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December 22, 2005

More Lies

Yesterday, The LA Times trashed George W. Bush's usage of Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Alihdhar. The two hijackers popped up in Bush's radio address as prime examples of who we must, but previously could not, tap. As it turned out, not only had they been tapped, but the data was analyzed and the NSA, the agency in charge of our new and improved surveillance program, simply declined to share their findings.

But Bush was undeterred by the falsity of his tale, and simply switched tactics for this week's press conference. Now the smoking gun was a leak that tipped Osama bin Laden off to the fact that we knew he had a mobile phone. To Bush, this showed how dastardly leakers are. And in this case, at least, that's true. Because the leak was Osama himself:

The al Qaeda leader's communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 -- and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time.

The second time a news organization reported on the satellite phone, the source was bin Laden himself.

Causal effects are hard to prove, but other factors could have persuaded bin Laden to turn off his satellite phone in August 1998. A day earlier, the United States had fired dozens of cruise missiles at his training camps, missing him by hours.

So, the two primary examples Bush used to support his program were total fabrications. And yet we're supposed to blindly trust him to carry out a massive, secret espionage operation. Survey says? No.

December 22, 2005 | Permalink

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Oy. As Ezra notes ...So, the two primary examples Bush used to support his program were total fabrications. And yet we're supposed to blindly trust him to carry out a massive, secret espionage operation. Apparently - but hopefully we won't... [Read More]

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Comments

Nah, I still prefer the idea of OBL reading the Washington Times cover to cover. You know, he'd read Tony Blankley op-eds in a cave, then turning to the Sports page and wondering whether Arenas damages the Wizards' half-court set.

Posted by: Chris R | Dec 22, 2005 11:33:00 AM

Chris R, I'm thinking Osama and the other jihadists are tuned to E! How can you possibly make it through a rough day of planning suicide missions without up-to-the-minute info on Britney, Bradgelina, Desperate Housewives?

Posted by: CParis | Dec 22, 2005 11:48:06 AM

The utility to the Party of a statement is the only reliable criterion of truth.

The Soviet Union's gone.
State socialism is a freak, kept alive in a few geopolitical zoos.
You can't even mention Marx in polite company
The Berlin Wall is one with Chichen Itza and Mycenae.

But Leninism lives on.

All power to the soviets of consultants and contractors!

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Dec 22, 2005 11:55:44 AM

Wait a minute here, my reading of the article says exactly opposite of what the headline and this post is asserting.

The fact that Bin Laden had, and used a satelite phone was hardly a secret, especially not to him. The fact that we could intercept it, even when scrambled, is a secret which does appear to be something that leaked.

Secondly, even if you and this article are correct that it is wrong to believe Bin Laden found out about this because of a leak it is difficult to call this a 'lie' when the Sept. 11th commission also claimed this. I would call a congressional comission more definative than a Washington Post article in general, and if sources are in conflict, you typically go with the more definative source.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Dec 22, 2005 12:53:07 PM

Dave, can you provide a citation to where the 9-11 Commission claimed this in their report?

Posted by: Chris R | Dec 22, 2005 1:20:32 PM

The article linked to claimed it. I assume that it was not in error.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Dec 22, 2005 2:01:20 PM

"The fact that Bin Laden had, and used a satelite phone was hardly a secret, especially not to him. The fact that we could intercept it, even when scrambled, is a secret which does appear to be something that leaked."

Dave, don't know what you mean. The Post article linked to doesn't say bin Laden stopped using the satellite phone because it was leaked that we could intercept his messages. It says he stopped using the phone before that was reported:

"It was not until Sept. 7, 1998 -- after bin Laden apparently stopped using his phone -- that a newspaper reported that the United States had intercepted his phone calls and obtained his voiceprint. U.S. authorities "used their communications intercept capacity to pick up calls placed by bin Laden on his Inmarsat satellite phone, despite his apparent use of electronic 'scramblers,' " the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Officials could not explain yesterday why they focused on the Washington Times story when other news organizations at the same time reported on the satellite phone -- and that the information was not particularly newsworthy."

Also checked the 911 Commission report and didn't find any reference to any satellite phones.

Posted by: SteveH | Dec 22, 2005 3:40:03 PM

The article linked to claimed it. I assume that it was not in error.

I would call a congressional comission more definative than a Washington Post article in general, and if sources are in conflict, you typically go with the more definative source.

Oh, Davey.

Posted by: evilchemistry | Dec 22, 2005 4:21:38 PM

SteveH,

I misread. I thought that the Los Angeles Times article referred to was the Washington Times article that started the controversy. I haven't found any quotes from the Washington Times article so I don't know what it said.

The point about it being incorrect to call this a 'lie' stands. It was generally believed, at least before this Washington Post article (including by current and former intelligence personnel) that the Washington Times article led to Bin Laden ceasing to use his phone. Bush didn't make up this claim, he at worst was in error in believing it to be true.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Dec 22, 2005 4:42:55 PM

So not a lie, fine. Then the guy with the most access to intelligence concerning terrorists, specifically OBL, is completely lazy, stupid or both.

You can't have it both ways.

Posted by: evilchemistry | Dec 22, 2005 7:16:37 PM

Are you suggesting Bush is a Straussian and he may wish to keep some complicated truths from hitting some very simple ears?

Posted by: Gotham Image | Dec 22, 2005 11:00:42 PM

Bush of course didn't have the most access to intelligence concerning terrorists in 1998. It is certain that he stopped using his phone. Further, the artcle does make it clear that the intelligence community did believe this, for all I know they still do. I haven't seen a refutation of this article, but that doesn't mean it is gospel either.

Of course the larger arguement, that we don't want terrorists to know how we are gathering intelligence on them is just a germane even if this isn't a specific example of that.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Dec 23, 2005 11:05:58 AM

It was generally believed, at least before this Washington Post article (including by current and former intelligence personnel) that the Washington Times article led to Bin Laden ceasing to use his phone. Bush didn't make up this claim, he at worst was in error in believing it to be true.

Dave, I'm so sorry you keep relying on faulty intelligence. Next time you bitch at Ezra for faulty cites, please don't give one of your own about what the 9-11 Commission did or did not say.

Posted by: Chris R | Dec 24, 2005 10:13:22 PM

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