Our good friends: Pakistani Intelligence behind Mumbai massacre

October 21, 2010

In late November, 2008, the world stood transfixed in horror as Muslim terrorists waging jihad (jihad fi sabil Allah) went on a murderous rampage in the Indian city of Mumbai. At the time, there was strong suspicion that the terrorists, who belonged to a jihad group called Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), had received some support from the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. But the evidence, while suggestive, wasn’t considered conclusive.

Now it is. An American who became involved with LeT, David Headley, acted as a scout for LeT, picking targets and reporting to… the ISI:

Pakistan’s powerful intelligence services were heavily involved in preparations for the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008, according to classified Indian government documents obtained by the Guardian.

A 109-page report into the interrogation of key suspect David Headley, a Pakistani-American militant arrested last year and detained in the US, makes detailed claims of ISI support for the bombings.

Under questioning, Headley described dozens of meetings between officers of the main Pakistani military intelligence service, the ISI, and senior militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

He claims a key motivation for the ISI in aiding the attacks was to bolster militant organisations with strong links to the Pakistani state and security establishment who were being marginalised by more extreme radical groups.

Headley, who undertook surveillance of the targets in Mumbai for the operation, claims that at least two of his missions were partly paid for by the ISI and that he regularly reported to the spy agency. However, the documents suggest that supervision of the militants by the ISI was often chaotic and that the most senior officers of the agency may have been unaware at least of the scale and ambition of the operation before it was launched.

I’m not sure which is worse: that Pakistan’s intelligence service was involved in the operation, or that it’s so poorly supervised, fractured, and riddled with Islamists that it can run rogue operations senior officials are unaware of. Regardless, I’m wary of the “the bosses didn’t know” argument, as Pakistan has had a long history of using LeT and similar groups as proxy forces against India in Kashmir and have been suspected of facilitating other spectacular attacks inside India.

Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons prevents India from taking strong military action against Pakistan in retaliation (as they have every right to do), but we should nevertheless stay aware that our “ally” in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban is quite willing to play a double or triple game and that it would be foolish to trust them completely.

Via Big Peace.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Taliban must be sweating bullets, now

February 16, 2010

I’d waited to write on this until it was confirmed, and now it is: In a joint operation, the Pakistan Interservices Intelligence agency and the CIA captured the Taliban’s top military commander, a man second only to Mullah Omar himself:

Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban’s Top Commander

By MARK MAZZETTI and DEXTER FILKINS

The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.

The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.

It was unclear whether he was talking, but the officials said his capture had provided a window into the Taliban and could lead to other senior officials. Most immediately, they hope he will provide the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed cleric who is the group’s spiritual leader.

Disclosure of Mullah Baradar’s capture came as American and Afghan forces were in the midst of a major offensive in southern Afghanistan.

His capture could cripple the Taliban’s military operations, at least in the short term, said Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who last spring led the Obama administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan policy review.

Details of the raid remain murky, but officials said that it had been carried out by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and that C.I.A. operatives had accompanied the Pakistanis.

Naturally the Pakistanis are denying the CIA was involved in the raid. I don’t blame them; not only is the issue of an American, especially CIA, presence sensitive in Pakistan, but the ISI has been playing a double game between the US and the jihadists, especially the Taliban, with whom they have a long and paternal relationship. Confirming that they had stabbed their clients in the back would only earn them more suicide bombs in the capital and the Urdu-speaking heartland than they’re already going to get.

And I have to give rare credit to the New York Times, which sat on the story at the administration’s request for several days, until rumors became rife in the region.  This preserved the value of the intelligence we were getting from this slime.  Good job, guys. Now, if only you’d see fit to be that concerned about national security during Republican administrations….

Regardless, this is a major coup for the US and its allies, and a body blow to the Taliban. This piece of walking garbage knows plans, names, locations… everything. It would be as if they had captured General McChrystal, our commander in the region. Baradar is close to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden – want to bet they moved faster than they have since October, 2001, when the word got around?

And the capture takes place just as we’re launching a major offensive against the Taliban. Kind of like taking out Rommel at the start of the North Africa campaign.

This is truly good news, and congratulations to the Obama administration.

But, I have to ask, is it wrong of me to want to waterboard this escapee from a 7th century lunatic asylum? I mean, think of all the evil these schmucks have done since taking over Afghanistan – a few pours is the least any of their leaders deserve.

Oh, okay. It’d be wrong, but it would still feel good.

LINKS: More at Hot Air, which links to a Newsweek profile of Baradar ; Legal Insurrection, which wonders about the interrogation; Power Line, which wonders why we didn’t get him a lawyer; The Jawa Report; Sister Toldjah; Threat Matrix, which wonders why Pakistan gave up Mullah Baradar; and Hot Air, again, asking how it was done.


Al Qaeda can watch our military video feeds?

December 17, 2009

This is a mind-boggling breach of security:

Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights. Still, the intercepts could give America’s enemies battlefield advantages by removing the element of surprise from certain missions and making it easier for insurgents to determine which roads and buildings are under U.S. surveillance.

And it’s not as if this is some new, unexpected development; the Pentagon has known of this problem since the 1990s, but did nothing about it because they didn’t think the local yo-yos were smart enough to find out about it.

Pardon me, but, um… WTF??

Maybe Abdul in a cave wouldn’t figure it out, but what about their patrons in Iran (who’ve shown themselves to be pretty creative), or their patrons in Moscow and Beijing? Do we really have such stupid and arrogant schmucks in military who thought that no rival could discover this and then pass on the information? Really?

Excuse me while I go find the nearest brick wall to bang my head against.

Threat Matrix gives us the cheery news that the problem isn’t just affecting Iraq, but Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well. And not just our drone feeds, but all air-to-ground transmissions. They outline a worst-case scenario:

…our rivals such as Russia and China, our adversaries such as Iran, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban, etc., and our erstwhile allies such as Pakistan have been monitoring our feeds for years, and thus have learned plenty about how the US plans and conducts attacks, as well as the capabilities and limitations of the weapons and observation platforms. The DoD officials downplayed the leaked information and said no US troops were harmed due to the breach. That may be true today, but may not be the case in future conflicts.

The following is purely speculation on my part. Don’t be surprised if you read a story in the next few days or weeks that elements within Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has been monitoring US Predator and Reaper feeds, and relaying targeting information to al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. I have heard far too many stories about how senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders miraculously avoided attacks and left the target sites just minutes before the strikes. The officials repeatedly told me that they believed the anti-US elements in the ISI would tip off the terrorist commanders before the strikes.

This news isn’t just disturbing: that we knew about it for years and did nothing to fix it tells of a nauseating level of incompetence. Several heads need to roll, and then whatever money it takes to fix the problem needs to be spent now. This is just as bad as having a mole in the planning rooms; the repercussions of what our potential and actual enemies may have learned about how we operate could be felt for years from now.

Seriously, why weren’t these transmissions encrypted? Surely there weren’t insuperable obstacles to that.

I’ve often said that no one can beat us if we don’t beat ourselves, and it’s at moments like this I think we’re trying to prove it.

LINKS: More at Hot Air.