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View Full Version : Nat'l Security Obama is killing to many terrorists and to fast


dirk digler
02-09-2010, 02:42 PM
I don't know whether to laugh or cry

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/08/dead_terrorists_tell_no_tales?page=0,0

The CIA reportedly succeeded in killing the head of the Pakistani Taliban -- the most recent in a flurry of drone attacks the agency has launched in South Asia and the Middle East. Another strike in Pakistan reportedly took out one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists; another in Pakistan took out a master bomb-maker for the al Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf; and a strike in Yemen targeted a senior military leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group behind the Christmas Day attack (his fate has yet to be determined).

President Barack Obama's escalation of drone strikes is one area in the counterterrorism fight where he has earned plaudits from even his most vocal critics on the right. Hold the applause. Obama's escalation of the "Predator War" comes at the very same time he has eliminated the CIA's capability to capture senior terrorist leaders alive and interrogate them for information on new attacks. The Predator has become for President Obama what the cruise missile was to President Bill Clinton -- an easy way to appear like he is taking tough action against terrorists, when he is really shying away from the hard decisions needed to protect the United States.

To be sure, unmanned drones are critical in the struggle against al Qaeda. They allow the United States to reach terrorists hiding in remote regions where it would be difficult for special operations forces to reach them, or to act on perishable intelligence when the only choice is to kill a terrorist or lose him. Constantly hovering Predator (or Reaper) drones also have a psychological effect on the enemy, forcing al Qaeda leaders to live in fear and spend time focusing on self-preservation that would otherwise be used planning the next attack. All this is for the good.

The problem is that Obama is increasingly using drone strikes as a substitute for operations to bring terrorist leaders in alive for questioning -- and that is putting the country at risk. As one high-ranking CIA official explained to me, in an interview for my book Courting Disaster (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1596986034?ie=UTF8&tag=fopo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1596986034), "In the wake of 9/11, [the CIA] put forward a program that had a lethal component to strike back at the people who did this. But the other component was to prevent this kind of catastrophe from happening again. And for that, killing people -- especially killing senior al Qaeda leaders -- is potentially counterproductive in that we can't know or learn of future attacks. You can't kill them all, and you don't want to kill them all from an intelligence standpoint. We needed to know what they knew."

In the years after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA worked with Pakistani and other intelligence services to hunt down senior terrorist leaders and take them in for interrogation. Among those captured were men like Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash, Riduan Isamuddin (aka "Hambali"), Bashir bin Lap, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, and others. In all, about 100 terrorists were detained and questioned by the CIA. And the information they provided helped break up terrorist cells that were planning to blow up the U.S. Consulate in Karachi and the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti; explode seven airplanes flying across the Atlantic from London to cities in North America; and fly hijacked airplanes into Heathrow Airport, London's financial district, and the Library Tower in Los Angeles.

Today, the Obama administration is no longer attempting to capture men like these alive; it is simply killing them. This may be satisfying, but it comes at a price. With every drone strike that vaporizes a senior al Qaeda leader, actionable intelligence is vaporized along with him. Dead terrorists can't tell you their plans to strike America.

The recent strike on Qasim al-Raymi, a senior military leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is a case in point. After having been caught blind by this terrorist network's near success in blowing up an airplane over Detroit, why not try to capture and interrogate its senior leaders alive instead of killing them? Wouldn't it make sense to get these men to reveal whom they have trained, where they have been deployed, and what their plans are for the next attack? But the Obama administration is not even trying to do this.

Obama's drone campaign is costing the United States vital intelligence, and it has also exposed him to the charge of hypocrisy. The president has claimed the moral high ground in eliminating the CIA's enhanced interrogation program, saying that he rejects the "the false choice between our security and our ideals." Yet when Obama orders a Predator or Reaper strike, he is often signing the death warrant for the women and children who will be killed alongside the target -- individuals whose only sin is that they are married to, or the children of, a terrorist. Is this not a choice between security and ideals? And why is it a morally superior choice? Is it really more in keeping with American ideals to kill a terrorist and the innocent people around him, when the United States might instead spare the innocent, capture the same terrorist alive, and get intelligence from him that could potentially save many other innocent lives as well?

It is true that Obama's predecessor George W. Bush also reportedly increased the use of drone strikes against senior terrorist leaders toward the end of his term. But the Bush administration also maintained and exercised the CIA's capability to capture and interrogate such leaders. Obama has now dramatically escalated drone strikes while eliminating what is arguably the most important and successful intelligence programs in the war on terror. This is not a sign of Obama's seriousness. To the contrary, he is using drones as cover for his dangerous decision to eliminate the CIA's capability to take terrorist leaders in alive and question them effectively for actionable intelligence. That is nothing to praise.

When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was located in 2003, the United States did not send a Predator to kill him. It captured him alive and got him to give up the details of the plots he had set in motion. That decision saved thousands of lives. The fact that Obama's administration no longer does this when it locates senior terrorist leaders today means the president is voluntarily sacrificing intelligence that could protect the American people -- and that the U.S. homeland is at greater risk of a terrorist attack.

BigRedChief
02-09-2010, 02:43 PM
ROFL Hung with a new rope argument? jeeezzz:LOL:

mlyonsd
02-09-2010, 03:03 PM
Looking at how the administration has botched handling things like the closing of Gitmo to the Christmas bomber, just killing them actually might turn out to be his best political move.

HonestChieffan
02-09-2010, 03:13 PM
Cannot kill too many. Cannot do it to fast.

BigRedChief
02-09-2010, 03:15 PM
Looking at how the administration has botched handling things like the closing of Gitmo to the Christmas bomber, just killing them actually might turn out to be his best political move.And just how was the Christmas day bomber botched? How was the closing of Gitmo botched?

patteeu
02-09-2010, 03:15 PM
I sure hope he kills the terrorists off before he finishes killing off our economy.

patteeu
02-09-2010, 03:15 PM
And just how was the Christmas day bomber botched? How was the closing of Gitmo botched?

Gitmo is still open.

BigRedChief
02-09-2010, 03:17 PM
Gitmo is still open.So? I don't think thats botched, missing a deadline is a lot better than allowing terriosts out to meet a deadline?

HonestChieffan
02-09-2010, 03:17 PM
Gitmo is still open.

So. Bush did that.

BIG_DADDY
02-09-2010, 03:20 PM
I sure hope he kills the terrorists off before he finishes killing off our economy.

Awesome post.

Brock
02-09-2010, 03:22 PM
So? I don't think thats botched, missing a deadline is a lot better than allowing terriosts out to meet a deadline?

It's botched to set a deadline that you know you'll never make, or worse, you're too amateurish to know if you can make it.

BigRedChief
02-09-2010, 03:24 PM
It's botched to set a deadline that you know you'll never make, or worse, you're too amateurish to know if you can make it.I don't care if its closed next month or next year. just that its closed.

mlyonsd
02-09-2010, 03:24 PM
And just how was the Christmas day bomber botched? How was the closing of Gitmo botched?

Where's he going to be tried?

Brock
02-09-2010, 03:24 PM
I don't care if its closed next month or next year. just that its closed.

How about 10 years from now? Still okay with it?

patteeu
02-09-2010, 03:24 PM
So? I don't think thats botched, missing a deadline is a lot better than allowing terriosts out to meet a deadline?

Closing it is botched. Avoiding an even bigger mess by succeeding with the closing hasn't been botched.

Overall, it was a botched job even announcing the closing when (a) it apparently couldn't be done, and (b) it shouldn't be done.

Edit: Brock had a better version of this.

Amnorix
02-09-2010, 03:24 PM
I sure hope he kills the terrorists off before he finishes killing off our economy.

That's the one that GWB left bleeding in the street and half-dead, yes?

Not that GWB was solely to blame, but let's be clear about where he started...

HonestChieffan
02-09-2010, 03:25 PM
Look at it on the bright side. A lot of the ones they let loose can now be killed with a drone back home.

BigRedChief
02-09-2010, 03:26 PM
Where's he going to be tried?Why do we give a chit? jeeess this is stupid. Bush tried over 100 terriosts in civil court and Republicans didn't bat an eye.

All we really care about is getting info on where he was trained, who he met, their methods used, any planed attacks in the future. And we got all that without waterboarding.

patteeu
02-09-2010, 03:32 PM
That's the one that GWB left bleeding in the street and half-dead, yes?

Not that GWB was solely to blame, but let's be clear about where he started...

GWB had what, 3 lame-duck months (and a Congress run by democrats) to deal with the unexpected financial crisis and the serious economic problems in it's wake? Obama has had the advantage of those 3 months plus over a year of his own watch with complete domination over Congress by his own party and all he's done is feed pork to loyal democrat constituents while the economy goes up in flames.

mlyonsd
02-09-2010, 03:34 PM
Why do we give a chit? jeeess this is stupid. Bush tried over 100 terriosts in civil court and Republicans didn't bat an eye.

All we really care about is getting info on where he was trained, who he met, their methods used, any planed attacks in the future. And we got all that without waterboarding.

The stupid and botched part was done by one of the biggest dolts in history as our Attorney General that picked NY in the first place.

Holder makes Alberto Gonzales look like Oliver Wendell Holmes or Clarence Darrow.

vailpass
02-09-2010, 04:03 PM
And just how was the Christmas day bomber botched? How was the closing of Gitmo botched?

Wow dude, congrats on your ability to see things the way you want to see them. Takes talent, especially given the current exscuse for a POTUS.

KILLER_CLOWN
02-09-2010, 05:50 PM
Obama Administration: Critics Are Aiding Al Qaeda

You’re either with Obama, or you’re with the terrorists

Steve Watson
Infowars.net
Tuesday, Feb 9th, 2010

The Obama administration has issued an op-ed piece in which critics of the president’s policy on terrorism are described as “serving the goals of al Qaeda”.

The piece, titled We Need No Lectures, appeared in USA Today and was written by John Brennan, an assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

Brennan writes that politics “should never get in the way of national security. But too many in Washington are now misrepresenting the facts to score political points, instead of coming together to keep us safe.”

Brennan defends the administration’s handling of the failed christmas day underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, by boasting that he was read his rights and “Mirandized”.

The response comes following GOP criticism that the Obama administration was treating the attempted bombing as a routine criminal case rather than a terrorist plot.

However, both the Democrats and the GOP have failed to address the real issue on the matter, the multitude of questions surrounding the circumstances in which Abdulmutallab, known to the authorities, was allowed to board a flight without a passport.

Rasmussen reports today highlights the fact that 75% of Americans are angry at the government’s current policies.

The latest Gallup stats show that Obama’s approval rating on terrorism remains at a lowly 48%, down from 55% in the last 7 months.

Despite these figures, John Brennan writes “We need no lectures about the fact that this nation is at war. Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda.”

So essentially “you’re either with us or you’re with Al Qaeda” huh? Where have we heard that one before?

Brennan is a fine one to talk about politically motivated fearmongering. Just last week, he and his fellow intelligence chiefs announced to the world that a terror attack in the United States is “certain” to be launched within the next six months.

“The warning is bound to frighten the public, with no obvious benefit beyond the ability to say ‘I told you so.” commented the editors of USA Today, whose piece entitled “Officials’ handling of Christmas Day attack looks like amateur hour” also prompted Brennan’s response.

Obama Administration: Critics Are Aiding Al Qaeda FOTR 340x1692

If anyone is aiding al Qaeda, it is the incumbent administration, which has not veered away from any of its predecessor’s foreign policies.

The drone missile strikes in Pakistan have been escalated. With what effect? A ratio of 123 civilian deaths to every three ‘al qaeda’ operatives.

American troop levels in Afghanistan have tripled under Obama. The “terrorist” surveillance program continues, as do military commissions, illegal rendition, and detainment of enemy combatants without charge.

How ludicrously ironic it is that the GOP critics only step out from the shadows to call Obama out whenever he does something in a slightly different cackhanded way to George W. Bush.

“The most important thing for the public to understand is we’re not handling any of these cases any different than the Bush administration handled them all through 9/11,” Obama told CBS News on Sunday.

That is exactly the problem. But then I would say that, I’m with Al Qaeda apparently.

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2010/02/opposing-view-we-need-no-lectures.html?csp=34

http://www.prisonplanet.com/u-s-counterterrorism-officials-insisted-that-crotch-bomber-be-let-into-country.html

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/february_2010/75_are_angry_at_government_s_current_policies

http://www.gallup.com/poll/125678/Obama-Approval-Economy-Down-Foreign-Affairs-Up.aspx

http://www.prisonplanet.com/red-alert-intelligence-chiefs-certain-their-bosses-will-stage-terror-attack-soon.html

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2010/02/debate-on-war-on-terror-our-view-national-security-team-fails-to-inspire-confidence.html

http://www.prisonplanet.com/us-drones-killed-123-civilians-three-al-qaeda-men-in-january.html

http://www.prisonplanet.com/obama-administration-critics-are-aiding-al-qaeda.html

BucEyedPea
02-09-2010, 06:38 PM
What is the right complainin' about? Obama bombed actual AQ terrorist camps in Yemen even. Isn't that the enemy? I thought so.

HonestChieffan
02-09-2010, 06:44 PM
Good on the bombs anywhere the enemy hides.

patteeu
02-09-2010, 07:24 PM
What is the right complainin' about Obama bombed actual AQ terrorist camps in Yemen even. Isn't that the enemy? I thought so.

I'd be surprised if a single member of the pro-GWoT right has complained about that.

Saul Good
02-09-2010, 07:49 PM
I'd be surprised if a single member of the pro-GWoT right has complained about that.

This is what the liberal apologists are missing. If you're going to take the reigns after 8 years of demonizing your predecessor, you'd better do things differently, and those changes had better be successful.

Donger
02-09-2010, 07:58 PM
In the years after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA worked with Pakistani and other intelligence ShamWow!s

LMAO

ShamWow!s?

Donger
02-09-2010, 08:00 PM
What is the right complainin' about Obama bombed actual AQ terrorist camps in Yemen even. Isn't that the enemy? I thought so.

Who?

Anyway, I do find it interesting that Obama's fine with wasting alleged terrorists with the press of a button in foreign lands, but he's determined to give them "innocent until proven guilty" protection and a lawyer if they are captured.

fan4ever
02-09-2010, 08:02 PM
I'm just surprised Obama hasn't thought of drones reading terrorists their Maranda rights.

BucEyedPea
02-09-2010, 09:30 PM
Who?

Anyway, I do find it interesting that Obama's fine with wasting alleged terrorists with the press of a button in foreign lands, but he's determined to give them "innocent until proven guilty" protection and a lawyer if they are captured.

Well he should, since we're not legally at war. That's the precedent in this country to try terrorists as criminals. Declare war and make them POWs.

BucEyedPea
02-09-2010, 09:35 PM
I'd be surprised if a single member of the pro-GWoT right has complained about that.

You read that wrong if that's what you got from it. Typical.

Donger
02-09-2010, 09:38 PM
Well he should, since we're not legally at war. That's the precedent in this country to try terrorists as criminals. Declare war and make them POWs.

I don't think that Congress can declare war against a non-nation state. Is that incorrect?

BucEyedPea
02-09-2010, 09:39 PM
I don't think that Congress can declare war against a non-nation state. Is that incorrect?

Nope. Doesn't say anything about that. Just says that's the role of Congress.
At least you're admitting our WoT is a stateless group while wanting to go after nation states instead. You're coming along there. Now just apply that logic to who the real enemy is.

Donger
02-09-2010, 09:44 PM
Nope. Doesn't say anything about that. Just says that's the role of Congress.
At least you're admitting our WoT is a stateless group while wanting to go after nation states instead. You're coming along there. Now just apply that logic to who the real enemy is.

:spock:

I doubt that our founders could have anticipated our country being attacked by a non-nation state. Do you think they did?

Who is the "real enemy"?

patteeu
02-09-2010, 10:02 PM
You read that wrong if that's what you got from it. Typical.

I'm pretty sure I read it right.

T-post Tom
02-10-2010, 04:48 PM
What a surprise, this coming from Geo. W. Bush's lead speechwriter. :rolleyes: Here's the kind of partisan tripe this fool has doled out:


"It’s not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office."

patteeu
02-10-2010, 05:47 PM
What a surprise, this coming from Geo. W. Bush's lead speechwriter. :rolleyes: Here's the kind of partisan tripe this fool has doled out:


"Itís not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office."

Thiessen owned Christiane Amanpour on her CNN show a couple of weeks ago. Did you see it?

dirk digler
02-10-2010, 07:44 PM
I just saw this guy on OReilly's show and needless to say O'Reilly wasn't buying any of it.

BucEyedPea
02-10-2010, 08:51 PM
:spock:

I doubt that our founders could have anticipated our country being attacked by a non-nation state. Do you think they did?

Who is the "real enemy"?

It doesn't matter what you think. It matters what the document says. It was set up to work into the future. They did not have to predict every future event...they did have to know the nature of power and putting that power outside the people's house. That's how Europe wound up in so many petty wars. They did discuss that. But you're still European at heart.

Still,none of it changes the fact that we're pursuing nation states far more than the real enemy. If I have to answer who the "real enemy" is to you, then we're really in trouble. It's like the blind leading the blind.

Jenson71
02-10-2010, 09:51 PM
In the years after the 9/11 attacks, the CIA worked with Pakistani and other intelligence ShamWow!s

LMAO

ShamWow!s?

Intelligent ShamWow!s are a serious threat to the water supply.

BigRedChief
02-12-2010, 11:53 AM
U.S. may abandon civilian trial for 9/11 suspect
Attorney general hints Mohammed may be tried before military commission
The Associated Press
updated 10:44 a.m. CT, Fri., Feb. 12, 2010

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WASHINGTON - Attorney General Eric Holder is leaving open the possibility of trying professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military commission instead of the civilian trial originally planned for New York City.
"At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it's done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules," Holder told The Washington Post in an interview published in Friday's editions.

"If we do that, I'm not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding."

Opposition from New York officials has forced the Obama administration to reconsider plans to put Mohammed on trial in federal court in lower Manhattan, near where the World Trade Center was felled after it was hit by hijacked airliners.

City and state officials and many congressional Republicans argue that the high-security trial would put New Yorkers at risk of further attacks, cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in security expenses and take a staggering toll on nearby businesses.

Holder still maintains that a civilian trial would be the best option for the case and "best for our overall fight against al-Qaida."

President Barack Obama said in a CBS television interview that he has not ruled out holding the trial in New York federal court but was taking into account the objections of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city's police.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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vailpass
02-12-2010, 12:10 PM
U.S. may abandon civilian trial for 9/11 suspect
Attorney general hints Mohammed may be tried before military commission
The Associated Press
updated 10:44 a.m. CT, Fri., Feb. 12, 2010

""If we do that, I'm not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding."

Opposition from New York officials has forced the Obama administration to reconsider plans to put Mohammed on trial in federal court in lower Manhattan, near where the World Trade Center was felled after it was hit by hijacked airliners.

City and state officials and many congressional Republicans argue that the high-security trial would put New Yorkers at risk of further attacks, cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in security expenses and take a staggering toll on nearby businesses.

Holder still maintains that a civilian trial would be the best option for the case and "best for our overall fight against al-Qaida."[]


Too bad we don't have a nice OCONUS location to hold such a trial. Somewhere secure, controlled by the US military. A nice off-shore location equipped with holding cells and such.
Wonder where we could find such a location?

BigRedChief
02-12-2010, 02:06 PM
From Newsweek: Pakistani Taliban May Have Lost Two Leaders to U.S. Missiles

Mark Hosenball
U.S. officials say that a second major leader of the Pakistani Taliban may have been killed in January─possibly in the same U.S. missile strike that officials are increasingly confident killed Pakistan's Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud.

After U.S. authorities launched several rounds of drone-fired missile strikes in mid-January at suspected Taliban encampments in Pakistan, reports began to circulate about the possible death of Hakimullah. The media-hungry Hakimullah, who costarred in a "martyrdom video" recorded by the Jordanian suicide bomber who blew up a CIA outpost in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, has not surfaced in any video or audio message since mid-January. Pakistani authorities have all butpronounced him dead (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703455804575057141141688332.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond%20). U.S. officials have said that the longer the Taliban fails to produce evidence that Hakimullah is alive, the more confident they become that he is no more.

Not long after allegations first surfaced about Hakimullah's demise, somereports from the region (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Hakimullahs-likely-successor-also-killed/articleshow/5529206.cms%20) also alleged that Qari Hussain Mehsud, reputed to be Hakimullah's deputy, may have died at the same time.

Iowanian
02-12-2010, 02:22 PM
He wouldn't be killing terrorists too fast if were eliminating everything within 1/4 mile of every bomb they drop.

mlyonsd
02-12-2010, 02:23 PM
Did we see threads like this from our liberal members when Bush was in office?

BigRedChief
02-12-2010, 02:31 PM
Did we see threads like this from our liberal members when Bush was in office?I can't speak for others but I've been all for going into Pakistan and killing those SOB's forever. If you harbor, give aid and comfort to Al-Quaeda you need to take a dirt nap. No matter the country, the place or religious affiliation. I've had same feeling since 9/11.

I was against the Iraq war for a lot of reasons. First one being no Al-Quaeda exsisted under Saddam. I was against the surge and increase in troops in Afghanistan because its nation building and that place can't be rebuilt without a major transfer of our wealth to them.

BigRedChief
02-14-2010, 10:32 AM
I hear VP Pres. Biden on meet the press this am say we have killed 12 out of the top 20 leaders of Al-Quaeda this year.

ROYC75
02-14-2010, 12:27 PM
Did we see threads like this from our liberal members when Bush was in office?

ROFL

Uh, No!

BigRedChief
02-14-2010, 12:56 PM
More targeted killings than captures
Critics say potential intelligence to combat terrorism is being lost
By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
The Washington Post
updated 11:29 a.m. CT, Sun., Feb. 14, 2010
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When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.
The White House authorized the second option. On the morning of Sept. 14, helicopters flying from a U.S. ship off the Somali coast blew up a car carrying Saleh Ali Nabhan. While several hovered overhead, one set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of the remains for DNA verification. Moments later, the helicopters were headed back to the ship.
The strike was considered a major success, according to senior administration and military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified operation and other sensitive matters. But the opportunity to interrogate one of the most wanted U.S. terrorism targets was gone forever.
The Nabhan decision was one of a number of similar choices the administration has faced over the past year as President Obama has escalated U.S. attacks on the leadership of al-Qaeda and its allies around the globe. The result has been dozens of targeted killings and no reports of high-value detentions.
Although senior administration officials say that no policy determination has been made to emphasize kills over captures, several factors appear to have tipped the balance in that direction. The Obama administration has authorized such attacks more frequently than the George W. Bush administration did in its final years, including in countries where U.S. ground operations are officially unwelcome or especially dangerous. Improvements in electronic surveillance and precision targeting have made killing from a distance much more of a sure thing. At the same time, options for where to keep U.S. captives have dwindled.
Republican critics, already scornful of limits placed on interrogation of the suspect in the Christmas Day bombing attempt, charge that the administration has been too reluctant to risk an international incident or a domestic lawsuit to capture senior terrorism figures alive and imprison them.
"Over a year after taking office, the administration has still failed to answer the hard questions about what to do if we have the opportunity to capture and detain a terrorist overseas, which has made our terror-fighters reluctant to capture and left our allies confused," Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Friday. "If given a choice between killing or capturing, we would probably kill."
Some military and intelligence officials, citing what they see as a new bias toward kills, questioned whether valuable intelligence is being lost in the process. "We wanted to take a prisoner," a senior military officer said of the Nabhan operation. "It was not a decision that we made."
Even during the Bush administration, "there was an inclination to 'just shoot the bastard,' " said a former intelligence official briefed on current operations. "But now there's an even greater proclivity for doing it that way. . . . We need to have the capability to snatch when the situation calls for it."
Lack of detention policy
One problem identified by those within and outside the government is the question of where to take captives apprehended outside established war zones and cooperating countries. "We've been trying to decide this for over a year," the senior military officer said. "When you don't have a detention policy or a set of facilities," he said, operational decisions become more difficult.
The administration has pledged to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Congress has resisted moving any of the about 190 detainees remaining there, let alone terrorism suspects who have been recently captured, to this country. All of the CIA's former "black site" prisons have been shut down, and a U.S. official involved in operations planning confirmed that the agency has no terrorism suspects in its custody. Although the CIA retains the right to briefly retain terrorism suspects, any detainees would be quickly transferred to a military prison or an allied government with jurisdiction over the case, the official said.
Military officials emphasized that terrorism suspects continue to be captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in Iraq, where counterterrorism operations must be approved in advance by its government and conducted with Iraqi forces in the lead, all prisoners must be turned over to Baghdad.
In Afghanistan, the massive U.S.-run prison at the Bagram air base is scheduled to be relinquished to the Afghan government by the end of the year. Its 750 prisoners include about 30 foreigners, some of them captured in other countries and brought there. But recent legal decisions, and Afghan government restrictions, have largely eliminated that option.
"In some cases," the senior military official said, captives in Afghanistan have been taken to "other facilities" maintained by Special Operations forces. Such detentions, even on a temporary basis, have become more difficult because of legal and human rights concerns, he said.
Cooperation overseas
Outside the established war zones, senior administration and military officials said, how an operation is conducted and whether its goal is killing or capturing depend on where it is taking place and which U.S. agency is involved. American personnel have worked closely on counterterrorism missions with local forces in Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere, with those countries in the lead.
Al-Qaeda and Taliban havens in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border are considered part of the Afghanistan war theater. The Pakistani government tacitly permits CIA-operated unmanned aircraft to target terrorist sites and militants up to 50 miles inside the country. Under an executive order first signed by Bush and continued in force under Obama, the CIA does not have to seek higher administration authority before striking.

But while U.S. Special Forces work closely with the CIA on the Afghan side of the border, any ground operation in Pakistan would require specific White House approval, which so far has not been granted. In addition to the difficulty such a mission would pose amid a hostile population in rugged terrain, the Pakistani government has drawn a red line against allowing U.S. boots on the ground, and the risk of sparking an anti-American backlash is seen as too great.
Beyond Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, potentially lethal operations must be approved by Obama or his designee, which can include the CIA director and the defense secretary. In Yemen, stepped-up military and intelligence cooperation with the country's government, including the use of U.S. aircraft and munitions for raids against a list of targets suspected of involvement with terrorist groups, was approved by Obama late last year, and at least two lethal attacks have taken place in coordination with Yemeni ground forces. Any captives belong to Yemen.
The Somalia calculus
Somalia poses unique problems. In the vast majority of the country, there is no functioning government to approve or coordinate operations, or to take custody of captives. Under the Bush administration, the military conducted several White House-approved air operations against alleged senior terrorist figures fleeing south after the 2006 U.S.-backed ouster of the Islamic government there. But while military teams made quick forays over the border to the targeted sites, finding and identifying bodies proved difficult.
Nabhan, a 30-year-old Kenyan, had long been a prime U.S. target. A senior official in the al-Shabab militia fighting to overthrow the U.S.-supported transition government in Somalia and impose strict Islamic law, he was said to be the chief link between the main al-Qaeda organization and its East African allies. Wanted by the FBI in connection with the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, he was also accused in the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned resort in Kenya and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner that year.
After tracking him for a while, the Special Operations Command thought it had established a sufficient pattern of activity to target him and had the time to plan for it. Several alternatives, including capture, were developed and assessed under military procedures for missions outside recognized war theaters.
Planners were asked for more details on the proposed force to be used, intelligence proving the target's location and the level of verification, and operational details -- including, in the case of capture, where Nabhan would be taken. Planned under U.S. Central Command, the operation was turned over to the U.S. Africa Command for implementation.
On the political side, the National Security Council received detailed versions of each proposed course of action. At that level, the senior administration official said, "there is an evaluation making sure you are able to prosecute the mission successfully . . . and minimize the dangers and risks."
The Somalia calculus, several officials said, included weighing the likelihood that U.S. troops on the ground for any amount of time in the militia-controlled south would be particularly vulnerable to attack. Looming large, they said, was the memory of the last time a U.S. combat helicopter was on the ground in lawless Somalia, the 1993 Black Hawk debacle that resulted in the deaths of 18 soldiers.
"There are certain upsides and certain downsides to certain paths," the administration official said. "The safety and security of U.S. military personnel is always something the president keeps at the highest level of his calculus."

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