Stephen Hayes writes for The Weekly Standard primarily on foreign policy issues. His latest article explains what we’ve learned from the CIA’s decision to release 470,000 documents captured in the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound. Although the Obama adminstration claimed to have released all the documents, they only released 571 documents. Why would Barack Obama hide the other documents from the public? And what caused them to pick the 571 documents that they did release?
Only 571 documents released by Obama:
On the penultimate day of the Obama administration, less than 24 hours before the president would vacate the White House, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a press release meant to put to rest what had been a pesky issue for his office. “Closing the Book on Bin Laden: Intelligence Community Releases Final Abbottabad Documents,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) announced. “Today marks the end of a two-and-a-half-year effort to declassify several hundred documents recovered in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound in May 2011.” Accompanying the press release were 49 documents captured during the raid, bringing the total number of documents made public to 571.
Why not 470,571 – why only 571?
In the weeks following the bin Laden raid, the documents went through an immediate interagency triage for actionable intelligence. That initial scrub yielded valuable information that led to the capture and killing of key al Qaeda associates. But then the documents sat, largely untouched, for months at a time. From that point on, the Obama administration’s interest in the Abbottabad documents didn’t extend much beyond their public relations implications. Simply put, a fuller release of the cache would have fatally undermined the message that al Qaeda had been decimated and that the war on terror was being reduced to a few mopping-up exercises.
[…]After Obama’s reelection, the administration repeatedly shut down requests from Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Devin Nunes, for access to the documents. Then the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act turned those requests into a demand backed by law. That’s the only reason the 571 documents were released. And that’s where matters stood through the early months of the Trump administration.
The Trump administration has finally released ALL the documents.
What’s in the documents?
As Thomas Joscelyn details elsewhere in these pages, among them can be found documents describing al Qaeda’s relationship with the Afghan Taliban; videos and photographs of senior al Qaeda operatives, including those running the terror network and its affiliates today; letters with new information on al Qaeda’s web of relationships inside Pakistan; documents explaining the ways in which al Qaeda was adapting to U.S. targeting of its leaders; and the 228-page handwritten journal of the jihad kept by Osama bin Laden himself.
The Thomas Jocelyn piece is here, but I can’t cover that, because I want to talk about the Iran – Al Qaeda connection.
It’s not just the number of documents that’s interesting, it’s the fact that the Obama administration lied to the American public by trying to separate Al Qaeda from Iran.
This is important:
The new materials make clear that ODNI sought to mislead the country not only about the size of the collection but about its contents, too. The January ODNI press statement claimed that the batch of 49 documents it was then making public “mirrors the themes in previous releases,” chief among them Osama bin Laden’s “hatred, suspicion of Iran.” It was true that this was what previous ODNI releases claimed. But it is misleading in the extreme to pretend that the story of Iran and al Qaeda told through the captured bin Laden documents is solely one of hostility.
Bin Laden had described Iran as the “main artery” for al Qaeda in one of the previously released letters recovered in Abbottabad. The details on Iran’s support for al Qaeda, some of them buried until now, led to terrorist designations by the Treasury Department and even caused some intelligence analysts to revisit the assumption that the Shiite radicals in Iran wouldn’t back the Sunni al Qaeda. In a 2011 interview, David S. Cohen, a senior Treasury Department official who went on to become deputy director of the CIA, described the intelligence, which detailed a network of financial support for al Qaeda that operated out of Iran: “There is an agreement between the Iranian government and al Qaeda to allow this network to operate,” Cohen said. “There’s no dispute in the intelligence community on this.” Iran was providing a “core pipeline” of support that included safe haven for al Qaeda members and the facilitation of travel and the flow of money and weapons.
Al Qaeda accepted this help warily, it is true, and the al Qaeda-Iran relationship is based on mutual interest rather than ideological or doctrinal affinity. But to ignore the secret agreement altogether—to set aside the years of collaboration and to elide bin Laden’s own description of Iran as the “main artery” for al Qaeda, all in order to downplay the threat such an alliance presents—is a textbook case of cherry-picking.
The Obama administration covered up the Iran – AQ link so that they could make a deal to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. And give them $400 million of unmarked cash on pallets to help them along in their sponsorship of terrorism in the Middle East. This was the foreign policy of the last eight years under Barack Obama. And when you see people being raped and murdered by radical Islamic terrorists in the Middle East, you need to understand that this is what Democrat voters voted for. They wanted this to happen, and they voted for Obama to make it happen. It’s very important that voters inform themselves carefully about national security and foreign policy matters, because how we vote affects so much of what happens in the world. We can’t just be clowning around with ignorant liberal comedians on the Comedy Channel. We have to be more serious than that. This is America.
One of the reasons why the Trump victory in 2016 was so significant is that it did allow us to finally get the whole story on so many scandals that the Obama administration was covering up. We all know about the familiar scandals that were ignored by the far-left mainstream media: IRS persecution of conservative groups to help Obama get re-elected, running assault weapons to Mexican drug cartels to push a gun confiscation narrative, blaming the Benghazi terrorist attack on a YouTube video, etc. There was no lie too big for an administration run by leftist college students with no real-world experience. But just think of how close we came to never finding out the answers about all of these scandals.