Comment: Some early remarks on bin Laden’s assassination

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

It is tempting to consider the impact of Osama bin Laden’s assassination on al-Qaeda-inspired groups and, more broadly, on America’s “global war on terrorism”. Yet any such endeavor at this point would be inevitably speculative. The truth is, nobody has the slightest idea of the possible strategic spillover of bin Laden’s killing, and this includes the White House, the CIA and NATO. There are, however, some general remarks, mostly of operational nature, that can safely be made on the basis of the limited factual information that has been made available. To begin with, it appears that the assassination of al-Qaeda’s senior figurehead was conducted by ground forces, and not remotely, as has been the case with the vast majority of US assassination operations carried out in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the past several years. This potentially strengthens the argument, made frequently by Western and Pakistani officials, that significant achievements in the field of counterterrorism can only be conducted by surgical-type ground operations, based on accurate and actionable intelligence.

Putting aside the question of actionable intelligence, intelligence observers will be interested to know whether the primary mission of the operation was to capture, rather than kill, bin Laden. From a strictly intelligence-gathering point of view, it may be argued that bin Laden’s death at the hands of the Americans was far from an ideal outcome. On the other hand, collection is simply one element in intelligence operations, another one being psychological. From a psychological point of view, therefore, this operation is still ongoing, and must include the release of authoritative details on the assassination, including audiovisual proof, in order to convince skeptics in the Muslim world, the United States, and beyond.

From a strictly organizational point of view, it would also be important to know whether the assassination operation was a collaborative effort, whether it was US-led, and whether it can be clearly credited to a particular US government agency. Indeed, it would be naïve to assume that the aftermath of this major development will escape the relentless bureaucratic struggle between the numerous components of America’s intelligence community. One thinks in particular of ongoing antagonisms between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the Pentagon. In light of this, it would be insightful to clarify whether the assassination operation was primarily coordinated by the CIA or the Pentagon, which commands Special Forces groups. These are some first remarks on the assassination of Osama bin Laden. More relevant news and remarks will follow in due course.

* Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis holds a PhD in the politics of intelligence. He teaches and authors widely on subjects relating to intelligence practice and reform. He is Senior Editor at More of his articles can be found here.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

6 Responses to Comment: Some early remarks on bin Laden’s assassination

  1. Wikispooks says:

    I’m amazed that Dr Fitsanakis appears to take these claims at face value.

    If US claims can EVER be taken at face value in the smoke and mirrors world of the GWOT – and that is a very big if – then I suggest it is way too early to do so with this one. He must surely be aware of credible claims of bin-Laden’s demise from the likes of Benazir Bhutto and others many years ago.

    OTOH, they have gotten clean away with so many outrageous – not to say ludicrous – falsehood in the past 10 years, that they will doubtless have prepared the ground well and be similarly confident of their purposes with this one too. But, the house torched ?? – the body buried at sea ??? – Are we really THAT gullible?

    The more pertinent questions I suggest are (for example) “why now?” – “What is this a distraction from and/or a preparation for?” – and suchlike.

    Pulling a rabbit from the hat per Tony Cartalucci has a rather more persuasive air to it than anything you’ve written above.

  2. Analyst says:

    Tony Cartalucci (whoever he is) claims, in the article that you linked to in your comment above, that Bin Laden has been “long dead”, and that “9/11 was an inside job.” He may be right. But, personally, I would rather read Dr. Fitsanakis’ measured and cautious analysis. He may not be 100 percent correct (who is?), but at least he doesn’t patronize his readers by claiming to know that Bin Laden is was “long dead” before today, and that “9/11 was an inside job.”

    Nobody claims that the American government does not use smoke and mirror tactics in order to achieve its aims. But arrogant conspiracy nuts of Cartalucci’s type are actually counterproductive in the genuine search for the truth.

  3. nilewatch says:

    Adam Gadahn moves to Number 2.

  4. Wikispooks says:

    “Arrogant conspiracy nuts of Cartalucci’s type” eh?
    Four withering ad-hominems in just six words. That has to be something of a record – and an impressive illustration of the Establishment-dependent mindset’s denial of reality.

    Just what do you mean by ‘conspiracy’? – let alone ‘nut’? – and arrogant?? I’ll warrant you know precious little about Cartalucci beyond a certainty bordering on – shall we say – arrogance, that he is arrogant.

    You bill this blog as “Singint from the ‘Intelligence Underground’. Forgive me for finding that amusing.

    Anyway. Since Cartalucci is clearly not to your taste, how about a little Jim Kunstler on the same subject:

    Mark these words: within about three hours, the “Birther” faction around America will be asking for Osama Bin Laden’s driver’s license. What I’d like to know is how come he was “buried at sea,” when the operation took place at least a thousand miles from the sea. Did the US Navy Seals transfer his remains from a helicopter to a boat? Or to an airplane? And did they just drop him over the night-darkened Indian Ocean like a sack of lentils? By the time you read this, the whole world will be clamoring for photos of the deceased. Maybe our guys will produce some. Quien Sabe? but when historians gather around their campfires a half century from now, they will marvel at our idiocy….
    How many iPhones and Blackberries are jangling this morning, I wonder, with “news” that Bin Laden was buried at sea because he is Obama’s real father? To the Birthers, I’m sure Bin Laden qualified as some sort of “Negro.” The story will be on Fox News by suppertime in Atlanta, just watch.

    If the cap fits an’ all that …. More here

  5. intelNews says:

    To Wikispooks: Thanks for your comments. You are absolutely correct in questioning whether bin Laden is in fact dead, or whether he was killed yesterday. Skepticism is healthy, and it should be encouraged. On the other hand, bin Laden’s death has, at this point, been confirmed by dozens of eponymous sources in several countries. If it is a conspiracy, then it is clearly a very broad one, encompassing hundreds –perhaps thousands– of individuals in many countries. Based on the information I have amassed, I side with the view that the statement by President Obama is reasonably accurate, and that bin Laden was in fact alive until he was assassinated on May 1, 2011. Having said this, I and others who believe this may be wrong, and you may be right.

    I am not sure how to respond to your comment that you find this blog “amusing”. We try our best to provide responsible news and views on the controversial and contentious subjects of intelligence and espionage. Even though I disagree with some of your website’s views, I don’t find you at all “amusing”. In fact I am glad you are here and wish you well in your efforts -which is also why intelNews has provided a link to your website for several months now. It would be nice if you would be a little more conciliatory to our efforts. Thank you again for your commentary. [JF]

  6. Wikispooks says:

    My remarks were aimed at analyst 10:34. I made the unwarranted assumption that the comment was representative of the entire site and for that I apologize

    It’s just that the sort of gross ad-hominems in that comment are like a red rag to a bull for me, and I’m a bit inclined to come out fighting.

    I’m happy to agree to differ on the date of bin Laden’s demise. I’d just point you at nine credible reports of his earlier death here and remark that, like 911 itself, the falsity of the ‘official ‘death-of-bin-Laden narrative’ does NOT (IMHO) require the complicity of hundreds, perhaps thousands. I won’t bore with the detail of all that unless elaboration is invited.

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