• Important new book: How Pakistan and Iran supported Bin Laden and Al Qaeda

     Documenting how some states helped Al Qaeda

    Pakistan has long been known to have supported the Taliban and to have had links with al-Qaeda.  A new book by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, and reviewed here by one of America’s premier terrorism experts, Bruce Hoffman, documents not only how extensive the ties were, but also the important complicity of Iran.

    The authors detail Pakistan’s harboring of Osama bin-Laden. 

    Yet, due to the Afghan War and its difficult logistics requirements, the Bush administration was ineffective in pressuring the Pakistani regime to take a firmer line toward its own ISI military intelligence service and the refuge they provided.

    In turn the Obama administration walked a delicate line with Iran in the hope not only of reaching the nuclear agreement, but of establishing rapport with Tehran.


    Bruce Hoffman’s Very Positive Review of Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’s The Exile

     Hoffman reviews the book at the War on the Rocks blog (link)

    The book’s main argument is that neither bin Laden nor the movement he created could have survived without the active support of persons at the apex of both Pakistan’s and especially Iran’s intelligence services. The critical roles played by both countries in sheltering and protecting key al-Qaeda leaders and their families has of course long been known. But no other publicly available source comes as close to The Exile in presenting this familiar story either in as much detail or from the first-hand perspective of the key dramatis personae. New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall’s 2014 book, The Wrong Enemy, for example, had forcefully advanced the same claim regarding Pakistan’s complicity. The Exile goes considerably further: both in fleshing out the story and providing additional substantiation through the new information from multiple first-hand perspectives that Scott-Clark and Levy rely on. –Bruce Hoffman review of Scott-Clark and Levy’s The Exile

    Hoffman concludes

    The Exile’s main value . . . is in the new light that it sheds on the day-to-day Herculean efforts required simultaneously to protect bin Laden and his family while maintaining open lines of communications to his deputies, acolytes, financiers, and factotums dispersed across Pakistan, Iran, and more distant battlefields.


    Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

    His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 24

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Healthcare bill:

    • Another Republican Senator says no (that’s 5).
    • The Democrats go all in on vitriolic criticism.
    • Warren calls it “blood money,” etc.
    • Even Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat, will vote against the bill.

    The conventional wisdom is that the R’s cannot get it through the Senate  and that the D’s will escape all blame from voters.

    Comment: I don’t think the Democrats are home free on this.

    The Republicans will get a lot of the blame, to be sure, if they can’t pass a bill. They should. They have both Houses and the Presidency.

    But the Democrats’ entire strategy on everything in both Houses and in the streets is to resist and obstruct.

    It remains to be seen if voters will endorse that. I don’t think it appeals beyond the base in NY, CA, and university towns.

    Republicans will surely say, “It’s our bill versus Obamacare. The Democrats love Obamacare and won’t do anything but small changes. So now we’re all stuck with it.”

    That stance is reinforced by former Pres. Obama coming out so forcefully against the Republican bill.

    What happens when voters get the bad news from insurance companies in November about next year?  

    Ultimately, the electoral question comes down to this: Which do you hate more? Obamacare or the Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace it?

     Suicide bomber in Saudi Arabia blows himself up, but fails to reach his main target in Mecca: the Grand Mosque (Washington Post)

    The [Saudi Interior] ministry did not name the group involved in the attack. The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom battled an al-Qaida insurgency for years and more recently has faced attacks from a local branch of the Islamic State group.

    Neither group immediately claimed those arrested, though Islamic State sympathizers online have urged more attacks as an offensive in Iraq slowly squeezes the extremists out of Mosul and their de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria comes under daily bombing from a U.S.-led coalition. –Washington Post

    Comment: Remember, bringing down Saudi Arabia was the major goal of Al Qaeda all along. So far, not much progress.

    My guess is that the real political risk is related to Saudi efforts to liberalize the economy, which requires freer information and freer women.

     Loretta Lynch, Attorney General in Obama’s final years, is now being investigated by the Senate. Hacked emails from a Democratic campaign official said Lynch “would not to let the Clinton investigation go too far.” That doesn’t look good. Nor does Comey’s testimony that Lynch ordered him to falsely characterize the investigation in public. (USA Today story here)

    Another email, now public,

    indicated that Lynch had privately assured Clinton campaign staffer Amanda Renteria that the FBI’s investigation wouldn’t “go too far.” –USA Today

    The Congressional letter asking Lynch to provide documents was bipartisan, and Lynch has promised to cooperate.

    Comment: First, the Senate has to determine if these emails are real or fake. If they are real, Ms. Lynch may be be able to dance around them. For example, “I only meant I didn’t want it to go too far afield” or that she was simply guessing what the FBI would do. (Why would she be talking about such a secret matter to staffers for the person being investigated?) Or that the staffer misunderstood, etc.

    The fact that Democrats signed the letter to Lynch indicates the Senate committee, led by Grassley and Feinstein, is operating in a bipartisanship fashion, although it could also indicate that Lynch has reassured Democrats she can defend her position.

    Still, the documents now publicly available reek of political interference in a criminal investigation if they are real, not faked by the Russians. As this investigation moves forward, remember, the Democrats refused to allow the FBI to look into their computers after the Russian hack. They haven’t said why.

     When corruption stinks. Literally. The White Plains, NY, city council gave a $175k judgeship to someone who cannot work because she is too fat to climb the three steps to the bench (Daily Caller) Judge Eliz. Shollenberger is chair of the local Democratic Party and all council members are Democrats.

    It actually gets worse. Judge Shollenberger comes to the court house with what we will delicately call “gastrointestinal issues,” which leave the place looking and smelling terrible.

    Shollenberger further dismayed her colleagues by displaying “complete arrogance” following the embarrassing incidents.

    “She would just say, ‘There is a mess over there. I think someone should clean it up,’” a court source told the NY Post. –NY Post, quoted in the Daily Caller

    Comment: The over/under on how long it takes for Judge Shollenberger to play the victim here: 2 minutes. “I’m sick” “This is fat shaming.” Etc.

    Meanwhile, the public has to pay for a non-working judge and a hard-working janitorial crew.




  • The Language Police Troll Me After the London Attacks. Here is My Response

    After my plain-langue posts on the London attacks, the language police tried to collar me with a Citizens Arrest.

    Here’s the comment, in its full glory.

    Stop saying “Islamist”. It’s a made-up, racist term only used for hate. Usually by hateful, right-wing “Christist” bigots, but sometimes by “Judeists”, too.


    Why did I refuse to approve this comment?

    • I like dialog. I put it in the blog name for a reason.
    • I like intelligent, reasoned views, whether I agree with them or not.
    • I loathe ad hominem attacks.
    • I loathe moral poseurs, virtue signaling and trying to shut down arguments simply by saying “you are wrong,” “you are hateful,” etc.

    This comment fell firmly into the “I loathe” category.

    I wouldn’t stop them from broadcasting their views.

    But I won’t publish them as a “comment,” either. Set up their own “language police” page, if they wish.

    They don’t add to the discussion on ZipDialog. They attempt to shut it down



  • How Did British Intel miss the Signals before Manchester Bombing? They are now trying to answer that

    Britain’s domestic intelligence arm, MI5,  opens inquiries into the warnings they received–and missed–before the Manchester terror bombing  (Guardian, UK)

    Their security services will explore who failed and why.

    Investigations like this are vital if they are to prevent the same mistakes next time.

    They are like an “after-action” reports following military operations. In this, sadly, it is an “after-inaction” report.

    Actually, the Brits are launching two investigations,

    • A rush-job to make sure they roll up the whole network
    • An in-depth probe to prevent these problems from happening again.

    Quite sensible to have two investigations.


    The overriding problem this time is that police and security services were warned multiple times about this particular terrorist.

    Salman Abedi was a known danger, and he had just returned from Libya. Red flags ought to be everywhere.

    The police, senior politicians, and the public want to know how they dropped the ball, leaving so many dead and injured? According to the Guardian

    MI5 has launched two urgent inquiries into how it missed the danger posed by the Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, amid claims his interest in being a potential terrorist killer was repeatedly reported to the authorities.

    Britain’s domestic security service started one review last week, which will aim to quickly identify any glaring errors, while the other will be more in depth, the Guardian has learned. . . .

    The reviews come with security officials warning that the threat from Islamist terrorism keeps rising and is at an “unprecedented scale”, with other attack plots feared.–Guardian


    Comment: There are several typical reasons for these errors

    1. Too much information for police to cope with
      • Lots of irrelevant information obscures the really troubling “real” data, often called a “signal to noise” problem
      • Too few counter-terrorism officers to sort out the signal-to-noise problem because there are so many known Islamists in the UK
    2. Bad communication among different policy bureaucracies
      • Information is dropped accidentally as it moves from one part of the bureaucracy to another
      • “Silos” or stove-pipes: information that comes into to one bureaucratic fiefdom stays there, either to maintain control or because they don’t trust each other (this was a major problem between the FBI and CIA, identified by the 9/11 commission)
    3. Legal restrictions on acquiring relevant information
      • Probably not a problem in this case, but it could be in future US cases, depending on the renewal of some laws about NSA information collection. (The problem, of course, is balancing civil liberties and public safety.)
    4. Political correctness: Reluctance to investigate possible crimes by Muslims
      • This is exactly why thousands of children were sexually abused in northern England, a catastrophic scandal that occurred because no one wanted to probe the Muslim networks for fear it would be unfriendly to an immigrant group.


  • A Comment on the Terror Bombing in England


    ◆ A terrorist bombing aimed at killing innocent children–killing them deliberately–is so vile I cannot truly comprehend it.

    May the innocents rest in peace.

    May the wounded recover fully, in body and mind.

    May the police be safe as they root out the terror cells that prepared and executed this heinous act.

    May we, as citizens, name this evil plainly and call it out for what it is.

    The sources of funding must be cut off. Individuals across the Middle East who donate to these organizations are part of the conspiracy and should face the full force of the law. Nations that support it, either because of religious ideology or to divert the fury away from themselves, should be named, shamed, and sanctioned, not appeased.

    Israelis have faced these attacks for years–and been given the back of the hand by Europeans, morally supercilious in safe homes.

    Meanwhile, in southern Israel, bunkers have to be built beneath kindergarten playgrounds so the children can rush to safety within 15 seconds of hearing a warning siren that Hamas has fired a rocket.

    Now, these same forces of militant Islam have come to Europe, welcomed as refugees by clueless politicians. Most refugees are completely innocent. But some are not–and they work hard to recruit others as they do their dirty work in Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark, or England. Angela Merkel still doesn’t grasp the problem.

    Equally troubling, the refugees new life in Europe has failed to socialize many of them to Western values of religious tolerance, free speech, and democratic engagement. In these immigrant communities, the second and third generations are rife with the same views and problems they brought from North Africa or the Middle East.

    As the civil war deepened in Syria, some decided to join it and are now returning as, well-trained, battle-hardened veterans. They are ready to make war on the streets of Europe.

    Beyond the immediate problem of terror are the equally serious problems of controlling immigration and integrating those who are already in the west.

    Law enforcement is an essential part of the solution, but these problems go well beyond it. They require clear-eyed assessment and tough-minded action by citizens and leader who value the hard-won liberties of western, constitutional democracy and who can defend those liberties without eroding them.





  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . .Sunday, Dec. 25

    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Intel Committee of US House issues a heavily-redacted report showing Edward Snowden was a habitually-unhappy worker whose stolen information harmed US security and has been used by the Russians. (NY Times) Snowden tweets his contempt for the report.

    ◆ Boko Haram, one of the nastiest Islamic terror groups, has been driven out of its stronghold in the Nigerian forest, near Cameroon. (LA Times)

    ◆ In China, Christmas means jail time for human-rights activists. (Guardian)

    ◆ Chicago: Arrests down, murders up in 2016 (Chicago Sun-Times)

    ◆ Barclay’s Bank is diverging from its peers, which settled with the US Government over bad mortgage loans. “If you want our money,” Barclay’s says, “then sue us.”

    Barclay’s own consultants called some of the loans “craptacular,” but the bank says the USG has overreached. Bloomberg has the story here.

    ◆ And finally, a tweet of real note and a perfect one for today, Dec. 25.










  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, Oct. 13

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ While ISIS is taking all the incoming, Al Qaeda is quietly rebuilding, says counter-terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman (Cipher Brief)

    ◆ FBI, DOJ professionals “dismayed and disgusted” at political decision “from the top” not to indict Clinton and her aides. From the beginning, I have said that FBI professionals would leak if they thought the Hillary investigation was cooked. Now, that’s exactly what we are hearing, even though the FBI took the rare step of making agents sign non-disclosure agreements. These leaks tell a sordid story. Reporting an exclusive for Fox News, Malia Zimmerman and Adam Housley write that career FBI agents and DOJ attorneys are, in the agents’ own words, “dismayed and disgusted.”

    james-comey-labeled-with-seal-purple-background-200px-no-marginsThe decision to let Hillary Clinton off the hook for mishandling classified information has roiled the FBI and Department of Justice, with one person closely involved in the year-long probe telling FoxNews.com that career agents and attorneys on the case unanimously believed the Democratic presidential nominee should have been charged.

    “No trial level attorney agreed, no agent working the case agreed, with the decision not to prosecute — it was a top-down decision,” said the source, whose identity and role in the case has been verified by FoxNews.com. —Malia Zimmerman and Adam Housley, Fox News

    ◆ The US economy was expected to surge in the second half of 2016. That is not happening. Gary Halbert comments:

    zd-economy-words-200px-margins-on-rightA few months ago, there was broad optimism that the US economy would shift into a higher gear in the second half of this year. I never bought into it. Now, forecasters are revising their optimistic estimates downward, as it increasingly looks like the economy will disappoint yet again.

    The Treasury Department quietly reported last week that the national debt increased by $1.4 trillion in fiscal year 2016 which ended on September 30, the third largest annual increase in history. –Gary Halbert

    ◆ Rising threats from Russia push Sweden and Finland (non-members of NATO) closer to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its defense umbrella. (Atlantic Council)


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Robert Lieber
     for the Al Qaeda story