In 2016, Donald Trump, then a candidate for president, described Barack Obama as the “founder of ISIS.” In the end, it may be Mr. Trump who comes to be known not as the terrorist group’s founder, but as its savior.
The Islamic State has been weakened considerably since its peak in 2015, when it controlled a territory the size of Britain, but the Trump administration’s targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani may have poised the group for a comeback. Just as the misguided American invasion of Iraq in 2003 revitalized Al Qaeda, some 17 years later, a return to chaos in the same country may yet do the same for the Islamic State.… Seguir leyendo »
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the self-described Islamic State, might have been killed. Again.
In announcing last week the airstrike that may have felled the Islamic State’s leader, Russia wisely hedged its bets. If Mr. Baghdadi’s death is confirmed, though, this would be a positive development. The resulting leadership vacuum, and the scramble to fill it, would no doubt hasten the coming disintegration of the Islamic State. In truth, however, the handwriting was on the wall long before last week’s announcement.
From its inception, the Islamic State’s real power resided not in religious extremists like Mr. Baghdadi but in a corps of former Saddam Hussein loyalists behind the scenes who had linked up with convicted jihadists when they were together in American-run prisons in the mid-2000s.… Seguir leyendo »
Thursday's terror-by-truck attack in Nice, France, was shocking in its outcome — 84 people killed and hundreds injured — but not in its methods. Jihadis have long called on sympathizers to transform everyday vehicles into instruments of mass slaughter.
Six years ago, Al Qaeda’s English language magazine, Inspire — the publication that taught the Boston Marathon attackers how to manufacture pressure-cooker bombs — explicitly encouraged “lone wolves” to ram pedestrians with their cars. More recently, the Islamic State’s principal spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, has called for similar tactics. Over the past few years, vehicle attacks without the use of explosives have taken place from Israel to Canada.… Seguir leyendo »
I watched “Zero Dark Thirty” not as a former F.B.I. special agent who spent a decade chasing, interrogating and prosecuting top members of Al Qaeda but as someone who enjoys Hollywood movies. As a movie, I enjoyed it. As history, it’s bunk.
The film opens with the words “Based on Firsthand Accounts of Actual Events.” But the filmmakers immediately pass fiction off as history, when a character named Ammar is tortured and afterward, it’s implied, gives up information that leads to Osama bin Laden.
Ammar is a composite character who bears a strong resemblance to a real-life terrorist, Ammar al-Baluchi. In both the film and real life he was a relative of Bin Laden’s lieutenant, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.… Seguir leyendo »
To the Qaeda members I interrogated at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere in the aftermath of 9/11, Osama bin Laden was never just the founder and leader of the group, but also an idea. He embodied the belief that their version of Islam was correct, that terrorism was the right weapon, and that they would ultimately be victorious. Bin Laden’s death did not kill that idea, but did deal it a mortal blow.
The immediate reaction of Al Qaeda members to Bin Laden’s death will be to celebrate his martyrdom. The group’s ideology champions death for the cause: Songs are composed, videos made and training camps named in honor of dead fighters.… Seguir leyendo »
Ten years ago, Qaeda terrorists blew a hole in the side of the Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen, killing 17 sailors. Yet the attack’s mastermind still hasn’t been prosecuted, and many of the men tried and imprisoned for the bombing are again free.
As Washington debates whether to increase aid to Yemen, it should first remember its duty to seek justice for those sailors — and to heed the broader national-security lessons from the attack.
As soon as the F.B.I. received news of the Oct. 12 bombing, I flew to Yemen with a team to investigate. The bodies of sailors draped in flags on a blood-stained deck, guarded by teary-eyed survivors, formed a heartbreaking image that motivated us during the following months.… Seguir leyendo »
Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York announced that he no longer favored trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind, in a Manhattan federal court because of logistical concerns, the Obama administration has come under increasing attack from those who claim that military commissions are more suitable for prosecuting terrorists. These critics are misguided.
As someone who has helped prosecute terrorists in both civilian and military courts — I was a witness for the government in two of the three military commissions convened so far — I think that civilian courts are often the more effective venue. In fact, the argument that our criminal justice system is more than able to handle terrorist cases was bolstered just last week by revelations that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Christmas bomber, is cooperating with the authorities.… Seguir leyendo »
The evidence that Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen had a role in the failed Christmas Day bombing of an American passenger jet has led some to declare that Yemen is the new front in the war against the terrorist organization. But the truth is, Yemen has been a front in that war since at least Oct. 12, 2000, when Al Qaeda blew up the Navy destroyer Cole, killing 17 American sailors, in the port of Aden. The explosives for the bombing were bought in Yemen. And the attackers and their accomplices were predominantly Yemenis. Indeed, after the attack, terrorists in Qaeda camps in Afghanistan would march and chant, “We, the Yemenis, destroyed the Cole.”… Seguir leyendo »
Public bravado aside, the defenders of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are fast running out of classified documents to hide behind. The three that were released recently by the C.I.A. — the 2004 report by the inspector general and two memos from 2004 and 2005 on intelligence gained from detainees — fail to show that the techniques stopped even a single imminent threat of terrorism.
The inspector general’s report distinguishes between intelligence gained from regular interrogation and from the harsher methods, which culminate in waterboarding. While the former produces useful intelligence, according to the report, the latter “is a more subjective process and not without concern.”… Seguir leyendo »
For seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.
One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working.… Seguir leyendo »
Seven years after al-Qaeda terrorists Jamal al-Badawi and Fahd al-Quso confessed to me their crucial involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole, and three years after they were convicted in a Yemeni court -- where a judge imposed a death sentence on Badawi -- they, along with many other al-Qaeda terrorists, are free. On Oct. 12, 2000, when I flew to Yemen to lead the FBI's Cole investigation, I had no idea how uncooperative the Yemeni government would initially be. Nor could I have imagined how disconnected from reality the U.S. ambassador to Yemen then, Barbara K. Bodine, would prove.… Seguir leyendo »