Assume the Position

Friday, August 13, 2004
The NYT is Hiding Its Role in Naming Khan

The New York Times agenda driven reporting reaches egregious new heights in their latest installment about the captured computer records that led to the August 1 terror alert: "Seized Records Indicate Surveillance of Buildings Was Updated This Spring." Two-thirds of the way through the article comes this:

The disclosure of Mr. Khan's arrest has stirred controversy in Pakistan and Britain, where officials said that American pressure to apprehend the communications expert had put his confederates on notice that he had been captured and may have compromised efforts to locate additional Qaeda operatives.

In response, the White House official said that it appeared Mr. Khan's name had been first disclosed by officials overseas, not in the United States. In any event, the official said, the arrest of terror suspects, even when unannounced, is often quickly detected by their families and associates. American officials have denied news accounts that Mr. Khan was working as a mole, or an informant for Pakistan, when he was arrested.

What is the NYT hiding? Pakistan Intelligence 'Outed' Khan to the NYT. It seems that as far as I or anyone else can determine, the New York Times was the first to publish Khan's name. The NYT reporters know whether they were given Khan's name by Pakistani or US officials, and their initial story sourced it to "a Pakistani intelligence official." The NYT reporters know whether any US officials confirmed the name before or after the NYT published it. Any "controversy" over the disclosure of Khan's arrest has been created and maintained by the NYT.

The New York Times could probably set the record straight without violating any confidentiality by just answering two questions:

  1. Did you first get Khan's name from Pakistan or the US?

  2. If the source was Pakistani, did anyone in the US confirm Khan's name before the story was published?
Will they do so on their own, without outside pressure? I doubt it.

UPDATE - August 19, 2004: Look at what's buried in the 43rd of 48 short paragraphs making up this August 17, New York Times article (emphasis added):

The release of Mr. Khan's name - it was made public in The New York Times on Aug. 2, citing Pakistani intelligence sources - drew criticism by some politicians, like Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who charged that this leak might have compromised the search in Britain and Pakistan for Mr. Khan's Qaeda partners. (No officials in Britain, Pakistan or the United States have told The Times on the record that identifying Mr. Khan had such an impact).
(Via Rantingprofs, which also has a trackback from Patterico to posts showing he was saying the same several days earlier than I.)

Thursday, August 12, 2004
How Long Before Newsom and SF Face a Class Action Lawsuit?

Now that the California Supreme Court has ruled San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom overstepped his authority by granting same-sex marriages, making all those performed "null and void," how long will it take before one of John Edwards' peers convinces a few of the nearly 4000 same-sex couples whose marriages have been invalidated to file a class-action lawsuit claiming all were 'victims' of a 'fraud' perpetrated by Newsom and the city of San Francisco?

The $82 license and ceremony fees, which the court said should be refunded, put over $300,000 in the city's coffers. Beyond that, however, were the travel expenses of those who rushed to San Franscisco. Then throw in a healthy amount for the 'pain and suffering' caused by the 'emotional distress' of having their marriages invalidated.

What are Newsom and San Franscisco facing based on his stunt? Damages in the range of $10 million, $50 million, maybe more?

The BBC Continues to Aid Iraqi Nuclear Scientist's Lie

Jafar Dhia Jafar, head of Iraq's nuclear program, was interviewed in Baghdad by the BBC's Gordon Corera. The story and video clip omit something that shows Jafar is lying in at least one respect. Contrary to Jafar's claims, Iraq did retain some materials to restart the nuclear program if sanctions were lifted. Here is how the BBC reports the interview (emphasis added):

But Mr Jafar, whom the former Iraqi leader originally asked to build the country's nuclear bomb, said all nuclear development stopped in July 1991, under the orders of Saddam Hussein.

He said he was probably a few years away from producing a nuclear bomb.

However, Iraq would not have had the resources under the sanctions regime to continue the programme, he said in his first broadcast interview - aired on BBC's Newsnight programme on Wednesday night.

He added the Iraqi leader had hoped that UN sanctions would be lifted soon, adding that Iraq's strategic aims became ineffective when the US and UK became its adversaries.

"We had orders to hand over the equipment to the Republican guards," Mr Jafar said.

"And they had orders to destroy the equipment that we handed over to them."

He said that everything was destroyed, such that the programme could not be restarted at the time - and that it never restarted.

From the story and companion video, it seems Corera never asked Jafar the one question that would have led him to qualify that claim: What about the nuclear enrichment gas centrifuge plans and parts buried in Mahdi Obeidi's rose garden?

The CIA has in its hands the critical parts of a key piece of Iraqi nuclear technology -- parts needed to develop a bomb program -- that were dug up in a back yard in Baghdad, CNN has learned.

The parts, with accompanying plans, were unearthed by Iraqi scientist Mahdi Obeidi who had hidden them under a rose bush in his garden 12 years ago under orders from Qusay Hussein and Saddam Hussein's then son-in-law, Hussein Kamel.

U.S. officials emphasized this was not evidence Iraq had a nuclear weapon -- but it was evidence the Iraqis concealed plans to reconstitute their nuclear program as soon as the world was no longer looking.


Obeidi told CNN the parts of a gas centrifuge system for enriching uranium were part of a highly sophisticated system he was ordered to hide to be ready to rebuild the bomb program.

Was everything destroyed? No. Was some material retained to allow a faster restart of the nuclear program once sanctions were lifted? Yes.

I'm willing to accept the claim that Iraq never had an active nuclear program after 1991. But I will not accept the bogus claim that "everything was destroyed" to an extent that "the programme could not be restarted"—that nothing remained after 1991, and if sanctions were lifted any nuclear program would have to start from scratch.

Kerry's Cambodia Adventures in Song and Verse

Breaking onto the charts as we head toward the election is Noel with "Secret Agent John."

Now, turning to the latest news from the world of classic literature, John Cole has just released in pixels the long awaited "The Night Before Christmas (Cambodian Version)," previously available only through email.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Pakistan Intelligence 'Outed' Khan to the NYT

If the original New York Times story is to be believed, "a Pakistani intelligence official," probably in Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), burned Khan to the NYT's David Rohde in Karachi, Pakistan, without any help from US officials (emphasis added):

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 - The unannounced capture of a figure from Al Qaeda in Pakistan several weeks ago led the Central Intelligence Agency to the rich lode of information that prompted the terror alert on Sunday, according to senior American officials. The figure, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, was described by a Pakistani intelligence official as a 25-year-old computer engineer, arrested July 13, who had used and helped to operate a secret Qaeda communications system where information was transferred via coded messages.

A senior United States official would not confirm or deny that Mr. Khan had been the Qaeda figure whose capture led to the information. But the official said "documentary evidence" found after the capture had demonstrated in extraordinary detail that Qaeda members had for years conducted sophisticated and extensive reconnaissance of the financial institutions cited in the warnings on Sunday.

If you carefully read the whole story, it's evident that the four US officials Douglas Jehl (in Washington) quotes or otherwise references in the article said nothing remotely definitive about the evidence having come from Khan's capture:

The American officials would say only that the Qaeda figure whose capture had led to the discovery of the documentary evidence had been captured with the help of the C.I.A. Though Pakistan announced the arrest last week of a Qaeda member, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian wanted in connection with the bombings of American embassies in East Africa in 1998, the American officials suggested that he had not been the source of the new threat information.

The NYT also hedged a bit:

If indeed Mr. Khan was the man whose arrest led the C.I.A. to new evidence, his role as a kind of clearinghouse of Qaeda communications, as described by the Pakistani intelligence official, could have made him a vital source of information.

So, Rohde is in Karachi, getting practically a complete biography of Khan (education, family background, etc.) from some "Pakistani intelligence official," while all the US officials were doing was trying to explain that raising the threat level for the financial sector was based on extremely detailed information without burning Khan.

Having outed Khan based on Rohde's reporting from Pakistan, the next day the NYT went full bore in an attempt to discredit the intelligence for being "years old." Then they followed-up with a rowback the day after.

Before we get to the current Democrat's whine-'o-the-day that the Bush administration burned Khan, let's go back to the last days of July—before the August 1st terror alert.

On July 25th, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (aka Foopie, Fupi, and Ahmed the Tanzanian), wanted for the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in August of 1998, was captured after a 10 to 15-hour (depending on press the press report) gun battle at his safe house in Gujrat, Pakistan. Gujrat doesn't show up on many lower resolution maps [it's on this 1.2 Mb PDF map from the UN], but it sits on the main road about halfway between Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, and Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, where Khan was arrested. Lahore is at the far eastern edge of the province, about 20 km from India, Gujrat is about 110 km northwest of Lahore, and Islamabad another 140 km northwest Gujrat (according to the map scale). The public announcement of Ghailani's arrest four days later, and ISI's inability to stick to the cover story for that arrest, probably meant Khan's utility as a mole was pretty much over.

Here's what seems to have been the cover story for Ghailani's arrest:

Another senior Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ghailani's capture was a result of the arrest last month of a lesser al-Qaida suspect in Karachi. Electronic intercepts conducted by U.S. technical teams based in Pakistan led them to the Gujrat hide-out.

Karachi is about as far south as you can go in Pakistan, it's a port on the Arabian Sea in the Balochistan province. Masrab Arochi, a member of al Qaeda, was arrested there on June 12th. Arochi's arrest apparently led to nabbing Khan a month later in Lahore. But it seems the cover was to be that Arochi's arrest led to Ghailani's capture. Notice, that cover would be true as far as it goes, it just leaves out the intervening step of catching Khan.

Here is where the cover started falling apart:

[Brig. Javed Iqbal] Cheema said the raid in Gujrat was carried out on information from a suspected Pakistani militant who was arrested in a separate operation in eastern Punjab province.
Oops! That's can't be Arochi, who was arrested way down south in Karachi. In hindsight, it almost certainly refers to Khan, who was arrested in Lahore, which is in eastern Punjab province. But even contemporaneously, it's enough for reporters to raise questions about the information leading to Ghailani's location, and that was two days before the US raised the threat level.

There is also this bit from the July 31 Daily Times of Pakistan:

Ghailani was captured along with his Uzbek wife and two South Africans after his driver led police to his hideout, the intelligence source said. Among those found in the house were three women and five children.

Ghailani had brought two other foreign comrades to his safe house after the group became nervous that security forces were closing in on the hotel in Gujarat where they had been staying, the intelligence source said.

If that is true, it indicates their suspicions had been raised by something, possibly (sheer speculation) the capture of Khan or Arochi.

Additionally, the day after the NYT outed Khan, Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid did confirm the arrest of "a computer mastermind" to Agency France Presse:

ISLAMABAD : Pakistani authorities have arrested an Al-Qaeda-linked computer engineer and discovered significant information on his computer and email, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid said.

"We've arrested a computer mastermind. He is linked to Al-Qaeda. We got information from computer and email," Rashid told AFP Monday, amid US press reports that the information outlined fresh plans to attack financial institutions in New York and Washington.

Refusing to reveal the computer expert's nationality, the minister said he was captured either in the eastern city of Lahore or nearby industrial town Gujrat, where a key Al-Qaeda suspect in the 1998 east Africa bombings was picked up July 25.

The capture was around the same time as the arrest of Tanzanian-born Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Rashid said, but would not specify the date.

The AFP article goes on to state that the NYT identified the computer expert "as Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan," but doesn't add that they also said he was arrested July 13.

It seems clear that somebody in ISI burned Khan to the NYT by bragging out of turn or because the shelf-life on the secret of his capture and his utility as a mole was expiring, or both. Even without the terror alert, significant continuing news interest in Ghailani was likely to expose Khan.

Regardless of Charles Schumer's complaints and what others have to say, it seems Khan's name was outed by somebody in Pakistan to the NYT and the worst US officials did was to later confirm it.

The exchange between Wolf Blitzer and Condoleezza Rice Sunday afternoon, August 8, 2004 has been misrepresented.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the people who have been picked up, mostly in Pakistan, over the last few weeks. In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. There is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation, because he was effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda operatives. Is that true?

RICE: Well, I don't know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them...

BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.

RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you're trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you're dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you've dealt with in the past, you're always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We've tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we've struck a balance, but it's indeed a very difficult balance to strike.

The BBC:

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice strongly denied that US officials were responsible for the leak.

"We did not, of course, publicly disclose his name," Ms Rice told CNN television on Sunday.

She said Mr Khan's identity had been given "on background" - that is for the journalists' information, not publication.

Ms Rice did not say when or by whom the name was revealed.

The Herald Sun:

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice acknowledged on Sunday that Khan's name had been disclosed to reporters in Washington "on background," meaning that it could be published, but the information could not be attributed by name to the official who had revealed it.

The Herald Sun's explanation of what "on background" means is more accurate than the BBC's—"on background" results in an attribution to something like "a senior US official" with the information that official provides available for publishing—but they both say Rice indicated Khan's name had been revealed in Washington. While there were August 1 briefings by US officials "on background," had they revealed Khan's name, the NYT would have reported it. Instead, it certainly seems from the NYT's report, the US officials "on background" only indicated that there were additional documentary materials besides those from Ghailani's safe house that were recovered in captures of other al Qaeda players in Pakistan. Recall, according to the NYT, the officials would "neither confirm or deny" that Khan was the source and only "suggested that [Ghailani] had not been the source of the new threat information." That doesn't seem to indicate Washington disclosed Khan's name, only that they disclosed the existence of some previously unannounced arrestee in Pakistan who turned out to be important.

UPDATE: Via Kausfiles through the JunkYard Blog comes this from the Boston Globe:

Later in the show, Blitzer said this exchange meant Rice had confirmed that the administration released Khan's name to a reporter on background -- an interpretation repeated in later news accounts. But Sean McCormack, a National Security Council spokesman, said yesterday that Rice did not say the leak came from American officials.

''She was in the middle of making a point and he interrupted her, and she reflexively repeated 'on background,' but she was not confirming it and went on to complete her thought," McCormack said.

Senior intelligence officials gave a background briefing to reporters Aug. 1 after Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced an orange alert for sites in New York, Washington, and Newark. Khan's name does not appear in the transcript.

The day of Ridge's press conference, an intelligence official told the Globe that the information came from an unannounced arrest in Pakistan, but declined to provide the identity of the detained person for fear of revealing a CIA operation. That official, reached again yesterday, said he was referring to Khan at the time.

Pretty much identical to my analysis of what happened with the "on background" briefings on August 1.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.