US intelligence success
“This is the greatest intelligence success perhaps of a generation.” That’s how a Senior US Intelligence Official described the documents, handwritten notes, and videos found at the compound raided by Navy Seals last week and resulted in the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The Central Intelligence Agency is taking the lead on going through the information. “There’s actually so much material that we’re still trying to quantify it,” said the official. The CIA will be assisted in its analysis of the data by an alphabet soup of government agencies – FBI, DHS, ODNI, NSA, etc.
The CIA has been under fire over the last decade because of a string of publicized intelligence failures – like the failure to connect the dots before the 9/11 attacks, the claim of WMD in Iraq, and the lack of information sharing that allowed Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board a plane bound for Detroit and allegedly try to ignite a bomb in his underwear on Christmas Day 2009.
The Washington Post reported that the CIA spied on bin Laden for months from a safe house near Abbottabad. With the death of bin Laden facilitated by CIA spies and the “treasure trove of information” which has already provided “golden nuggets of information” according to the senior intelligence official, the CIA can finally not be the subject of Congressional ‘What Went Wrong’ hearings over this intelligence success.
All the positive press for the CIA will be good for Director Leon Panetta, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to a new role as Secretary of Defence, pending Congressional approval. He was already popular as a former Congressman and Clinton administration official. Now he might just get unanimously confirmed.
The various government agencies are now reviewing the material seized at the compound. The senior intelligence official said, “The task force is working around the clock” to uncover information on threats to the US and its allies.
The Senior Intelligence Official briefing the press at an unusual Saturday event spent a good deal of time deflating the al-Qaeda leader and the prospects for the future of the network. Asked repeatedly about the next leader of al-Qaeda, the official said there is no clear frontrunner. But the official said al-Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al Zawahiri, isn’t very popular within the group. Analysts say historically when the head of this type of group is killed, a more radical but less effective leader takes over.
While the intelligence community is taking its bow, with each subsequent briefing by a US official, more questions come out about what happened during the raid and what happens next in the so-called War on Terror.