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Interrogate Brennan

Jan 21, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 18 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Presumably, the documents selected for release were ones the administration thought would buoy its case about al Qaeda’s impending demise. But reporting on the documents that were not released undermines Brennan’s analysis.

ProPublica cited an anonymous U.S. intelligence official who concluded that bin Laden “managed to retain authority over al Qaeda’s affiliates in Yemen, North Africa, and Iraq.” Towards the end of his life, bin Laden did not enjoy “the same degree of detailed involvement” he once had, this official said, “but he played a huge role in [the] leadership” of the affiliates. 

The Guardian (U.K.) reported that bin Laden’s files show extensive collusion between the Taliban and al Qaeda—a finding that further complicates the Obama administration’s ill-conceived effort to split the two. And Bruce Riedel, a former Obama adviser, told the Hindustan Times that bin Laden’s files show he had a close relationship with the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist group closely allied with al Qaeda that was responsible for the siege of Mumbai in November 2008. Riedel explained, in fact, that the files “suggested a much larger direct al Qaeda role in the planning of the Mumbai attacks than many assumed.”

How many files, in total, were captured in bin Laden’s compound? Why haven’t more of bin Laden’s files been released? If Obama and Brennan are serious about “shar[ing] as much information as possible with the American people,” then most of bin Laden’s cache should be made available to the public.

There is also the administration’s lack of transparency with respect to the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Brennan is not camera-shy, to put it mildly. Yet in the weeks following the assault, Brennan was missing in action, allowing other administration officials to explain to the public (erroneously) what had transpired. 

Four months after the attack, we still have no answers. We can piece together from press reporting several of the al Qaeda-linked personalities and organizations that were responsible, but the administration has not provided any real analysis of the culprits. We know, for example, that terrorists trained by an Egyptian named Muhammad Jamal al Kashef, a longtime ally of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, took part in the attack. The U.S. government reportedly requested that the Egyptians arrest Kashef, and they did.

Has the United States been able to question Kashef? If not, why? What do we know about the role of al Qaeda-affiliated parties in the attack? Why did the administration, including President Obama, insist for weeks that the assault evolved out of a demonstration against an anti-Islam film when we know that there never was a demonstration in Benghazi? Why has the United States not responded with military force against any of the terrorists responsible? None of the Benghazi suspects are in custody. Why? 

Senators should seek answers to these questions and more before they vote to approve Brennan’s appointment.


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