“The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our Number one priority and we will not rest until we find him!”
– GW Bush, September 13, 2001
“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and I really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”
– GW Bush, March 13, 2002
After downplaying bin Laden’s importance and barely mentioning him for several years, Bush last week repeatedly invoked his name and quoted from his writings and speeches to underscore what Bush said was the continuing threat of terrorism.
The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden haven’t received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world — no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts — has led them anywhere near the al-Qaida leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials. “The handful of assets we have have given us nothing close to real-time intelligence” that could have led to his capture, said one counterterrorism official, who said the trail, despite the most extensive manhunt in U.S. history, has gone “stone cold.” Many terrorism experts, however, say the importance of finding bin Laden has diminished since Bush first pledged to capture him “dead or alive” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Terrorists worldwide repeatedly have shown they no longer need him to organize or carry out attacks, terrorism experts say. Attacks in Europe, Asia and the Middle East were perpetrated by local groups unaffiliated with al-Qaida or by so-called homegrown terrorists.
Who Is Osama Bin Laden?
The Senate agreed to spend an additional $63 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as lawmakers on Thursday passed a massive bill that funds the Pentagon. The bill sailed through by a vote of 98-0 after senators added money to help track down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and fight the opium trade in Afghanistan that is helping fuel the Taliban’s resurgence. The overwhelming support for the overall bill and the money to support U.S. troops in harm’s way came despite increasing criticism by Democrats of the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia’s religious police, the Muttawa, are normally tasked with chiding women to cover themselves and ensuring men attend mosque. Now they are turning to a new target: cats and dogs. They have issued a decree banning the sale of the pets, seen as a sign of Western influence. The prohibition on dogs is unsurprising, since conservative Muslims despise the animals as unclean. But the cat ban has astonished many, since Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Mohamed loved cats even in one instance letting a cat drink from his ablutions water before washing himself for prayers.
Saddam Hussein greets Rumsfeld in Baghdad, 1983
With Defense Secretary Rumsfeld making “appeasement” the big buzzword of the month, the George Washington University’s National Security Archive notes that its single most-downloaded file is now the once-classified batch of documents, photos and video documenting Rumsfeld’s handshake and meeting with Saddam Hussein in December 1983. President Reagan had sent Rumsfeld to Baghdad to help restore diplomatic ties with Iraq and aid Baghdad in its fight against Iran. “Rumsfeld meeting Saddam has now far outpaced the previous winner, which was Elvis meeting Nixon,” says Thomas Blanton, director of the archive, which collects and posts significant declassified documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
Many adults in the United States think the leader of the al-Qaeda network might never be apprehended or assassinated, according to a poll by Ipsos-Public Affairs released by the Associated Press. 51 per cent of respondents express little confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked and crashed four airplanes in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. In July 2004, the federal commission that investigated the events of 9/11 concluded that “none of the measures adopted by the U.S. government from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the progress of the al-Qaeda plot” and pointed out government failures of “imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.”
Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan, press secretary to the president of Pakistan, tells ABC News that — if found — Osama bin Laden won’t be arrested, as long as he promises to behave like a “peaceful citizen.”
“If he is in Pakistan, bin Laden ‘would not be taken into custody,’ Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News in a telephone interview, ‘as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen,” report Brian Ross and Gretchen Peters at ABC’s blog, The Blotter. “No, as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen, one would not be taken into custody,” said Khan. “One has to stay like a peaceful citizen and not allowed to participate in any kind of terrorist activity.”
The report cites many indicators of growing secrecy despite growing public concern
Government secrecy saw further expansion last year despite growing public concern, according to a report released today by a coalition of open government advocates. The Secrecy Report Card, produced annually by OpenTheGovernment.org in order to identify trends in public access to information, found a troubling lack of transparency in military procurement, new private inventions, and the scientific and technical advice that the government receives, among other areas. In 2005, the public’s use of the Freedom of Information Act continued to rise and the agencies’ processing of FOIA requests remained mired in backlogs. At the same time, still more “sensitive” categories of information were created that allow federal agencies to withhold documents from the public. “Every administration wants to control information about its policies and practices,” said Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org, “but the current administration has restricted access to information about our government and its policies at unprecedented levels. The result has been the suppression of discussions about our country’s direction and its security. How can the public or even Congress make informed decisions under such circumstances? The movement away from public accountability must be reversed.”