July 7, 2007

We Did What?

According to the New York Times, Donald Rumsfeld declined to take action against an al-Qaeda site and capture its leaders two years ago because it would have taken too many troops inside Pakistan to accomplish the mission. The Pentagon decided that they wouldn't be able to get permission from Pervez Musharraf to send hundreds of special-forces troops into Waziristan, and apparently left the camp alone (via Hot Air):

A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.

The target was a meeting of Al Qaeda’s leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group’s operations.

But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected the 11th-hour appeal of Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.

Mr. Rumsfeld decided that the operation, which had ballooned from a small number of military personnel and C.I.A. operatives to several hundred, was cumbersome and put too many American lives at risk, the current and former officials said. He was also concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas, the officials said.

The decision to halt the planned “snatch and grab” operation frustrated some top intelligence officials and members of the military’s secret Special Operations units, who say the United States missed a significant opportunity to try to capture senior members of Al Qaeda.

Republicans have long criticized the Clinton administration for its refusal to pull the trigger on a mission to kill Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. The Times reports that the reasons this time were more complicated than just concern over collateral damage. The mission intended to capture Zawahiri and everyone else attending the meeting, if possible, which requires a lot more personnel. As planners began considering mission security, lines of communication, and the necessities of a raid for taking suicidal enemies alive, the numbers went from a small raid to a major incursion -- and Rumsfeld called it off.

That much seems understandable. However, if the raid got nixed, then why not attack the meeting and kill the attendees, including Zawahiri? If the US was willing to at least contemplate a raid, why not a remote attack? Rumsfeld reportedly called this attack off as the special forces were boarding the aircraft to deliver them to the camp, so it's not as if sovereignty played a large role in the decision to cancel. Why would we pass on the opportunity to take out AQ's #2 man?

The only explanation that comes to mind is that perhaps the Pentagon felt it necessary to leave Zawahiri alive and trackable in order to find Osama bin Laden. If so, then it perhaps make sense, but the two years since would tend to indicate the failure of that excuse.

This being the New York Times, one has to take some of this with a grain of salt. Its publication on a Saturday afternoon makes it unusual, unless they felt the story was about to get scooped elsewhere. The Pentagon and the Bush administration need to fill in the blanks on this event, or tell us what the Times got wrong.


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Comments (34)

Posted by Dan | July 7, 2007 6:18 PM

If the US was willing to at least contemplate a raid, why not a remote attack?

Would Pakistanis find a remote attack any more palatable?

Posted by mrlynn | July 7, 2007 6:23 PM

Decisions like this are made all the time, for better or for worse. If it had been one with a good result, would the NY Times have treated us to it? No, it's just "All the news that trashes the Bush administration, that's what we print."

It is of course tempting to wonder what a well-placed 'daisy-cutter' would have done to that meeting. . .

Maybe someday Don Rumsfeld will write a memoir and tell us why they didn't use one.

/Mr Lynn

Posted by Carol Herman | July 7, 2007 6:26 PM

As far as I'm concerned, every American journalist can stick a Green Helmet on their heads. They all belong to the same lying club.

As to the terrorists, we got a few in Tora Bora. Where I think Osama's been dead since 2002.

And, no, I wouldn't be surprised that Donald Rumsfeld recognized BORDERS! That's his job! Or it would have been a free-for-all out there.

By the way, the terrorists shot at Musharaf's plane. I don't think they'll be alive by the end of next week. In other words? The terrorists went a shot too far.

As to Afghanistan, it's all mountainous. You get by on goat paths. And, now? Some roads we built. Which the poppy farmers love. And, no. We can't change that reality. Those people date back to the 7th Century.

Why is our old media so full of scam artists, I have no idea. Maybe, to get through school to their credentials, they cheated a lot. (On easy subjects! No math!)

I guess what's interesting, now that Libby doesn't go to jail; (and he's paid his fine). Donald Rumsfeld's back in the news. To the left, our Executive Branch is considered "target practice."

Oh, whatever the mistakes were in Irak; and they were many; it's still a learning curve for the people there, too.

And, I've always known you learn the fastest after your grades come back. And, you see those mistakes.

Lots of Americans are learning that congress stinks. ANd, the pentagon is full of generals who know nothing of battles, but plenty about butt kissing. And, swivel chair politics.

You think the mess lasts forever? I don't.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 7, 2007 6:36 PM

I want another shot at bat.

Because it's possible the New Yuk Times "knew" of this CIA sponsored debacle since its inception? They were hoping Rummy would bite. And, the results would look like the Jimmy Carter results when he went in to do a rescue of our embassy personnel. And, instead? Lost the helicopters. And, lost our men in the desert.

Why not expect the same ruse?

You have no idea how those clowns over on 42nd Street, can outperform the whores who glide through those streets, below.

So, For $1000 Alex, I'll pick this story as something the New Yuk Times had hoped Rumsfeld would'a reached for. And, then they'd have burned his ass.

At a cost of American lives.

Musharraf by the way, is no slouch. He's doing quite a job on the Red Mosques martyrs. Giving them what they want. Let whomever provide the virgins. To us, on earth. Just bring the popcorn.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | July 7, 2007 6:39 PM

mrlynn said:

"Decisions like this are made all the time, for better or for worse. If it had been one with a good result, would the NY Times have treated us to it? No, it's just "All the news that trashes the Bush administration, that's what we print."

And of course, if the plan had gone ahead and a bunch of American troops got killed, the NYT would lead the condemnation of Rummy for a "stupid plan".

Posted by allen | July 7, 2007 6:40 PM

I saw lots of quotes from "officials" and "White House officials" and "Pentagon officials." Got any names?
I also remember having "solid intel" before we dropped bombs on Saddam, his sons, chemical Ali and even Zawahiri a few times. How did those turn out?

Posted by cahmd | July 7, 2007 6:51 PM

A secret mission which is now public knowledge. How many sources have been compromised? This is pure b.s. on the part of the NYT and reaffirms their agenda of selective and destructive leaking. This is meant to be served up as fodder for the likes of Reid/Pelosi and the other Potemkin patriots of the Democratic party.

Posted by GarandFan | July 7, 2007 6:55 PM

Echoing Allen, whose the source? Bill Burkett? Dan Rather? Mary Mapes?

Posted by Tom Shipley | July 7, 2007 7:06 PM

Man, if this report came out about the Clinton administration, the nooses would be out in full force.

But it's about the Bush administration, so you all attack the messanger.

To quote Gomer Pyle via the Wall... surprise, surprise, surprise.

I don't know where you all would be without the media bias crutch. It's convenient for people who want to ignore facts and the truth.

And Cap'n Ed, you're whole "since it's the Times/Grain of Salt" act is getting a little rediculous. I notice you link to the Times quite often. When it's a story negative toward those on the right, you pull the "take it with a grain of salt." If you don't trust them, don't link to them. This grain of salt thing is getting to be disingenuous.

Posted by Lamont P | July 7, 2007 7:16 PM

Wasn't Kerry was the guy who needed to "ask for permission".

Posted by patrick neid | July 7, 2007 7:17 PM

if for the sake of discussion we assume, a dangerous thing to do, that a raid of some proportion was planned with a couple of hundred special forces it says that they believed that the intel was spot on. that said when the raid was called off cruise missiles should have been substituted. pakistan's reaction is irrelevant. that is why you have deniability and supposed statesmen to lie about these methods.

if we knew that there was a confab of leading terrorists anywhere in the world there is no price to steep to execute them. it's continued nuanced decisions like this that is getting us killed in bunches.

sherman's march to the sea or bring the troops home now.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | July 7, 2007 7:32 PM

Tom Shipley said

"I don't know where you all would be without the media bias crutch. It's convenient for people who want to ignore facts and the truth."

LOL! Brilliant satire! Please prove that media bias is a "crutch" and not real. You may want to check the website devoted to keeping an eye on the NYT, which is here:


or here:


And unlike Newsbusters' leftwing counterpart, Media Matters, Newsbusters doesn't have a corrections page.

As I have noted here before, the NY Times used to always call the bad guys from the Middle East "terrorists" on their front page. Suddenly, about the same time Bill Clinton came to power in the US, the "T" word disappered from the paper. When I asked NYT Editor Bill Keller about this in an e-mail, he refused to answer that particular question, despite the fact that he answered every other comment and question in my e-mail. Wonder why?

As for this particular story, it's obvious that the NYT is worried about the news coming out of Iraq and Aghanistan. They need something new to clobber the Bush Administration with...

Posted by Graham | July 7, 2007 7:47 PM

Perhaps Rumsfeld was already wise to the quality of CIA information and this played a roll in his decision not to authorize the attack.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | July 7, 2007 7:50 PM

Oops. I forgot to include an additional link in my comments about media bias, namely this study done at UCLA in 2004. Read this and then spin away, Tom!


Posted by RBMN | July 7, 2007 8:14 PM

Sometimes there are the real reasons, the classified reasons things happen, or don't happen, and then, there are the reasons that go down the chain of command to folks on the ground who don't need to know all the details. So it depends on where the Times gets their information, and I don't trust them much to get it right.

At the very bottom of the civilian need-to-know information chain, you might've heard and believed that a stork delivered your baby brother. Apparently, that was your need-to-know level at the time.

Posted by MarkT | July 7, 2007 8:34 PM

> media bias, namely this study done at UCLA in
> 2004. Read this and then spin away, Tom!
> Posted by: Del Dolemonte at July 7, 2007 7:50 PM

Oh, you mean the study done by the two guys who were funded by and used to work for places like the American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.

Posted by Tom Shipley | July 7, 2007 8:42 PM


So Del, I started reading the study.

I found this interesting...

Before proceeding, it is useful to clarify our definition of bias. Most important, the definition has nothing to do with the honesty or accuracy of the news outlet. Instead, our notion is more like a taste or preference. For instance, we estimate that the centrist U.S. voter during the late 1990s had a left-right ideology approximately equal to that of Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) or Sam Nunn (D-Ga.). Meanwhile, we estimate that the average New York Times article is ideologically very similar to the average speech by Joe Lieberman (D-Ct.).

So, they are not saying anything about honesty or accuracy. And that's kind of my point to Captain. He says to take the Times story with a grain of salt, but cites them all the time. Why should we take it with a grain of salt? With all the blogger scrutiny the Times gets, show me the stories they've be shown to get wrong over the past year...

The NYTimes reporting is nothing if not accurate.

Oh, yeah, that last part. The study equates the Times to Joe Lieberman in terms of bias... a guy who's considering backing a republican in '08.

Posted by mg | July 7, 2007 8:56 PM

"The Pentagon and the Bush administration need to fill in the blanks on this event, or tell us what the Times got wrong."

When I held a security clearance I was briefed repeatedly not to comment on news articles about our project. Even saying 'this is not accurate' was not appropriate.

They don't have to comment at all.

Posted by docjim505 | July 7, 2007 9:09 PM

The sound you're hearing is my teeth grinding.

If we had decent intelligence on the location of senior al Qaeda people, I don't give a big flying f*** if they were sitting under the Eiffel Tower: KILL THOSE BASTARDS! Cruise missile strike, Delta Force, drop in the 82nd Airborne, flip a few Minuteman missiles at them, whatever it takes, I don't care. To borrow from Al Capone in the movie "The Untouchables":

"I want those bastards DEAD! I want their families DEAD! I want their houses burned to the GROUND! I want to be able to go over and piss on their ashes!"

Oh, wait... That might destabilize the government of Pakistan, which has nukes. And I'm sure the UN wouldn't give permission. Was Congress notified? Did they approve the raid? How solid was the intel? What did Joe Wilson say about it? Did somebody send sooper-top-sekrit agent Valerie Plame over to check it out? No?

Never mind, then.

Posted by Bennett | July 7, 2007 9:11 PM

So why is this a story now? Because we coulda, shoulda, woulda according to some anonymous sources...if...but...maybe...oh, what might have been!

It could simply have been a problem with the real time intelligence. But what do I know? What does anyone who writes for the NY Times, or frankly anyone who posts here, know about planning these missions and what sort of calculations are properly in the mix in deciding to go or not go? The NY Times has done a lot of reporting over the last 4+ years when it comes to the Iraq War, that we didn't plan well enough, didn't think through the consequences, blah blah. So either Bush and his minions are war happy cowboys gleefully intent on blowing up the world OR they are overly cautious ditherers unwilling to pull the trigger with the target in their sights. But then some people are never satisfied.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 7, 2007 9:18 PM

Putting this in perspective; I'd guess the New yuk times now realizes the Libby story is finished. No Frog March.

I'm tellin ya, that's the reason they've gone out fishing for Rumsfeld.

Don't think it amounts to a hill of beans.

The CIA is not capable of running a program with hundreds of volunteers.

Heck, you know, the CIA trained Chalabi's goons. Then, filled them up on a C-130. And, sent them into Irak while Tommy Franks was still marching towards Baghdad.

What did those CIA trained "wonders" do? They looted. And, this is what we got back to watch.

That's about it for CIA inspired "theater."

My big question. When Tenet came up with this one; did Rumsfeld keep a straight face? Did he comment? Or did he just use hand jestures?

Is it possible the New Yuk Times is running out of ammunition?

I guess Cheney's not their best target, either? I wonder why.

Posted by kindaskeptical | July 7, 2007 10:54 PM

Tom, after watching the run up to the war, the Libby trial, and all the smarmy beltway sycophants, I gotta take the Times and all the other orgs with a grain of salt. That said, you're spot on with the kill the messenger knee-jerkers. GREAT Gomer Pyle imitation.

Del says the Times would have dumped on Rumsfeld if the plan had failed. I think he's remembering how solidly the Republicans supported Carter's failed attempt to rescue the Americans held hostage in Iran, heaped shame on him, and declared him incompetent. But I think the '05 zeitgeist was already the incompetence of Team Bush. With a grain of salt, I'll take the comments at face value, and assume that it looked like it would be too provocative for Musharraf. A judgment call, like going into Iraq without enough troops to secure the borders, etc. Stuff happens, etc. The news is biased, etc.

docjim505, I just know this administration has always had to run all their ideas past Kennedy for prior approval. Tell the truth, have you not noticed that they didn't need Democrats to muck up everything they touched? The UN giving permission. That's a good one.

But they'd already decided that Iraq was the The Central Front In The War On Terror. Rumsfeld was stingy with resources for the Central Front; why would he commit anything much against, say, al Qaeda leaders anyway? You know, the people who attacked us on 9/11? Why would the president want to swat flies?

We certainly don't have enough information to second guess this operation, unless, as Tom points out, Clinton did it. Does anyone really believe Rumsfeld really gave a damn about any intel he'd gotten or didn't get from George Tenet, Porter Goss, or John Negroponte? Does anyone sleep better knowing Chertoff is confident the homeland is under the right warning color? Can you spell dereliction?

Posted by jr565 | July 7, 2007 10:54 PM

Bennett wrote:
So either Bush and his minions are war happy cowboys gleefully intent on blowing up the world OR they are overly cautious ditherers unwilling to pull the trigger with the target in their sights. But then some people are never satisfied.
Good point. I Think you've hit on the lefty argument dynamic pretty well. Argue all points at once, no matter if they contradict one another and blame the other side if they do either, and if they are successful or if they are a failure both are bad and either result should be used to attack the administration.

Posted by Bill Faith | July 7, 2007 10:56 PM

So, let's examine what we really know here:

About a dozen current and former military and intelligence officials were interviewed for this article, all of whom requested anonymity because the planned 2005 mission remained classified.

In other words, another al-NYT story based on the word of military and/or civilian sources who lack the loyalty to the country to even bother protecting classified information and the balls to come forward and be identified by name. And we're supposed to simply take their word for it that they're telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The picture I'm getting here is a clandestine SpecOps mission that started growing till it reached the point there was no way to get in and out without leaving clearly identifiable tracks, then got cancelled for that reason.

Rumsfeld had and has his faults but I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for a memoir full of classified information, nor is George Bush likely to go before the public and explain what really happened. "The Pentagon and the Bush administration need to fill in the blanks on this event, or tell us what the Times got wrong."? Ed, you're usually smarter than that.

I linked.

Posted by jr565 | July 7, 2007 11:09 PM

Hey you think any of these leakers violated their confidentiality agreements? Tom, we got a job opportunity for ya. Libby's fizzling out, but there are always more leakers who violate their confidentiality agreements to go go after,so dont worry about any lost work.

Go get em!

Or not.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | July 7, 2007 11:17 PM

One final comment about the media bias which many leftwing posters here are afraid to admit to...

It's not just the stories the media "reports" that proves their bias to the left side of the spectrum, it's what they DON'T report.

Example #1. The economic downturn that began in the late 1980s ended in March of 1991, when according to the Federal Government, the economic recovery began.

However, the mainstream media, especially the NY Times, did not report this story at the time, because they wanted a Democrat to win the White House in the election a year and a half later. The NYT in an editorial many years later admitted in an editorial that they hadn't reported it at the time. What a surprise.

Example #2-More recently-say this week-the ACLU lost their bogus case against Bush's "domestic" wiretapping program on appeal. Despite the FACT that it was never a "domestic wiretapping" case, the media always dishonestly claimed that it was, despite the FACT that the program only put the phone tap on when one side of the phone call was in another country.

When the ACLU's carefully shopped Judge (a Carter appointee in Detroit, of all places) originally issued her ruling a year ago, all of the "objective" media outlets crowed about how it was a "defeat" for the Bush Administration, including all three of the "ABC networks" on broadcast TV, namely ABC (Always Bill Clinton), CBS (Clinton Broadcasting System) and NBC (Nobody But Clinton)

Yet strangely enough, when the ACLU case got thrown out of court the other day, as was predicted by many legal types from the very beginning-ABC and CBS totally ignored the story. Only NBC reported it.

The only problem is, when NBC reported it, they flashed a caption on the screen behind the newsreader that dishonestly said "Domestic Spying".

Example #3-Several of the major media players have been busted for cooked "public opinion polls". CBS and the NY Times, for example, have repeatedly done polls that have over-sampled Democrats over Republicans and Independent voters. In several cases, the CBS/NYT polls have sampled 15% more Democrats than anyone else.

I rest my case.

Posted by lexhamfox | July 8, 2007 12:04 AM

Don't get your knickers in a twist over some decision not to bomb Pakistan or the slant of the NYT. Have a chuckle over the caption under Bobby Knight's picture instead.


Posted by sloanasaurus | July 8, 2007 1:16 AM

Going through Pakistan is our only way to supply our troops in Afghanistan. If we lose Pakistans support we would have to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan.

Taking out Bin Ladin is not worth that risk.

Posted by Carol Herman | July 8, 2007 1:43 AM

First LIE to notice: The CIA has been rather short of "spot on" information. By the time they finish analyzing stuff all you get is a mess. (Like should be go into Irak? Slam dunk it. Or was Tenet just ordering donuts? He seems pretty angry that anyone held him to account.)

So, there ya go.

In Rummy's life these "bright ideas" were usually slapped down. Given how he must have known that if the CIA was coming up with a "plan" the word was already all over the New Yuk Times' newsroom.

They were just ready to run with this story.

Why now? Dubya pulled the rug out from under them on Libby.

Posted by The Yell | July 8, 2007 2:45 AM

from the NYT story

"Months later, in early May 2005, the C.I.A. launched a missile from a remotely piloted Predator drone, killing Haitham al-Yemeni, a senior Qaeda figure whom the C.I.A. had tracked since the meeting."

so it's not as if we just gave up trying.

Posted by SoldiersMom | July 8, 2007 6:56 AM

This is the most poignant example of the leftist bias in the media. It's a NYT article about the death of Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr.

Except from http://michellemalkin.com/2005/10/28/cpl-jeffrey-b-starr-what-the-nytimes-left-out/

From an email Jeffrey wrote to his girlfriend, this is what the NYT reported:

He wrote: “Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I’m writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I’m pushing my chances.

This is what they left out:

"I don’t regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it’s not to me. I’m here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.

These goons lie by omission.

But Tom would have us believe there's no bias in the media. Tell that to Cpl. Starr and his family.

Posted by the fly-man | July 8, 2007 7:34 AM

Ah, chalk one up to kill the messenger meme. The comments above reflect the failure of most of you to concentrate on the questionable strategies and subsequent failures objectively. What a nice way to deflect real attention to a real failure that is quite parallel to Mr. Berger's fictional actions in ABC's 911 movie. Hopefully we can get a new President that gets off this Good vs Evil high horse and deals with our situations in real terms using facts and empiricism not unquestionable faith in the almighty. So did God lose this opportunity? Wake up you stooges and face the consequences of your blind loyalty to your dear leader and his Manichean mindset. And yes I've been reading Gleen Greenwalds' new book and that is what I choose to believe.

Posted by Pho | July 8, 2007 10:33 AM

Sure it's probably worth a look at the decision not to kick off the mentioned raid. But ya know... the NYT (and others in the media) would've been all over everyone involved if they'd actually thrown significant troops into Pakistan to pull off something like this. If they had brought the Pakistan army into it... they'd probably have tipped them off even IF they got permission to do this. There would have been calls for congressional oversight into the affair, and heaven knows what all else. I could probably write myself all the "BUSH/RUMMY INVADE PAKISTAN!!!" headlines, outlining all the new "impeachable" offenses committed.

NYT gets to Rage Against The Man either way. Boy isn't that a good spot to be in.

What was it General Lee said about generals and newspaper columnists?

While I've wondered for some time about whether our arrangements with Pakistan have really been helpful... I know there's nothing intentionally helpful going on over at the NYT. More often than not what they leave OUT of the story is usually at least as important, if not more so, than what they put in.

About the only thing less useful than the NYT, might be anything written by Glenn Greenwald and his socks. But there's just no account'n for some folks.

Posted by onlineanalyst | July 9, 2007 8:29 AM

Leave it to Greenwald sycophants like "the fly man" to divert the topic to some trumped-up charge of American theocracy being behind national policy.

I do not believe that Rumsfeld held a prayer meeting prior to making this decision, fly man. Have you any evidence otherwise?