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May 6, 2011
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Osama bin Laden: Dead!
God bless America! Retribution came this week for Osama bin Laden, the demon terrorist who masterminded the murder of 3,000-plus innocents on U.S. soil on 9/11. During a bold and harrowing raid by U.S. Navy Seals, bin Laden was shot and killed in his million dollar compound just north of Islamabad, Pakistan after reportedly refusing to surrender. Now bin Laden is floating somewhere out at sea after receiving what the Obama administration held what it characterized as a proper burial.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I wish the news of bin Laden’s death could have lasted at least a few moments before the political spin machines kicked into high gear. But that was simply too much to ask. And immediately after news of bin Laden’s death leaked into the press, the debate began: Who deserves credit?
Judicial Watch is, of course, grateful to the intelligence community and U.S. military, specifically the Navy Seals, who brought Osama bin Laden to justice. (If people are looking to bestow credit, let’s start here!)
President Obama has been, to put it charitably, not shy about extolling his involvement. But here are two things I hope the president keeps in mind as he considers what led to his key victory for America: We didn’t get Osama bin Laden without “enhanced interrogation techniques.” And we didn’t get him without detaining terrorists at sites like the secure facility on our naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
According to The Washington Times:
The debate over the use of harsh interrogation techniques during the Bush administration is being rekindled by the successful operation against Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, which was based on information about the courier extracted from detained terror suspects.
Rep. Peter T. King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said initial clues to bin Laden’s location can be traced to the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the interrogations of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former No. 3 al Qaeda leader captured in 2005.
“Khalid Shaikh Mohammed basically gave up nothing until after he had been waterboarded,” Mr. King, New York Republican, said in an interview Tuesday. “It was after that that he first mentioned the courier, he identified him by his nom de guerre, and after that … al Libbi also gave us additional information on the courier.”
Judicial Watch knows well the high national security value of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the importance of “couriers” in bin Laden’s support network.
Just two months ago, in March 2011, we released documents obtained from the Department of Defense (DOD) detailing the policies of the Bush administration related to the detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, as well as the significant risks to the general population if the detainees were released. The documents include a February 4, 2004, draft presentation entitled “Guantanamo Detainees” previously marked “Not for Public Dissemination.” It specifically references the role of “couriers” in the bin Laden network, noting that enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay include “members of al Qaida’s international terrorism support network, including financiers, couriers, recruiters and operatives.”
The DOD documents go further, stating that “Detainees have revealed al-Qaida leadership structures, operatives, funding mechanisms, communications methods, training and selection programs, travel patterns, support infrastructures, and plans for attacking the United States and other countries” and “information on UBL’s [Osama bin Laden] personal security procedures.”
This is consistent with documents previously obtained through a separate JW lawsuit that detail the overall effectiveness of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the War on Terror.
According to a June 1, 2005, CIA report entitled, Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against Al-Qa’ida, “Detainee reporting accounts for more than half of all HUMINT reporting on al-Qa’ida since the program began…” Interestingly, this fact was omitted in later versions of the report obtained by Judicial Watch. All versions, however, conclude: “One of the gains to detaining the additional terrorists has been the thwarting of a number of al-Qa’ida operations in the United States and overseas.”
Let’s hope The Washington Times is correct when it says bin Laden’s capture has “rekindled” the debate over “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Because right now we’re not using them!
The federal government suspended the use of these techniques in 2005 by passing the Detainee Treatment Act. And President Obama officially banned the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” during his first week in office in January 2009.
Two months later, in March 2009, President Obama overruled objections from national security officials and released documents detailing the government’s enhanced interrogation program (the so-called “torture” memos). However, President Obama initially withheld information detailing the results of this program, including alleged terrorist plots that the program prevented. Now this same “torture” program is credited with the capture of the world’s most notorious terrorist.
Meanwhile, Attorney Holder’s Justice Department continues its criminal investigation of the very same CIA employees who may have helped obtain information that President Obama used to kill bin Laden. One may wonder how this administration doesn’t implode from the internal contradictions, dishonesty, and moral confusion. I think it is largely because a pliant national (and) liberal media refuses to hold their friends in the Obama administration to account.
Here’s the bottom line. These documents show that without “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Osama bin Laden might still be hiding in his compound plotting to kill more innocents. The capture and killing of Osama bin Laden should prompt President Obama to rethink his ideological and political positions on enhanced interrogation techniques. President Obama can no longer attack the very intelligence techniques that led to his brightest day thus far as president.
JW Fights for Release of bin Laden Photos
The controversy over the release of the post-mortem photos of Osama bin Laden has exploded in the news. At last check, there were more than 77,000 news stories worldwide related to this issue. And Judicial Watch, as usual, is right in the middle of this debate on government transparency.
President Obama announced this week to CBS News that he will not release the death photos of Osama bin Laden to the public, saying “we don’t need to spike the football” or “gloat.” Simply put, those are not lawful reasons from withholding these historic documents. Judicial Watch plans to fight for the release of these photos. (Just like we fought and won the battle against the Defense Department for footage of American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon on 9/11.)
On Tuesday we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Obama Defense Department seeking the following records: “…all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. Military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011.” (We filed an identical request with the CIA.)
Judicial Watch’s pursuit of the photos was picked up on the wires and the news has spread worldwide. As I said in an interview with The Hill newspaper, this is arguably the most important military operation in our lifetimes and we need to complete the public record:
We are prepared to sue if they don’t respond as they are supposed to under the law…I have not heard anything from the president that would provide a lawful basis for not providing the photos. Not wanting to be seen as “spiking the football” is not a lawful reason to withhold documents under FOIA.…
It is important to trigger this FOIA process because it would put this in a regular order. The way this has been handled in regard to the document response is bumbling. This at least would force them to put pen to paper.
Obama’s decision came after heated and confused debate within his administration. CIA Director Leon Panetta said the photo was coming. But Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton lobbied against it.
So we will now have another Obama administration stonewall over the requested photos and video. President Obama has demonstrated a peculiar ideological approach to transparency on national security issues. His administration is happy to release documents that the Left thinks will embarrass and hurt America, but will stonewall the release of material, like these photos, that reflect well on the ability, heroism, and might of our great nation. (Obama calls that “gloating.”)
President Obama promised the most transparent administration in history. Now is the time to keep this promise and, more importantly, to obey the law. If this doesn’t happen, Judicial Watch will go to court.
JW Targets Obama Secrecy with Congressional Testimony
The Tea Party Congress seems increasingly interested in probing the Obama administration’s penchant for secrecy and overall disrespect for the Freedom of Information Act. This comes as welcome news.
You may recall in March, Judicial Watch testified during “Sunshine Week,” a national initiative by the news media, nonprofits and other organizations to promote government transparency and FOIA law, before two House and Senate committees.
(The Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing was entitled “The Freedom of Information Act: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age.” The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing was entitled “The Freedom of Information Act: Crowd-Sourcing Government Oversight.” Feel free to read my testimony in full.)
And just this week I testified for Judicial Watch before the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing, entitled “White House Transparency, Visitor Logs and Lobbyists,” examined issues concerning the release of White House visitor records and Obama secrecy. (I previewed my testimony on the visitor logs to you last week in the White House Visitor Logs “Riddled with Holes” Update piece.)
Here’s a squib on other Obama ethics gap issues from my testimony, which you can read in full here:
This White House, we were promised, would not hire lobbyists. But now we know that actually meant that the Obama administration wouldn’t hire lobbyists unless it wanted to. The Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney tracked at least 40 lobbyists hired by the Obama White House.
And the American people were also promised the highest standards of ethics. The so-called “revolving-door ban” is part of an ethics pledge that appointees supposedly sign upon entering the administration. Administration appointees promise not to work, for two years, on matters related to former employers or lobbying clients. In many ways, the lobbyist ban and ethics pledge are silly. But rather than admit that the anti-lobbyist rhetoric might lead to the absurd result of fine Americans with high levels of expertise unable to work for government, the Obama administration started issuing “ethics waivers” of the president’s anti-lobbying and ethics rules.
So an administration that promised transparency and the rule of law would be the touchstones of this presidency, now regularly “waives ethics” for top appointees. Only in Washington could you “waive ethics” with a straight face. By our count, there have been at least 32 ethics waivers by the Obama administration. Even worse, we have a report in the New York Times that the Obama White House actually advised some to de-register as lobbyists to get around the anti-lobbyist rules issued by President Obama on the very first day of his presidency.
This ethics gamesmanship undermines the rule of law and makes one think that this administration has something to hide.
While the discussion initially focused heavily on the White House visitor logs, you can see from my testimony that it did not end there. The Committee was very interested in a wide range of issues pertaining to Obama administration misconduct, including Obama White House czars and secret health care meetings. It was my impression that key committee members were quite impressed with our investigations and leadership on these and other issues related to government integrity and the rule of law.
This week, the Boston Globe referred to Judicial Watch as a “national force.” This has been surely recognized by Congress and you can see it in our lead participation in the national security debates this week. Your support helps makes this possible and my Judicial Watch colleagues and I are proud to be part of this fine organization.
Until next week…
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