a fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, translated the book in to English, once described it as “the seven highly effective habits of jihadi leaders.”

American officials say Baghdadi runs a more efficient organization than Zarqawi did, and has unchallenged control over the organization, with authority delegated to his lieutenants. “He doesn’t have to sign off on every detail,” said one senior US counterterrorism official. “He gives them more discretion and flexibility.”

A senior Pentagon official said of Baghdadi, with grudging admiration: “He’s done a good job of rallying and organizing a beaten-down organization. But he may now be overreaching.”

But even before the civil war in Syria presented him with a growth opportunity, Baghdadi had been taking steps in Iraq – something akin to a corporate restructuring – that laid the foundation for the group’s resurgence, just as the Americans were leaving. He picked off rivals through assassinations, orchestrated prison breaks to replenish his ranks of fighters and diversified his sources of funding through extortion, to wean the group off outside funding from al-Qaida’s central authorities.

“He was preparing to split from al-Qaida,” Hashimi said.

Now Baghdadi commands not just a terrorist organization, but, according to Brett McGurk, the top State Department official on Iraq policy, “a full blown army.”

Speaking at a recent congressional hearing, McGurk said, “It is worse than al-Qaida.”

New York Times Aug 11, 2014, 04.44PM IST
By Tim Arango and Eric Schmitt

Find this story at 11 August 2014

© 2014 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.

Profile: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first appearance on video when he gave a sermon in Mosul in July

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has been careful to reveal little about himself and his whereabouts.

Before appearing in a video delivering a sermon in Mosul in July, there were only two authenticated photos of him.

Even his own fighters reportedly do not speak about seeing him face to face.

The ISIS chief also appears to wear a mask to address his commanders, earning the nickname “the invisible sheikh”.

A handout picture released by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in January 2014 shows a photograph purportedly of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
The Iraqi interior ministry released this image of Baghdadi in January 2014
But Baghdadi – a nom de guerre, rather than his real name – has good reason to maintain a veil of mystery, says the BBC’s Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner.

One of his predecessors, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi who headed the most violent jihadist group in Iraq until his death, was a high-profile showman whose secret location was eventually tracked down. He was killed in a US bombing raid in 2006.

Image from a militant website showing a convoy of vehicles and fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters in Iraq’s Anbar Province
ISIS militants have previously seized parts of Iraq’s Anbar province and more recently Mosul and Tikrit
The leader of al-Qaeda’s current incarnation in Iraq may be a shadowy figure, but his organisation ISIS is pulling in thousands of new recruits and has become one of the most cohesive militias in the Middle East, our correspondent adds.

Highly organised
Baghdadi is believed to have been born in Samarra, north of Baghdad, in 1971.

Reports suggest he was a cleric in a mosque in the city around the time of the US-led invasion in 2003.

Some believe he was already a militant jihadist during the rule of Saddam Hussein. Others suggest he was radicalised during the four years he was held at Camp Bucca, a US facility in southern Iraq where many al-Qaeda commanders were detained.

Image of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi taken from the US government National Counterterrorism Center
The US government released an image of the ISIS leader and offered a reward of $10m
He emerged as the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, one of the groups that later became ISIS, in 2010, and rose to prominence during the attempted merger with al-Nusra Front in Syria.

He has not sworn allegiance to the leader of the al-Qaeda network, Zawahiri, who has urged ISIS to focus on Iraq and leave Syria to al-Nusra.

Baghdadi and his fighters have openly defied the al-Qaeda chief, leading some commentators to believe he now holds higher prestige among many Islamist militants.

“The true heir to Osama bin Laden may be ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post.

Zawahiri still has a lot of power by virtue of his franchises in Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.

But Baghdadi has a reputation as a highly organised and ruthless battlefield tactician, which analysts say makes his organisation more attractive to young jihadists than that of Zawahiri, an Islamic theologian.

In October 2011, the US officially designated Baghdadi as “terrorist” and offered a $10m (£5.8m; 7.3m euros) reward for information leading to his capture or death.

It notes Baghdadi’s aliases, including Abu Duaa and Dr Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai.

As well as the uncertainty surrounding his true identity, his whereabouts are also unclear with reports he was in Raqqa in Syria.

So there remain more questions than answers about the leader of one of the world’s most dangerous jihadist groups.

5 July 2014 Last updated at 18:01 GMT

Find this story at 5 July 2014

BBC © 2014

ISIS Leader: ‘See You in New York’

When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi walked away from a U.S. detention camp in 2009, the future leader of ISIS issued some chilling final words to reservists from Long Island.
The Islamist extremist some are now calling the most dangerous man in the world had a few parting words to his captors as he was released from the biggest U.S. detention camp in Iraq in 2009.

“He said, ‘I’ll see you guys in New York,’” recalls Army Col. Kenneth King, then the commanding officer of Camp Bucca.

King didn’t take these words from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a threat. Al-Baghdadi knew that many of his captors were from New York, reservists with the 306 Military Police Battalion, a unit based on Long Island that includes numerous numerous members of the NYPD and the FDNY. The camp itself was named after FDNY Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca, who was killed at the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

King figured that al-Baghdadi was just saying that he had known all along that it was all essentially a joke, that he had only to wait and he would be freed to go back to what he had been doing.

“Like, ‘This is no big thing, I’ll see you on the block,’” King says.

King had not imagined that in less that five years he would be seeing news reports that al-Baghdadi was the leader of ISIS, the ultra-extremist army that was sweeping through Iraq toward Baghdad.

“I’m not surprised that it was someone who spent time in Bucca but I’m a little surprised it was him,” King says. “He was a bad dude, but he wasn’t the worst of the worst.”

King allows that along with being surprised he was frustrated on a very personal level.

“We spent how many missions and how many soldiers were put at risk when we caught this guy and we just released him,” King says.

During the four years that al-Baghdadi was in custody, there had been no way for the Americans to predict what a danger he would become. Al-Baghdadi hadn’t even been assigned to Compound 14, which was reserved for the most virulently extremist Sunnis.

“A lot of times, the really bad guys tended to operate behind the scenes because they wanted to be invisible,” the other officer says.
“The worst of the worst were kept in one area,” King says. “I don’t recall him being in that group.”

Al-Baghdadi was also apparently not one of the extremists who presided over Sharia courts that sought to enforce fundamentalist Islamic law among their fellow prisoners. One extremist made himself known after the guards put TV sets outside the 16-foot chain-link fence that surrounded each compound. An American officer saw a big crowd form in front of one, but came back a short time later to see not a soul.

“Some guy came up and shooed them all away because TV was Western,” recalls the officer, who asked not to be named. “So we identified who that guy was, put a report in his file, kept him under observation for other behaviors.”

The officer says the guards kept constant watch for clues among the prisoners for coalescing groups and ascending leaders.

“You can tell when somebody is eliciting leadership skills, flag him, watch him further, how much leadership they’re excerpting and with whom,” the other officer says. “You have to constantly stay after it because it constantly changes, sometimes day by day.”

The guards would seek to disrupt the courts along with and any nascent organizations and hierarchies by moving inmates to different compounds, though keeping the Sunnis and the Shiites separate.

“The Bloods with the Bloods and the Crips with the Crips, that kind of thing,” King says.

The guards would then move the prisoners again and again. That would also keep the prisoners from spotting any possible weaknesses in security.

“The detainees have nothing but time,” King says. “They’re looking at patterns, they’re looking at routines, they’re looking for opportunities.”

As al-Baghdadi and the 26,000 other prisoners were learning the need for patience in studying the enemy, the guards would be constantly searching for homemade weapons fashioned from what the prisoners dug up, the camp having been built on a former junkyard.

“People think of a detainee operation, they think it’s a sleepy Hogan’s Heroes-type camp,” the other officer says. “And it’s nothing of the sort.”

Meanwhile, al-Baghdadi’s four years at Camp Bucca would have been a perpetual lesson in the importance of avoiding notice.

“A lot of times, the really bad guys tended to operate behind the scenes because they wanted to be invisible,” the other officer says.

King seemed confident that he and his guards with their New York street sense would have known if al-Baghdadi had in fact been prominent among the super-bad guys when he was at Camp Bucca.

King had every reason to think he had seen the last of al-Baghdadi in the late summer of 2009, when this seemingly unremarkable prisoner departed with a group of others on one of the C-17 cargo-plane flights that ferried them to a smaller facility near Baghdad. Camp Bucca closed not along afterward.

Al-Baghdadi clearly remembered some of the lessons of his time there. He has made no videos, unlike Osama bin Laden and many of the other extremist leaders. The news reports might not have had a photo of him at all were it not for the one taken by the Americans when he was first captured in 2005.

That is the face that King was so surprised to see this week as the man who had become the absolute worst of the worst, so bad that even al Qaeda had disowned him. The whole world was stunned as al-Baghdadi now told his enemies “I’ll see you in Baghdad.”

WORLD NEWS 06.14.14

Michael Daly

Find this story at 14 June 2014

© 2014 The Daily Beast Company LLC

Revealed: How Obama SET FREE the merciless terrorist warlord now leading the ISIS horde blazing a trail of destruction through Iraq

The U.S. once had Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in custody at a detention facility in Iraq, it was revealed Friday
Al Baghdadi was among the prisoners released in 2009 from the U.S.’s now-closed Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in Iraq
It is unclear why the U.S. let the merciless al Qaeda leader slip away
Al Baghadadi and his troops took the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi earlier this year and conquered Tikrit and Mosul within the last several days
They are now bearing down on Baghdad, burning down everything that stands in their way and carrying out executions on Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police officers
ISIS posted an image today of an officer’s decapitated head tweeted with sickening message: ‘This is our ball. It’s made of skin #WorldCup’

The United States once had Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in custody at a detention facility in Iraq, but president Barack Obama let him go, it was revealed on Friday.
Al Baghdadi was among the prisoners released in 2009 from the U.S.’s now-closed Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in Iraq.
But now five years later he is leading the army of ruthless extremists bearing down on Baghdad who want to turn the country into an Islamist state by blazing a bloody trail through towns and cities, executing Iraqi soldiers, beheading police officers and gunning down innocent civilians.

These are the only two known photos of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He is seen here on the left as a prisoner half a decade ago and on the right more recently as the shadowy head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, also known as ISIS

These are the only two known photos of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He is seen here on the left as a prisoner half a decade ago and on the right more recently as the shadowy head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, also known as ISIS

This uundated handout picture of jihadi leader of The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Du’a, was provided by the Department of State. The U.S. government has a $10 million bounty out for the al Qaeda leader

This uundated handout picture of jihadi leader of The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Du’a, was provided by the Department of State. The U.S. government has a $10 million bounty out for the al Qaeda leader
It is unclear why the U.S. let the merciless al Qaeda leader slip away, however, one theory proposed by The Telegraph is that al Baghadadi was granted amnesty along with thousands of other detainees because the U.S. was preparing to pull out of Iraq.
The United States began withdrawing troops from Iraq in 2010,and Camp Bucca closed in 2011 along with the United States’ other military facilities as President Obama declared that the War in Iraq had come to an end.
Another possible explanation is that al Baghadadi did not become a jihadist until after his release from Camp Bucca.

More…
Iran offers to work WITH the US to stop the ISIS horde from overrunning Baghdad
Ancient hatreds tearing apart the Middle East: How 1,400-year-old feud between Shia and Sunni Muslims flared into life with the fall of dictators like Gaddafi and Saddam… and threatens to swallow Iraq
Planeloads of American diplomats and contractors EVACUATE from northern Iraq as Obama says he ‘won’t rule out anything’ in stopping jihadist violence spreading throughout the country
The story of how Baghadadi ended up in U.S. custody in the first place and later came to be the leader of a violent terrorist group is the stuff of legend.
It is said by some that al Baghadadi was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was picked up by the U.S. military, a farmer who got caught up in a massive sweep. It was at Camp Bucca that he was radicalized and became a follower of Osama Bin Laden.
Another version of the story is that al Baghadadi, who also goes by the alias of Abu Duaa, was an Islamic fundamentalist before the U.S. invaded Iraq and he became a leader in al Qaeda’s network before he was arrested and detained by American forces in 2005.
‘Abu Duaa was connected to the intimidation, torture and murder of local civilians in Qaim,’ according to a 2005 U.S. intelligence report.
‘He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.’
Crazed: Jihadists are carrying out summary executions on civilians, soldiers and police officers including this police major after taking control of large swathes of Iraq
+11
Crazed: Jihadists are carrying out summary executions on civilians, soldiers and police officers including this police major after taking control of large swathes of Iraq
Shock and awe: An ISIS propaganda video shows militants blindfolding a Sunni police major in his home before cutting off his head
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Shock and awe: An ISIS propaganda video shows militants blindfolding a Sunni police major in his home before cutting off his head
Barbaric: This picture of the police officer’s decapitated head resting on his legs was tweeted with the message: ‘This is our ball. It is made of skin#WorldCup’
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Barbaric: This picture of the police officer’s decapitated head resting on his legs was tweeted with the message: ‘This is our ball. It is made of skin#WorldCup’
The U.S. now has a $10 million warrant out out of the brute, who is accused of bombing a mosque in Baghadad in 2011 and killing former Sunni lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawl.
Al Baghadadi’s use of aliases has made him a difficult man to pin down. The terrorist organizer rarely shows his face – even to his followers. There are only two known pictures of him in existence, and one is from before he was released from prison.
‘We either arrested or killed a man of that name about half a dozen times, he is like a wraith who keeps reappearing, and I am not sure where fact and fiction meet,’ Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb, a former British special forces commander, told The Telegraph.
‘There are those who want to promote the idea that this man is invincible, when it may actually be several people using the same nom de guerre.’
Al Baghadadi and his troops had already taken key cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq earlier this year and have conquered the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Mosul within the last several days.
They are now on the war path to Iraq’s capitol city Baghadad.
The terrorist group’s sudden rise in Iraq has taken the United States mostly by surprise.
President Obama famously said in October of 2011 that the American soldiers leaving Iraq would come home ‘with their heads held high, proud of their success.
‘That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.’
Obama rules out sending troops back to Iraq

President Obama reiterated on Friday that, ‘We will not be sending us troops back into combat in Iraq’
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President Obama reiterated on Friday that, ‘We will not be sending us troops back into combat in Iraq’
Faced with the real possibility that Iraq’s capitol could fall into the hands of terrorists, President Obama is now rethinking America’s military engagement in Iraq.
The president said on Thursday that he would consider launching air strikes on al Baghadadi and his followers.
‘What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates Iraq’s going to need more help’ from the United States and other nations, Obama said yesterday from the Oval Office.
‘I don’t rule out anything,’ he said, ‘because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in Iraq – or Syria, for that matter.’
In his daily briefing with reporters, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney clarified that president Obama was specifically referring to airstrikes.
‘We’re not considering boots on the ground,’ he said.
Thousands of Iraqi soldiers, men and boys captured by ISIS

On the warpath to Baghdad: A graphic showing the town and cities captured by ISIS over the last few days
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On the warpath to Baghdad: A graphic showing the town and cities captured by ISIS over the last few days
Up in arms: Members of Iraqi security forces chant slogans in Baghdad Sunni Islamist militants pressed towards the capital
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Up in arms: Members of Iraqi security forces chant slogans in Baghdad Sunni Islamist militants pressed towards the capital
Sabre-rattling: An Islamic militant issues a call to arms, saying: ‘Declare Allah the Greatest! Allah is the Greatest!’ in a video released by ISIS
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Sabre-rattling: An Islamic militant issues a call to arms, saying: ‘Declare Allah the Greatest! Allah is the Greatest!’ in a video released by ISIS
President Obama reiterated on Friday that, ‘We will not be sending us troops back into combat in Iraq.’
Obama said the U.S. would not get involved at all militarily until Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki and other members of the government demonstrate that they can put aside their secretarian differences and work toward unifying the country.
‘Ultimately it’s up to Iraqis to solve their problems,’ Obama said.
ISIS militants in Mosul stamp on Iraqi military uniforms

Volunteers who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants, who have taken over Mosul and other Northern provinces, gesture from an army truck
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Volunteers who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants, who have taken over Mosul and other Northern provinces, gesture from an army truck
Kurdish Peshmerga forces seize the control of Kirkuk where Iraqi army forces and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant clashed
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Kurdish Peshmerga forces seize the control of Kirkuk where Iraqi army forces and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant clashed
The news that the U.S. may have played a role in the rise of the new Osama bin Laden comes just a week after President Obama released five Taliban commanders in exchange for a U.S. solider being held hostage by the terrorist network.
Lawmakers immediately questioned the logic of the president’s decision, saying that the move could end up backfiring on the U.S. if the five fighters return to the battlefield in Afghanistan once their mandatory one-year stay in Qatar comes to a close.
They are especially concerned given the president’s announcement just days before their release that he plans to withdraw the majority of America’s troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year.
Already one, of the Taliban 5 have vowed to return to Afghanistan to fight American soldiers there once he is able.
‘I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought that it was contrary to American national security,’ the president said at the time.

By FRANCESCA CHAMBERS
PUBLISHED: 15:55 GMT, 13 June 2014 | UPDATED: 19:20 GMT, 13 June 2014

Find this story at 13 June 2014

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

The Secret Life of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The biggest threat to Middle East security is as much a mystery as a menace — a 42-year-old Iraqi who went from a U.S. detention camp to the top of the jihadist universe with a whisper of a backstory and a $10 million bounty on his head.

He’s known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the ruthless Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, and he oversees thousands of fighters in his quest to create a Sunni Islamic caliphate straddling the border of Iraq and Syria.

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His biometrics may have been cataloged by the soldiers who kept him locked up at Camp Bucca in Iraq — where he was recalled as “savvy” but not particularly dangerous — but few details about his life and insurgent career have been nailed down.

US to send 275 troops to IraqTODAY

“They know physically who this guy is, but his backstory is just myth,” said Patrick Skinner of the Soufan Group, a security consulting firm.

Jihadist propaganda has painted him as an imam from a religious family descended from noble tribes, and a scholar and a poet with a Ph.D. from Baghdad’s Islamic University, possibly in Arabic.

Skinner said it’s known he was born in Samarra and it’s believed that he was active in Fallujah in the early 2000s, probably as a commander in charge of 50 to 100 men.

He ended up at Camp Bucca in 2005, where the commander in charge of the U.S. detention facility could not have imagined he would one day be capturing city after city in Iraq.

“He didn’t rack up to be one of the worst of the worst,” said Col. Ken King, who oversaw Camp Bucca in 2008 and 2009.

Baghdadi may have tried to manipulate other detainees or instigate reactions from the guards, but he knew the rules well enough not to get in serious trouble.

“The best term I can give him is savvy,” said King, who first spoke to the Daily Beast.

The colonel recalled that when Baghdadi was turned over to the Iraqi authorities in 2009, he remarked, “I’ll see you guys in New York,” an apparent reference to the hometown of many of the guards.

“But it wasn’t menacing. It was like, ‘I’ll be out of custody in no time,'” King said.

“He’s managed this secret persona extremely well and it’s enhanced his group’s prestige.”

If that’s what he meant, he was right. It wasn’t long before Baghdadi was rising through the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq, the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq.

And when the organization’s two leaders were killed in 2010, Baghdadi stepped into the void.

He kept a low profile compared to other militants, with their grandiose taped statements — one key to his survival, analysts said.

“When you start making videos and popping off, it increases the chance you’re going to get caught or killed,” Skinner said. “He’s been around five years, and that’s like cat years. It’s a long time.”

Another benefit to his mystique: recruitment of younger fighters.

“He’s managed this secret persona extremely well, and it’s enhanced his group’s prestige,” said Patrick Johnston of the RAND Corporation. “Young people are really attracted to that.”

Image: Purportedly a photo of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi IRAQI MINISTRY OF INTERIOR / AFP – GETTY IMAGES
A picture released by the Iraqi Interior Ministry shows a photograph purportedly of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Baghdadi — which is not his birth name — uses a host of aliases and is said to wear a bandana around his face to conceal his identity from everyone except a very tight inner circle that is almost certainly comprised only of Iraqis.

There are only two known photos of him, one put out by the Iraqi Interior Ministry and one by the U.S. Rewards for Justice Program, which has offered $10 million for his capture — a bounty second only to the reward for Ayman al-Zawahiri, chief of al Qaeda’s global network.

Skinner calls Baghdadi “hyper-paranoid,” but Johnston notes that despite the shroud of secrecy, he is apparently closely involved in day-to-day operations.

When the fighting in Syria intensified in the summer of 2011, Baghdadi saw an opportunity and opened a branch there and changed the name of his group to ISIS. He took over oil fields, giving him access to “riches beyond his wildest dreams,” Skinner said.

‘People Are Afraid’: Baghdad on Guard as ISIS AdvancesNIGHTLY NEWS

ISIS reportedly controls tens of millions to $2 billion in total assets — built through criminal activities like smuggling and extortion, according to the State Department — but Baghdadi’s ambitions have more to do with borders than bank accounts.

In a June 2013 audio recording, he vowed to erase Iraq’s “Western-imposed border with Syria” and called on his followers to “tear apart” the governments in both countries.

Now, as ISIS consolidates its hold on the areas it has seized in Iraq and has moved within 60 miles of Baghdad, the world is waiting for Baghdadi’s next move.

Whatever happens, Skinner said he’s likely to remain an enigma.

“No one knows anything about him,” he said. “He can be a Robin Hood. He could be Dr. Evil. It’s very hard to fight a myth.”

BY TRACY CONNOR
First published June 16th 2014, 7:04 pm

Find this story at 16 June 2014

Copyright NBC Newsroom

US gives Syria intelligence on jihadists: sources

BEIRUT: The United States has begun reconnaissance flights over Syria and is sharing intelligence about jihadist deployments with Damascus through Iraqi and Russian channels, sources told AFP Tuesday.

“The cooperation has already begun and the United States is giving Damascus information via Baghdad and Moscow,” one source close to the issue said on condition of anonymity.

The comments came a day after Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Syria was willing to work with the international community against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) group, and U.S. officials said they were poised to carry out surveillance flights over Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said foreign drones had been seen over the eastern province of Deir al-Zor Monday.

“Non-Syrian spy planes carried out surveillance of ISIS positions in Deir al-Zor province Monday,” the Britain-based activist group’s director, Rami Abdel-Rahman, said.

Syrian warplanes bombed ISIS positions in several areas of Deir al-Zor Tuesday, an oil-rich province in the east of Syria, most of which is held by the jihadists.

A regional source told AFP that “a Western country has given the Syrian government lists of ISIS targets on Syrian territory since just before air raids on Raqqa, which started in mid-August.”

ISIS, which emerged from Al-Qaeda’s Iraq branch but has since broken with the worldwide network, controls large parts of Deir al-Zor and seized full control of Raqqa province, further up the Euphrates Valley, Sunday, with the capture of the army’s last position, the Tabqa air base.

It has declared an Islamic “caliphate” in areas under its control in Syria and neighboring Iraq, where U.S. war planes have been targeting its positions since August 8.

U.S. officials said Monday that Washington was ready to send spy planes into Syria to track the group’s fighters but that the moves would not be coordinated with the government in Damascus.

Moallem warned Monday that any unilateral military action on its soil would be considered “aggression.”

Aug. 26, 2014 | 06:14 PM (Last updated: August 26, 2014 | 06:15 PM)

Find this story at 26 August 2014

Copyright Agence France Presse

US spy flights over Syria: Prelude to airstrikes on ISIS?

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey says US looking for “more insights” into the activities of Islamic State in Syria.

U.S. Starts Syria Surveillance Flights
Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) — Scarlet Fu reports on today’s top news stories on “Bloomberg Surveillance.” (Source: Bloomberg)

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria after President Barack Obama gave the OK, U.S. officials said, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets there.

While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.

One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data.

Recommended: Do you understand the Syria conflict? Take the quiz
Two U.S. officials said Monday that Obama had approved the flights, while another U.S. official said early Tuesday that they had begun. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name, and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

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Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday that the U.S. wants more clarity on the militants in Syria, but declined to comment on the surveillance flights.

“Clearly the picture we have of ISIS on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture,” said Dempsey, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group. “The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side, we have … some insights into that but we certainly want to have more insights into that as we craft a way forward.”

The U.S. began launching strikes against the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this month, with Obama citing the threat to American personnel in the country and a humanitarian crisis in the north as his rationale. Top Pentagon officials have said the only way the threat from the militants can be fully eliminated is to go after the group inside neighboring Syria as well.

Obama has long resisted taking military action in Syria, a step that would plunge the U.S. into a country ravaged by an intractable civil war. However, the president’s calculus appears to have shifted since the Islamic State announced last week that it had murdered American journalist James Foley, who was held hostage in Syria. The group is also threatening to kill other U.S. citizens being held by the extremists in Syria.

Dempsey, who was in Kabul for the U.S. military’s change of command ceremony, has said he would recommend the military move against the Islamic State militants if there is a threat to the homeland. He didn’t rule out strikes for any other critical reasons, but listed the homeland threat as one key trigger.

Dempsey also said the U.S. has been meeting with allies in the region to help develop a better understanding of the Islamic State group’s threat. He said he believes those talks are now beginning to “set the conditions for some kind of coalition to form.”

He said they are “trying to better understand the threat that ISIS poses, not just in Iraq and Syria but regionally.” Dempsey has said he believes key allies in the region — including Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — will join the U.S. in quashing the Islamic State group.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that Obama has demonstrated his willingness to order military action when necessary to protect American citizens.

“That is true without regard to international boundaries,” he said.

The White House would not comment on Obama’s decision to authorize surveillance flights over Syria.

“We’re not going to comment on intelligence or operational issues, but as we’ve been saying, we’ll use all the tools at our disposal,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

The U.S. had already stepped up its air surveillance of the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this year as Obama began considering the prospect of airstrikes there. And the administration has run some surveillance missions over Syria, including ahead of an attempted mission to rescue Foley and other U.S. hostages earlier this summer.

The U.S. special forces who were sent into Syria to carry out the rescue mission did not find the hostages at the location where the military thought they were being held. Officials who confirmed the failed rescue last week said the U.S. was continuing to seek out intelligence on the other hostages’ whereabouts.

Administration officials have said a concern for Obama in seeking to take out the Islamic State inside Syria is the prospect that such a move could unintentionally help embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. A top Syrian official said Monday any U.S. airstrikes without consent from Syria would be considered an aggression.

The Islamic State is among the groups seeking Assad’s ouster, along with rebel forces aided by the U.S.

The White House on Monday tried to tamp down the notion that action against the Islamic State could bolster Assad, with Earnest saying, “We’re not interested in trying to help the Assad regime.” However, he acknowledged that “there are a lot of cross pressures here.”

By Lolita C. Baldor and Julie Pace, Associated Press AUGUST 26, 2014

Find this story at 26 August 2014

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

ICC to examine claims that British troops carried out war crimes in Iraq

Court to conduct preliminary examination of around 60 alleged cases of unlawful killing and claims of mistreatment

The ICC will examine separate allegations, mostly from former detainees held in British miltiary custody in Iraq. Photograph: Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Allegations that British troops were responsible for a series of war crimes after the invasion of Iraq are to be examined by the international criminal court (ICC) at The Hague, the specialist tribunal has announced.

The court is to conduct a preliminary examination of what have been estimated to be 60 alleged cases of unlawful killing and claims that more than 170 Iraqis were mistreated while in British military custody during the conflict.

British defence officials are confident that the ICC will not move to the next stage and announce a formal investigation, largely because the UK has the capacity to investigate the allegations itself.

However, the announcement is a blow to the prestige of the armed forces as the UK is the only western state that has faced a preliminary investigation at the ICC. The court’s decision places the UK in the company of countries such as the Central African Republic, Colombia and Afghanistan.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the ICC said: “The new information received by the office alleges the responsibility of officials of the United Kingdom for war crimes involving systematic detainee abuse in Iraq from 2003 until 2008.

“The reopened preliminary examination will analyse, in particular, alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.”

But Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, said the government rejected any allegation that there was systematic abuse carried out by the British armed forces in Iraq.

“British troops are some of the best in the world and we expect them to operate to the highest standards, in line with both domestic and international law,” he said. “In my experience, the vast majority of our armed forces meet those expectations.”

Grieve added that, although the allegations were already being “comprehensively investigated” in Britain, “the UK government has been, and remains, a strong supporter of the ICC and I will provide the office of the prosecutor with whatever is necessary to demonstrate that British justice is following its proper course”.

The investigation means there will be a degree of scrutiny from The Hague of the British police team responsible for investigating the allegations, as well as the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA), which is responsible for bringing courts martial cases, and Grieve, who must make the final decision on war crimes prosecutions in the UK.

The decision by the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, was made after a complaint was lodged in January by the Berlin-based human rights NGO the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and a Birmingham law firm, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) – which represented the family of Baha Mousa, the Iraqi hotel receptionist tortured to death by British troops in 2003 – and has since represented scores of other men and women who were detained and allegedly mistreated.

The process of a preliminary examination can take several years.

The newly appointed head of the SPA, Andrew Cayley QC, who has 20 years’ experience of prosecuting at war crimes tribunals in Cambodia and at The Hague, said he was confident that the ICC would eventually conclude that the UK should continue to investigate the allegations. Cayley said the SPA “will not flinch” from bringing prosecutions if the evidence justified it.

He added that he did not expect any civilians – officials or government ministers – would end up facing prosecution.

Any war crime committed by British servicemen or servicewomen is an offence under English law by virtue of the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

The ICC has already seen evidence suggesting that British troops did commit war crimes in Iraq, concluding after receiving a previous complaint in 2006: “There was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court had been committed, namely wilful killing and inhuman treatment.”

At that point, the court concluded that it should take no action, as there were fewer than 20 allegations.

Many more cases have emerged in recent years. Currently, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, the body set up by the Ministry of Defence to investigate complaints arising from the five-year British military occupation of the south-east of the country, is examining 52 complaints of unlawful killing involving 63 deaths and 93 allegations of mistreatment involving 179 people.

The alleged unlawful killings include a number of deaths in custody and the complaints of mistreatment range from relatively minor abuse to torture.

PIL withdrew allegations of unlawful killings arising out of one incident, a firefight in May 2004 known as the battle of Danny Boy, although an inquiry continues to examine allegations that a number of insurgents taken prisoner at that time were mistreated.

The ICC will examine separate allegations, mostly from former detainees held in Iraq. Following the death of Baha Mousa, one soldier, Corporal Donald Payne, admitted being guilty of inhumane treatment of detainees and was jailed for one year. He became the first and only British soldier to admit a war crime.

Six other soldiers were acquitted. The judge found that Mousa and several other men had been subjected to a series of assaults over 36 hours, but a number of charges had been dropped because of “a more or less obvious closing of ranks”.

The MoD admitted to the Guardian four years ago that at least seven further Iraqi civilians had died in UK military custody. Since then, no one has been charged or prosecuted.

• This article was amended on Tuesday 13 May 2014 to reflect the fact that the ICC is not an EU institution, and to remove a reference to the forthcoming European elections.

Ian Cobain
The Guardian, Tuesday 13 May 2014 18.34 BST

Find this story at 13 May 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

As Iraq violence grows, U.S. sends more intelligence officers

(Reuters) – The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said.

A high-level Pentagon team is now in Iraq to assess possible assistance for Iraqi forces in their fight against radical jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group reconstituted from an earlier incarnation of al Qaeda, said two current government officials and one former U.S. official familiar with the matter.

The powerful ISIL, which seeks to impose strict sharia law in the Sunni majority populated regions of Iraq, now boasts territorial influence stretching from Iraq’s western Anbar province to northern Syria, operating in some areas close to Baghdad, say U.S. officials.

Senior U.S. policy officials, known as the “Deputies Committee,” met in Washington this week to discuss possible responses to the deteriorating security outlook in Iraq, said a government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

The source did not know the outcome of the meeting.

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan declined to comment.

The meetings underscore how Iraq’s instability is posing a new foreign policy challenge for President Barack Obama, who celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops more than two years ago. Despite the concern, officials said it remains unclear whether Obama will commit significant new resources to the conflict.

Four months after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared war on Sunni militants in Iraq’s western Anbar province, the fighting has descended into brutal atrocities, often caught on video and in photographs by both militants and Iraqi soldiers.

Iraqi soldiers say they are bogged down in a slow, vicious fight with ISIL and other Sunni factions in the city of Ramadi and around nearby Falluja.

LIMITED OPTIONS

One former and two current U.S. security officials said the number of U.S. intelligence personnel in Baghdad had already begun to rise but that the numbers remained relatively small.

“It’s more than before, but not really a lot,” said one former official with knowledge of the matter.

Much of the pressure to do more is coming from the U.S. military, the former official said, but it is unclear if the White House wants to get more deeply involved.

After ending nearly nine years of war in Iraq, the United States has limited military options inside the country. About 100 U.S. military personnel remain, overseeing weapons sales and cooperation with Iraqi security forces.

The U.S. government has rushed nearly 100 Hellfire missiles, M4 rifles, surveillance drones and 14 million rounds of ammunition to the Iraqi military since January, U.S. officials said. The Obama administration has also started training Iraqi special forces in neighboring Jordan.

Before the U.S. military withdrew, it trained, equipped and conducted operations with Iraqi special forces.

Staff from the Pentagon’s Central Command are working closely with the Iraqi military but have advised it against launching major operations due to concerns Iraqi forces are not prepared for such campaigns, the former U.S. official said.

In Anbar, militants have a major presence in Falluja, while in Ramadi there is a stalemate, with territory divided among Iraqi government forces, ISIL and other Sunni armed groups.

In testimony before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in February, Brett McGurk, the State Department’s top official on Iraq, described how convoys of up to 100 trucks, mounted with heavy weapons and flying al Qaeda flags, moved into Ramadi and Falluja on New Year’s Day.

Local forces in Ramadi subsequently succeeded in pushing militants back, but the situation in Falluja remained “far more serious,” McGurk said.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and by Ned Parker in Baghdad. Editing by Jason Szep and Ross Colvin)

BY MARK HOSENBALL AND WARREN STROBEL
WASHINGTON Fri Apr 25, 2014 4:35pm EDT

Find this story at 25 April 2014

© Thomson Reuters 2014

Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations

When U.S. Special Operations forces raided several houses in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in March 2006, two Army Rangers were killed when gunfire erupted on the ground floor of one home. A third member of the team was knocked unconscious and shredded by ball bearings when a teenage insurgent detonated a suicide vest.

In a review of the nighttime strike for a relative of one of the dead Rangers, military officials sketched out the sequence of events using small dots to chart the soldiers’ movements. Who, the relative asked, was this man — the one represented by a blue dot and nearly killed by the suicide bomber?

After some hesi­ta­tion, the military briefers answered with three letters: FBI.

The FBI’s transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been well documented. Less widely known has been the bureau’s role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world.

With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The relationship benefited both sides. JSOC used the FBI’s expertise in exploiting digital media and other materials to locate insurgents and detect plots, including any against the United States. The bureau’s agents, in turn, could preserve evidence and maintain a chain of custody should any suspect be transferred to the United States for trial.

The FBI’s presence on the far edge of military operations was not universally embraced, according to current and former officials familiar with the bureau’s role. As agents found themselves in firefights, some in the bureau expressed uneasiness about a domestic law enforcement agency stationing its personnel on battlefields.

The wounded agent in Iraq was Jay Tabb, a longtime member of the bureau’s Hostage and Rescue Team (HRT) who was embedded with the Rangers when they descended on Ramadi in Black Hawks and Chinooks. Tabb, who now leads the HRT, also had been wounded just months earlier in another high-risk operation.

James Davis, the FBI’s legal attache in Baghdad in 2007 and 2008, said people “questioned whether this was our mission. The concern was somebody was going to get killed.”

Davis said FBI agents were regularly involved in shootings — sometimes fighting side by side with the military to hold off insurgent assaults.

“It wasn’t weekly but it wouldn’t be uncommon to see one a month,” he said. “It’s amazing that never happened, that we never lost anybody.”

Others considered it a natural evolution for the FBI — and one consistent with its mission.

“There were definitely some voices that felt we shouldn’t be doing this — period,” said former FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, one of a host of current and former officials who are reflecting on the shift as U.S. forces wind down their combat mission in Afghanistan. “That wasn’t the director’s or my feeling on it. We thought prevention begins outside of the U.S.”

‘Not commandos’

In 1972, Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, exposing the woeful inadequacy of the German police when faced with committed hostage-takers. The attack jolted other countries into examining their counterterrorism capabilities. The FBI realized its response would have been little better than that of the Germans.

It took more than a decade for the United States to stand up an elite anti-terrorism unit. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team was created in 1983, just before the Los Angeles Olympics.

At Fort Bragg, N.C., home to the Army’s Special Operations Command, Delta Force operators trained the agents, teaching them how to breach buildings and engage in close-quarter fighting, said Danny Coulson, who commanded the first HRT.

The team’s mission was largely domestic, although it did participate in select operations to arrest fugitives overseas, known in FBI slang as a “habeas grab.” In 1987, for instance, along with the CIA, agents lured a man suspected in an airline hijacking to a yacht off the coast of Lebanon and arrested him.

In 1989, a large HRT flew to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, to reestablish order after Hurricane Hugo. That same year, at the military’s request, it briefly deployed to Panama before the U.S. invasion.

The bureau continued to deepen its ties with the military, training with the Navy SEALs at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, based in Dam Neck, Va., and agents completed the diving phase of SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.

Sometimes lines blurred between the HRT and the military. During the 1993 botched assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., three Delta Force operators were on hand to advise. Waco, along with a fiasco the prior year at a white separatist compound at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, put the FBI on the defensive.

“The members of HRT are not commandos,” then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told lawmakers in 1995. “They are special agents of the FBI. Their goal has always been to save lives.”

After Sept. 11, the bureau took on a more aggressive posture.

In early 2003, two senior FBI counterterrorism officials traveled to Afghanistan to meet with the Joint Special Operations Command’s deputy commander at Bagram air base. The commander wanted agents with experience hunting fugitives and HRT training so they could easily integrate with JSOC forces.

“What JSOC realized was their networks were similar to the way the FBI went after organized crime,” said James Yacone, an assistant FBI director who joined the HRT in 1997 and later commanded it.

The pace of activity in Afghanistan was slow at first. An FBI official said there was less than a handful of HRT deployments to Afghanistan in those early months; the units primarily worked with the SEALs as they hunted top al-Qaeda targets.

“There was a lot of sitting around,” the official said.

The tempo quickened with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. At first, the HRT’s mission was mainly to protect other FBI agents when they left the Green Zone, former FBI officials said.

Then-Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal gradually pushed the agency to help the military collect evidence and conduct interviews during raids.

“As our effort expanded and . . . became faster and more complex, we felt the FBI’s expertise in both sensitive site exploitation and interrogations would be helpful — and they were,” a former U.S. military official said.

In 2005, all of the HRT members in Iraq began to work under JSOC. At one point, up to 12 agents were operating in the country, nearly a tenth of the unit’s shooters.

The FBI’s role raised thorny questions about the bureau’s rules of engagement and whether its deadly-force policy should be modified for agents in war zones.

“There was hand-wringing,” Yacone said. “These were absolutely appropriate legal questions to be asked and answered.”

Ultimately, the FBI decided that no change was necessary. Team members “were not there to be door kickers. They didn’t need to be in the stack,” Yacone said.

But the FBI’s alliance with JSOC continued to deepen. HRT members didn’t have to get approval to go on raids, and FBI agents saw combat night after night in the hunt for targets.

In 2008, with the FBI involved in frequent firefights, the bureau began taking a harder look at these engagements, seeking input from the military to make sure, in police terms, that each time an agent fired it was a “good shoot,” former FBI officials said.

‘Mission had changed’

Members of the FBI’s HRT unit left Iraq as the United States pulled out its forces. The bureau also began to reconsider its involvement in Afghanistan after nearly a dozen firefights involving agents embedded with the military and the wounding of an agent in Logar province in June 2010.

JSOC had shifted priorities, Joyce said, targeting Taliban and other local insurgents who were not necessarily plotting against the United States. Moreover, the number of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan had plummeted to fewer than 100, and many of its operatives were across the border, in Pakistan, where the military could not operate.

The FBI drew down in 2010 despite pleas from JSOC to stay.

“Our focus was al-Qaeda and threats to the homeland,” Joyce said. “The mission had changed.”

FBI-JSOC operations continue in other parts of the world. When Navy SEALs raided a yacht in the Gulf of Aden that Somali pirates had hijacked in 2011, an HRT agent followed behind them. After a brief shootout, the SEALs managed to take control of the yacht.

Two years later, in October 2013, an FBI agent with the HRT was with the SEALs when they stormed a beachfront compound in Somalia in pursuit of a suspect in the Nairobi mall attack that had killed dozens.

That same weekend, U.S. commandos sneaked into Tripoli, Libya, and apprehended a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist named Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai as he returned home in his car after morning prayers. He was whisked to a Navy ship in the Mediterranean and eventually to New York City for prosecution in federal court.

Word quickly leaked that Delta Force had conducted the operation. But the six Delta operators had help. Two FBI agents were part of the team that morning on the streets of Tripoli.

By Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Published: April 10 E-mail the writers

Find this story at 10 April 2014

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Former head of MI6 threatens to expose secrets of Iraq ‘dodgy dossier’

A former head of MI6 has threatened to expose the secrets of the ‘dodgy dossier’ if he disagrees with the long-awaited findings of the Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s role in the Iraq War.
Sir Richard Dearlove has threatened to expose secrets behind the Iraq ‘dodgy dossier’. Photo: JOHN TAYLOR

Sir Richard Dearlove, 68, has spent the last year writing a detailed account of events leading up to the war, and had intended to only make his work available to historians after his death.

But now Sir Richard, who provided intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) that was apparently ‘sexed up’ by Tony Blair’s government, has revealed that he could go public after the Chilcot Inquiry publishes its findings.

Sir Richard is expected to be criticised by the inquiry’s chairman, Sir John Chilcot, over the accuracy of intelligence provided by MI6 agents inside Iraq, which was used in the so-called ‘dodgy dossier’.

Now the ex-MI6 boss, who is Master at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, has said: “What I have written (am writing) is a record of events surrounding the invasion of Iraq from my then professional perspective.

“My intention is that this should be a resource available to scholars, but after my decease (may be sooner depending on what Chilcot publishes).
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“I have no intention, however, of violating my vows of official secrecy by publishing any memoir.”

Sources close to Sir Richard said that he insists Chilcot should recognise the role played by Tony Blair and the Prime Minister’s chief spokesman Alastair Campbell in informing media reports which suggested Saddam could use chemical weapons to target British troops based in Cyprus, a claim which led to Britain entering the war in Iraq.

Sir Richard is said to remain extremely unhappy that this piece of intelligence, which his agents stressed only referred to battlefield munitions which had a much shorter range, led to media reports that UK bases were under threat.

However, he accepts that some of MI6’s information on the WMDs was inaccurate, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Mr Blair and Mr Campbell have repeatedly denied making misleading statements about WMD.

Last week it was revealed that Sir John had written to Prime Minister David Cameron informing him of his intention to write personally to those individuals he intends to criticise, with Tony Blair reported to be among those on Sir John’s list.

Sir Richard has taken a sabbatical from his duties at Cambridge University to research and write his record of events, and is expected to resume his Master’s role at the start of the new academic year.

A security source told The Mail on Sunday: “This is Sir Richard’s time-bomb. He wants to set the record straight and defend the integrity of MI6. And Sir Richard has taken a lot of personal criticism over MI6’s performance and his supposedly too-cosy relationship with Mr Blair.

“No Chief of MI6 has done anything like this before, but the events in question were unprecedented.

“If Chilcot doesn’t put the record straight, Sir Richard will strike back.”

Last night the committee’s chairman, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who was appointed in 2010, offered Sir Richard his support, saying: “I have never heard of a former MI6 chief putting something out there in these terms but I would be interested in what Sir Richard has to say in response to the Chilcot Inquiry which is clearly going to have some meat in it.

“I know Sir Richard and worked with him in the Foreign Office many years ago. He is a very able man of the highest character and a man of his own opinions. We shall have to wait to see what he says.”

Last night, Alastair Campbell and the office for Tony Blair declined to comment on Sir Richard’s account.

By Melanie Hall
8:48AM BST 21 Jul 2013

Find this story at 21 July 2013

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