Ever feel like you aren’t learning much from Obama administration spokespersons at press conferences? The White House spokesman refers the press to the State Department and the State Department refers them to the White House (or wherever).
It feels like being on the trail of Hillary Clinton email. You know that somewhere there is information, but you know that it is not likely to seep into the public domain. The nuclear deal with Iran? Shrounded in mystery. The Obama administration’s message to the American people on these negotiations: Trust us. Trust the president.
An article in today’s Wall Street Journal by Steve Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn may make this trust very difficult indeed. The article is about how the White House misled the country into believing that al Qaeda had been defeated and was on the run in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential re-election. There was ample intelligence to the contrary.
Some of that ample evidence came from the raid–much touted by the president as an example of his foreign policy savvy and courage–that killed Obama bin Laden in his Abbottabad redoubt. The mission turned up an astonishing treasure trove of documents about al Qaeda operations. There were videos, DVDs, and handwritten materials of such importance that one senior military and intelligence officer called the haul “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”
But you haven't read much about analysis of this haul of terrorist documents, have you?
Well, this isn't entirely because this amazing find is being treated as top secret information to help us fight against our adversaries.
The information in this collection of papers and DVDs contradicted what the White House was telling the voters. That is why you have heard so little about the ingelligence, according to the Hayes-Joscelyn article. Hayes and Joscelyn write:
The United States had gotten its hands on al Qaeda’s playbook—its recent history, its current operations, its future plans. An interagency team led by the Central Intelligence Agency got the first look at the cache. They performed a hasty scrub—a “triage”—on a small sliver of the document collection, looking for actionable intelligence. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the team produced more than 400 separate reports based on information in the documents.
Ponder that: Hayes and Joscelyn argue that al Qaeda remained at war with the United States but—oops!—the administration didn’t tell the public. According to the article, 17 handpicked documents from the Abbottabad haul were presented to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point. These documents reportedly were selected to give a portrait of bin Laden as a sad and irrelevant man and al Qaeda as faltering.
The administration reportedly fought to keep the Abbottabad trove under wraps but, when a small team of analysts from Defense Intelligence Agency and Centcom finally managed to gain access, it found something at variance with what the public was being told. Joscelyn and Hayes:
At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden’s own words, that the opposite was true. Says Lt. Gen. Flynn: “By that time, they probably had grown by about—I’d say close to doubling by that time. And we knew that.”
This wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear. So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.
But it is what happened next that is truly stunning: nothing. The analysis of the materials—the “document exploitation,” in the parlance of intelligence professionals—came to an abrupt stop. According to five senior U.S. intelligence officials, the documents sat largely untouched for months—perhaps as long as a year.
In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending.
We know that the public is not privy to intelligence at the highest levels—nor should we be in many cases—but this kind of deception reveals a kind of ruthlessness and dishonesty that is surely unprecedented. A republic depends on a chief executive who keeps faith with the people and laws of the republic.
This kind of deception (we’re at war but, hey, don’t tell the voters!) is likely behind the administration’s reaction to the Benghazi terrorist attack and it should make us very, very worried about the nuclear negotiation with Iran.