Sunday, October 24, 2010

(BN) Dam Is Step in Stabilizing Pakistan's `Epicenter' of Terrorism

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Dam Is Step to Stabilize Pakistan Terror 'Epicenter'

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Engineer Liu Zhangteng says he feels "very comfortable" when he walks to work at his construction site in the mountains of northwest Pakistan. It takes the presence of 1,500 local soldiers to sustain his tranquility.

Liu's employer, China's Sinohydro Corp., is completing the biggest building project in Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border, where the army is fighting Taliban militants. The U.S.-funded Gomal Zam dam is a key part of Pakistan's effort to undermine the appeal of Islamic guerrillas in Waziristan, whose northern region U.S. military chief Admiral Mike Mullen calls the world's "epicenter of terrorism."

The dam's troops are among tens of thousands keeping control in South Waziristan and other areas that the army seized back from Taliban rule last year. Pakistan's army commander, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is likely to underscore that insecurity as he fends off U.S. pressure for a new offensive during talks to conclude tomorrow in Washington, said political analyst Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani lieutenant general.

Pakistan's government has failed to establish firm civilian authority or genuine popular support in the areas it recaptured, say Masood and Ashraf Ali, executive director of the FATA Research Center in Islamabad. Its army has stayed close to the main roads and failed to engage Taliban who have re-infiltrated South Waziristan, according to a White House report to Congress quoted early this month by the New York Times and other U.S. news organizations.

'Aggressive Action'

A White House statement said President Barack Obama joined yesterday's U.S.-Pakistani talks, in which the State Department said the U.S. planned to again press Pakistan to step up attacks on militants. "Clearly, while we've seen aggressive action by the Pakistani military in recent months, more has to be done," , U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said yesterday.

The dam is to generate electricity and irrigate farmland for residents whose support the government needs for its fight against militants. A more peaceful south may free Pakistani troops for an offensive in North Waziristan sought by the U.S.

Construction began in 2002 and was delayed for three years after Taliban fighters kidnapped two Chinese engineers from the project in 2004. One died in a Pakistan army rescue operation.

The dam is 92 percent built, its project director, Colonel Muhammad Zaheer of the army's Frontier Works Organization said in an interview at the construction site.

'Hopeful Part'

Its completion, plus the army's construction of 220 kilometers (137 miles) of roads, will represent "the first time the government has actually implemented any of its many promises to bring development to South Waziristan," said the FATA center's Ali.

"That's the hopeful part," Ali said.

The center studies Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the border zone with Afghanistan that includes Waziristan and serves as a base for Taliban, al-Qaeda and allied Islamic militants.

While the army occupation has brought some calm to South Waziristan, it's not clear whether the government can win popular support and undercut militancy, Ali said. After years in which the Taliban have killed 800 traditional tribal leaders in the FATA region, the government has been trying to establish an anti-Taliban leadership among the local Pashtun tribes, he said.

"They have had no success," Ali said in an Oct. 10 phone interview. "Candidates are reluctant to come forward because they don't trust the government to protect them and to work cooperatively with the tribes."

Taliban Attacks

During a reporter's visit last month to South Waziristan, a rocky, mountainous district the size of the U.S. state of Delaware, Pakistani troops patrolled the roads in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns. Taliban gunmen have killed at least 10 Pakistani soldiers in small-scale attacks this month, according to reports in the newspaper Dawn -- a toll that the army's press office declined to confirm.

The army's presence in South Waziristan has reduced Taliban attacks across the border into Afghanistan's Paktika province, its governor, Mohibullah Samim, said in an Oct. 11 phone interview.

On Oct. 16 last year, the army moved into South Waziristan to clear about 10,000 Taliban guerrillas based in the homeland of the Mehsud tribe. While other Pakistan-based Taliban mainly fight U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, the Mehsud faction had led a domestic insurgency, hitting Pakistani government targets.

U.S. Funds

More than 200,000 Mehsud civilians -- most of the area's population -- fled before the fighting started and have spent the past year as refugees in nearby districts. While the army and government promise security and development help to those who go home, villages remain sparsely inhabited as civilians have resisted government appeals to return, tribal elders say.

The U.S. government agreed in July to pay $108 million for the dam. It will generate 17.4 megawatts of electricity starting next April, much of it for communities in and near South Waziristan, the Frontier Works Organization's Zaheer said. Pakistan's power production this year has fallen 5,000 megawatts or more short of demand, the nation's Water and Power Development Authority has said.

The government's inability to stabilize recaptured areas such as South Waziristan and Swat, northwest of Islamabad, has left the army "literally pinned down," delaying the possibility of any assault on North Waziristan, which now is the main base for the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militants, Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an Oct. 16 interview on Bloomberg Television.

An assault on North Waziristan "could easily backfire" and "push militants back into the south," Masood said in a phone interview from Islamabad.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Austin at

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Recent writing and commentary on the terror threat in Europe and the United States

Shadowland: Time To Worry, 15 October 2010
Al Qaeda plots to attack Europe may be just a prelude to new strikes in the U.S.

Newsweek International Cover: The Threat in Europe, 11 October 2010
This is the text of the article that appeared in the print magazine overseas. It has been pasted under the same URL as earlier versions written for the Web and there is some overlap in content, but also a lot of new material.

Video, France24 Debate: Terror in Europe, 5 October 2010
A discussion with CIA veteran Rolf Mowatt-Larssen at Harvard and Paul Wilkinson at the University of Saint Andrews
Part 1 - Part 2 -
[There may be a French ad before it plays, but it's in English. It was also slow loading, but worth the wait, especially for Mowatt-Larssen's commentary.]

Friday, October 08, 2010

2012 : DSK reste le préféré des électeurs de gauche (depuis sur iPhone)

Dans un habile exercice d'équilibre, Dominique Strauss-Kahn admet, dans un entretien au Monde daté de vendredi, qu'il n'est pas indifférent aux sondages présidentiels qui lui sont actuellement très...

Attentat de Karachi : le juge revient sur la campagne Balladur (depuis sur iPhone)

En marge de l'enquête sur l'attentat de Karachi (Pakistan), en 2002, qui avait coûté la vie à 11 Français, le juge Renaud van Ruymbeke a décidé mercredi d'enquêter sur d'éventuelles...

Interdiction de la burqa : la loi validée et applicable en 2011 (depuis sur iPhone)

Le port du voile intégral dans les lieux publics est définitivement interdit en France. Adopté par le Parlement le 14 septembre, le texte vient d'être validé dans son ensemble par le Conseil...

Un ophtalmo refuse de recevoir une fillette parce qu'«arabe» (depuis sur iPhone)

Un ophtalmologiste d'Aix-en-Provence, dans les Bouches-du-Rhône, a refusé de recevoir Mohamed et sa fille de 6 ans, parce qu'ils étaient «arabes». «Je ne reçois pas les sales Arabes !», leur aurait... sur iTunes :

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Le Cinq ans après, le journal danois qui a publié les caricatures de Mahomet est toujours menacé d'attentat


Cinq ans après, le journal danois qui a publié les caricatures de Mahomet est toujours menacé d'attentat

La police norvégienne a annoncé mardi que trois hommes arrêtés cet été en Norvège et en Allemagne préparaient un attentat contre le "Jyllands-Posten".

LE MONDE pour Le Olivier Truc | 29.09.10 | 10:53

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AP MOBILE: Euro terror alert spotlights voiceprint technology

BBC News - France arrests 12 in anti-terror raids

BBC News - Drone attacks 'linked' to suspected Europe terror plot

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Terrorisme : douze arrestations dans les mouvances islamistes (depuis sur iPhone)

Deux coups de filet dans la mouvance islamiste se sont soldés mardi matin par l'arrestation de douze personnes. Les interpellations sont intervenues pour des affaires distinctes dans la région de...

Risque d'attentats : Paris recommande la vigilance en Grande-Bretagne (depuis sur iPhone)

Forte tension en Europe après les mises en garde des Etats-Unis et du Japon à leurs ressortissants sur les risques d'attentats dans cette région du globe. La France n'est pas en reste. Secouée ces...

Le La vidéo d'un homme brûlant un Coran indigne la communauté musulmane


La vidéo d'un homme brûlant un Coran indigne la communauté musulmane

Dans ce film publié sur Internet, l'homme découpe une page du livre saint musulman puis l'enflamme, avant de l'éteindre en urinant.

LEMONDE.FR avec AFP | 04.10.10 | 20:37

AP MOBILE: US strike kills 5 German militants in Pakistan

Fausses alertes à la bombe à Paris : le suspect passe aux aveux (depuis sur iPhone)

Les deux dernières fausses alertes à la bombe à la gare Saint-Lazare, c'était bien lui. L'homme de 53 ans, interpellé tôt lundi dans un foyer Sonacotra, à Meudon (Hauts-de-Seine), par la section...

Strasbourg : le maire PS excédé par les actes racistes (depuis sur iPhone)

Le maire de Strasbourg a lancé lundi un appel après la multiplication d'actes racistes depuis le début de l'année dans l'agglomération. Roland Ries (PS), pointant du doigt les partis d'extrême...

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Spy Who Loved ... Herself. Anna Chapman Cheesecake Video

Al-Jazeera in English: Marwan Bishara's "Empire" on "The United State Between Two Wars"

The best part of this program hosted by Marwan Bishara was the documentary at the beginning about the war in and around Marja, Afghanistan.

The Panel:

Colonel Richard Kemp
Former British commander in Afghanistan

Christopher Dickey
Middle East editor, Newsweek

Alain Gresh
Editor, Le Monde Diplomatique

Seumas Milne
Associate editor, The Guardian

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Before the Storm: Daisy Khan's Newsweek Video from 2007

 In July 2007, Newsweek published a cover story -- a special report, in fact -- on "Islam in America." As part of that project, Lisa Miller interviewed Daisy Khan, who, working with her husband Imam Faisal Rauf, is now at the center of the controversy about a new Muslim cultural center to be built a couple of blocks from Ground Zero. Khan was also interviewed in a Newsweek video, which I've posted below. It's even more interesting to look at now than it was then.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Suicide, Cynicism and Gender: Further Reading

The respective roles of men and women in suicide bombings is one I've written about frequently. These are just a few of the articles and essays since 2005 that touch on the question:

Al Qaeda’s Pandora
Osama bin Laden's 17-year-old daughter is trying to get out of Iran. Her story could expose ties between the mullahs and her father's terror networks.

Divorce, Jihadi Style
What role do women play in Al Qaeda? A few are suicide bombers; others may encourage their men to become one.

The New TNT
New studies of suicide bombers say that most have three important qualities in common: testosterone, a narrative fantasy, and a desire to make theater.

The Suicide Solution
Mohammad Sidique Khan's voice-from-the-grave video got me thinking the other day. Most Americans were focused on the disaster in New Orleans, that city betrayed by the cupidity of shortsighted politicians, flooded with pestilence, plagued by chaos. Al-Jazeera's broadcast on Thursday of the Yorkshire-accented musings of this Muslim fanatic who blew himself up in the London Underground two months ago in the attack that killed 52 innocents, seemed weirdly irrelevant given the scope of the national tragedy that now faces the United States

Women of Al Qaeda
Jihad used to have a gender: male. The men who dominated the movement exploited traditional attitudes about sex and the sexes to build their ranks. They still do that, but with a difference: even Al Qaeda is using female killers now, and goading the men.

Also note the foreword I wrote to Barbara Victor's "Army of Roses" in 2004:

Suicide and Cynicism Cerca 1985

Professor Tatyana Dronzina, a professor of political science at the University of Sofia in Bulgaria, is teaching a course that looks at suicide terrorism and in her reading she saw references to this 1985 article. I'm glad she sent me a note about it. The reporting I did on this article -- which emphasizes the importance of anti-occupation thinking and also the ability of intelligence services to manipulate would be bombers -- has shaped my views of suicide terrorism ever since. Unfortunately it is not available on line, so, until it is I am posting the article here for the benefit of the professor and her students:

Young Lebanese Seek New Martyrdom Suicide Bombers Emerge as Martyrs

By Christopher Dickey, Washington Post Foreign Service

AMMAN, Jordan, May 11, 1985

A 17-year-old girl from west Beirut found a new kind of martyrdom in the Arab world last month when she videotaped her final words and drove off in a bomb-laden Peugeot. On a road above Jezzin, Lebanon, she blew herself up along with at least two Israeli soldiers.

Since then Sana Mhaydali's farewell has been broadcast throughout the region. Photographs and sketches of her smiling face grace the covers of Middle Eastern magazines. There was a two-page color spread in the popular French weekly Paris Match. "La Kamikaze," read the headline.
But Mhaydali is only the best known in a new generation of high-profile Lebanese suicides whose deaths are meant to dramatize a new sense of nationalism and to win prestige for their parties in Lebanon's internal politics as well as freedom from Israeli occupation.

A young man killed 13 Israeli soldiers and himself in March in Lebanon and another from the Bekaa Valley killed two more Israelis in a suicide attack April 20. On Thursday a 21-year-old woman carried a suitcase full of explosives to an Israeli checkpoint, killing herself, an officer of the pro-Israeli South Lebanon Army militia and his wife when it detonated.

All these bombers also recorded their thoughts and made posthumous television appearances.
"It's a new approach to the media," a prominent Lebanese politician said drily, "and it has its effect on our people throughout the world."
Unlike earlier suicide bombers, these Lebanese died not in the name of God or Islamic "Holy War," but of country. All were members of secular parties in the secular Lebanese National Democratic Front. The woman on Thursday was a Communist.
Their deaths, according to Lebanese politicians closely allied to Syria, are part of an effort to wrest the banner of successful opposition to Israel and the United States away from the fanatically religious Hezbollah, or Party of God, and other groups believed operating behind the shadowy cover of "Islamic Jihad." Such groups claimed responsibility for attacks in Lebanon on U.S. diplomats, U.S. Marines and French forces and for many kidnapings as well as attacks on Israelis.
"We are trying to prove there is an alternative to Jihad," said a prominent Lebanese politician with knowledge of the bombing campaign who asked not to be cited by name.
The example of a successful anti-Israeli resistance based on patriotism rather than extremist Shiite Moslem fundamentalism, moreover, has broader appeal to Palestinians on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where there is no Shiite tradition of martyrdom, but where there are decades of nationalistic grievances.
Several shop windows on Saladin Street in East Jerusalem in Israel recently displayed posters of Sana Mhaydali in her red beret as she appeared on television.
The Israelis have taken note of the attempts to secularize the suicide bombers. They say they are confident that such attacks will not spread to the occupied West Bank and Gaza, where they believe the Palestinian population does not have the political will, the arms or the supply lines necessary for such attacks.
But, countering the television campaign, the Israelis have permitted one reporter to interview Mohammed Mahoud Burro, a 16-year-old Lebanese youth in the custody of Israeli intelligence. He reportedly was captured before he could blow himself up. Burro, undermining the heroic rhetoric of the television martyrs, told the reporter he was coerced into his mission by what may have been Syrian-allied intelligence operatives in order to free his father from debts incurred by traffic accidents.
"The Israelis want to minimize this phenomenon," said pro-Syrian Lebanese politician Inaam Raad. "But this doesn't make sense -- as if they, the Israelis, were our cherished brothers and we had to be terrorized into fighting them."
Raad was vague, however, about how the young suicides are in fact recruited, indoctrinated and trained. "We don't know them. They just appear when they make the operations," he said.
The gray-haired elder statesman of Lebanon's Syrian Social Nationalists, Raad has been given new prestige as a spokesman for the secular Lebanese resistance to the Israelis since the teen-age Mhaydali appeared in her video beneath the banner of his party.
"Members of our party have been participating in the resistance since the summer of 1982," said Raad. "But what you call suicide or sacrifice operations seemed before only to be people with religious motivations. Now people die for nationalistic reasons."
"Who are the leaders of the Lebanese resistance? The martyrs," Raad said. Whatever moves them to act, their image of youth, bravery and dedication has given them prestige among Arabs that many politicians now seem anxious to share.
When Assem Kansouh, the leader of the Lebanese Baath Party, went to the Syrian capital of Damascus recently for an emergency conference among feuding Moslems, he carried a collection of letters sealed with smears of blood showing that members of his party, too, say they want to die for their country.
The politics of the recent suicides, according to a number of Lebanese Moslem leaders, are closely tied to efforts by Syria to develop a secular government in Lebanon as a way of ending a decade of civil war and rebuilding in the aftermath of the 1982 Israeli invasion.
Diplomats in Syria suggest that despite the development of close ties between Syria and Iran during the past few years, Damascus is far from comfortable with the growth of Iranian-style Islamic fundamentalism in the region. A threat to the authority of Syrian President Hafez Assad by the fundamentalist Moslem Brotherhood in 1982, they note, was suppressed at the cost of thousands of lives.
Chances of success in building a secular government in Lebanon appear slim, in the view of western diplomats in Syria. But if the prestige and power of Islamic fundamentalists there grows too great, building on their reputation as the vanguard of the fight against the Israelis, then any hope of a secular, Syrian-dominated peace for Lebanon's bitterly sectarian society is likely to evaporate, they said.
The recent attacks in Lebanon have been carried out by parties in the National Democratic Front, which includes Raad's party, Kansouh's, the Communists and others.
The woman who carried the bomb Thursday, Wafa Nour Eddine, left a videotaped will suggesting a sort of political atonement in her act: "I saw many people around me from my country make mistakes, so I thought that the only way for me is to erase those mistakes through fighting the Israeli enemy."
But most of the videotaped farewells have been aimed at the most basic emotions of Arab families throughout the region. Mhaydali, with the fresh face of a high school senior, seemed to fill the bill better than anyone, judging from the exposure she has received.
"I am a future martyr. I do what I've decided to do with my soul at peace," said Mhaydali, adding: "I do my duty for the love of my people and my country."
"The Bride of the South," Mhaydali is now called in much of the Arab press. At her funeral her family from west Beirut wore white. Candy was distributed as if at a wedding. In Damascus, according to Raad, a secondary school and a street are to be named for her, and a commemorative stamp is to be issued.
When Malek Wabbeh from the Bekaa Valley, 19, killed himself April 20, he said he was looking forward to joining Mhaydali and the other martyrs. "The Eagle of the Bekaa," he was called in the Syrian and Lebanese press, and "the Bridegroom of the South."
Mhaydali, who appeared to be reading from cue cards, also thanked Syrian President Assad for helping her country resist.
Whatever the precise motives of the suicide bombers, Raad and others believe there is little question of the campaign's effectiveness.
The Israelis "would not have left Lebanon if they had not been resisted," Raad said. "I think this resistance has broken their computer. It was the unknown variable in the calculations of the occupier."
(c) The Washington Post

Monday, July 05, 2010

Muslims, Siena and the Palio

Once again the xenophobic Northern League is ignoring the history of the northern Italians it claims to represent. In this case, it is helping to drum up controversy about the "rag" or banner claimed by the winner of the Palio at Siena this year. It was designed by a Lebanese-Italian Muslim artist, Alì Hassoun, showing a turban-wearing medieval knight beneath an image of the Virgin and includes a reference to "Maryam," the 19th Surah of the Qur'an.

Alas, the New York Times version of the story does not add much to the historical background.

So, just to set the record straight, the occasion of the Palio marked the 750th anniversary of the1260 Battle of Montaperti, which the Ghibellines of Siena won against the Guelphs of Florence because Manfred of Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily, sent German mercenary heavy cavalry to Siena's aid.

In the wonderfully contorted politics of the era, Manfred was opposed to the Pope and was supported by the Saracens -- that is, by  Muslim Arabs. Manfred's father, Frederick II, had waged the Sixth Crusade without the support of the papacy and had won back Jerusalem through diplomacy, only to be reviled for failing to shed enough blood.

Without the Arabs' critical support for Manfred, he would never have been in a position to send Siena the troops it desperately needed. The city would have been sacked by Florence. The Palio would never have been celebrated at all.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Audio: WNYC The Brian Lehrer Show: Running the Blockade, 3 June 2010

Diplomatic tensions continue to rise over Israel's raid on the flotilla of ships seeking to bypass the blockade of Gaza.  New York Times Istanbul bureau chief Sabrina Tavernise and Christopher Dickey, Middle East regional editor for Newsweek and author of Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force - The NYPD, report on the aftermath.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Al-Jazeera in English: Onscene on Gaza Ships

It was as if the mainstream journalists were following an unwritten rule: that is, whatever the relevance, the former President was not to be mentioned as a culprit in these catastrophes.
Even when there were references to how the problems had been getting worse for 10 years at the Mineral Management Services, the federal agency which has been rubber-stamping plans for deepwater oil rigs, it was as if no one was willing to do the math and calculate who was in charge during most of that time.
Similarly, when the nation’s $1.2 trillion budget deficit was discussed as a grave threat to the economy, it was never mentioned how the nation got to this point, how the Congressional Budget Office had been projecting $850 billion annual surpluses when Bush took over in 2001.
Back then, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was fretting about the technical complexities for the Fed to set interest rates if the U.S. government paid off its entire debt. Well, that was one “problem” that Bush solved.
The simple truth is that Bush’s policies, implemented by Republican-dominated Congresses in the first half of the last decade, set the stage for all the recent catastrophes – debt caused by massive tax cuts for the wealthy and wars paid for by credit card, hostility toward government regulation of industry (and especially the coal and oil industries), blind faith in the “magic of the market” to set things right.
Yet, the major U.S. news media behaves as if this context must be blacked-out. Bush-43 must get a pass and the blame must be dumped on President Barack Obama for having “failed” to fix these problems in the past 16 months...(more)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Video: Trailer for film on Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch woman who joined the FARC

War Inquiry Met Second-Tier Bush Officials

By Mark Hosenball, Newsweek

The British official inquiry team examining the origins and conduct of the Iraq War met with some relatively senior former officials of the George W. Bush administration on a weeklong visit to the U.S. earlier in May. But neither Bush, Dick Cheney, nor any other very senior Bush-era policymaker, military, or intelligence official appears to have been willing to speak to the inquiry team, which is led by Sir John Chilcot, a former senior civil servant.
In an official statement issued on Friday, the inquiry committee said that it had held a series of "private discussions" between May 17 and May 21 with "people from the current and former administrations," as well as the current ambassadors. Although the committee has held public hearings in London in which most of the top U.K. officials involved in war-relateddecisions—including former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and many of their top advisers—gave testimony in public, the inquiry commission said that while the Americans they met had agreed to have their names released to the public, because the meetings "were not formal evidence sessions, records of the conversations are not being published." (See the complete list of former Bush administration officials who spoke to the inquiry whose names were released today, but whose contributions are not spelled out in any detail, here.)... (more)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spy v Espion: NYT on Blair resignation and France

May 21, 2010
Dispute Over France a Factor in Intelligence Rift


WASHINGTON — An already strained relationship between the White House and the departing spymaster Dennis C. Blair erupted earlier this year over Mr. Blair’s efforts to cement close intelligence ties to France and broker a pledge between the nations not to spy on each other, American government officials said Friday.

The White House scuttled the plan, officials said, but not before President Nicolas Sarkozy of France had come to believe that a deal was in place. Officials said that Mr. Sarkozy was angered about the miscommunication, and that the episode had hurt ties between the United States and France at a time when the two nations are trying to present a united front to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.

Officials said the dust-up was not the proximate cause of President Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Blair, who announced his resignation on Thursday, from the job as director of national intelligence, but was a contributing factor in the mutual distrust between the White House and members of Mr. Blair’s staff. The episode also illuminates the extent to which communications between the president’s aides and Mr. Blair had deteriorated during a period of particular alarm about terrorist threats to the United States. ...

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Shahzad: The Rube Goldberg of Terrorism

This little video of Rube Goldberg made in 1940 digresses into a seriously silly demonstration of the power of gasoline. It's a plug for the petroleum business -- but it also suggests a critical failing of the Time Square bomb, of which gasoline cans were a part: liquid gasoline burns, as the video says, "like a candle." It's vaporized and compressed gasoline that explodes.

Faisal Shahzad may have returned from Pakistan to Connecticut on a mission of mayhem earlier this year, but the more we know about the way he planned and executed the attempted bombing of Times Square, the more hapless and incompetent he appears.

Test Runs

As we read in the U.S. attorney’s complaint against Shahzad, he bought the Pathfinder for $1,300 cash in the parking lot of a supermarket out in Connecticut on Saturday, April 24. According to one of my best law enforcement sources, who does not want to be identified more specifically than that, there was no paperwork and there were no records of the transaction in the hands of the seller. Shahzad might have gotten away for quite a while without being traced as the buyer if he had not made the fatal mistake of calling the seller back to check the last time the car had had its oil changed. But more about that later.

On Wednesday, April 28, according to my source, Shahzad drives the rusty Pathfinder into Manhattan to recon the route he would take later and the traffic situation around Times Square. He then drives back out to Connecticut.

On the evening of Friday, April 30, Shahzad drives his Isuzu Trooper, registered to him, into the city and parks it just a few blocks from Times Square, on West 38th between 8th and 9th Avenues. His plan was to use it as his getaway car the following night. He locked it up tight, then went to Grand Central and took the train back out to Connecticut.

The Night of the Would-be Bombing

On Saturday, May 1, Shahzad drove the Pathfinder to Manhattan and headed up the FDR Drive, turned off on 49th, drove a block or so and stopped. As it happens, he was near the United Nations, which is probably not the smartest place to pull over, not least because he was on candid camera. He checked the cargo in the back of the Pathfinder, and may have set the timer going. He then drove to 2nd Ave. and turned left, went four blocks and turned right onto 45th. He took that straight across town, crossed Broadway and pulled over, leaving the emergency lights flashing and the keys in the ignition, as if he were just running an errand. He had tinted the windows after he bought the car and he may have hoped that anyone passing by would think there was still someone inside it. Of course, the tinting also hid the cobbled-together bomb from public view.

In fact, Shahzad headed straight for his Isuzu on 38th Street. (He may have gone through Shubert Alley between 45th and 44th, but the cops say he was not the man caught on CCTV who stripped off a black shirt to reveal a red one and seemed to be looking furtively behind him. ) Then, a surprise. As my source put it, “When he gets to 38th Street, I don’t know what he says to himself, but probably it was ‘Oh, shit!’ He realizes that he left the keys to the Isuzu on the ring of keys that he left in the Pathfinder.” So the “getaway car”  remains parked just where it was and, once again, takes a train back to Connecticut. He may also have been wondering by that point why he hadn’t heard an explosion.

On Sunday, apparently still secure in the idea he’d covered his tracks, Shahzad came back into town to pick up his Trooper. It is not clear to me whether he had a second set of keys – he may have called AAA or a similar group to help him. Anyway, a minor point. He got into the car, got it going and drove back out of town.

By then, however, the NYPD and FBI were exploring the wealth of evidence Shahzad had left behind in the unexploded Pathfinder. After several hours in which the bomb squad took apart the device, apparently modeled on plans by Rube Goldberg, the Pathfinder was loaded onto a flatbed truck and carted out the NYPD forensic lab in Queens.

What my guy calls “the Eureka moment” came when a detective who specializes in “auto crime” was called in to try to I.D. the vehicle. The dashboard VIN, or vehicle identification number, had been removed, but the detective crawled underneath and identified one on the bottom of the engine block. Because of his experience with stolen cars and chop shops, he was able to say right away that the engine belonged to the car (a 1993 model – the engine might have been changed), and once that I.D. was made, law enforcement computers kicked into high gear.

The Follow-Up

The VIN quickly led to the registered owner in Connecticut, who told police he’d asked his daughter to handle the sale, and she’d put it on Craigslist. She had been the person who met with Shahzad in the parking lot to make the cash transaction. She said she didn’t really know his name and she didn’t think she had any contacts for him.

But because Shahzad had called her a few days later to ask about the last oil change, the cops found his number in her mobile. Even though he’d used a prepaid throwaway phone, they reportedly pulled up the records of the numbers called from the throwaway and linked one to Shahzad. All this would have been on Sunday, so essentially within the first 24 hours. “We closed in on him,” said the source.

Now, there’s been some confusion in the press about when or whether the case was moved somehow from the NYPD to the FBI-run Joint Terrorism Task Force. My guy says this is misleading, that the FBI and JTTF were involved all along, from the first briefings on the scene on Saturday night.

As the focus of the investigation and surveillance of Shahzad moved to Connecticut, the NYPD was not directly involved and my source said he did not have much to add to accounts that the Feds may have lost track of him for a while.

The latest Newsweek story on the case, based on reporting by Mark Hosenball, myself and Ron Moreau and Sami Yousufzai in Pakistan, gives this account of what happened:

By Monday, Shahzad was under surveillance by the feds at his Bridgeport apartment. But maybe a little too much surveillance. FBI agents no longer wear regulation white shirts and snap-brim hats as they did in J. Edgar Hoover's day, but Shahzad's neighborhood was soon crawling with burly men in SUVs. Equally noticeable, reporters—tipped off by law-enforcement sources to expect a big bust—began showing up in the area. Something may have spooked Shahzad, because he apparently slipped out the back and—undetected despite all the surveillance—got into his car and drove to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

According to my source, the Feds had the number of the cell phone Shahzad still used after ditching his throwaway, and they were monitoring it on Monday as he headed for JFK, which may be one reason Attorney General Eric Holder claimed he wasn’t worried about losing him. It is also worth noting that the longer they could monitor that phone, if indeed they were doing so, the more likely they could trace Shahzad’s connections. Conceivably, they wanted to see who he would call when he thought he was safe on board the plane – but that’s just guesswork, and it may be far too kind to the Feds, who just screwed up. A last-minute check of the flight manifest by the Customs and Border Protection guys at JFK turned up Shahzad. They stopped the plane and made the collar.

Shahzad did not seem surprised. “Are you the NYPD or the FBI?” he asked. Actually, it was the CPB.

Friday, May 07, 2010

NYTimes: Al Qaeda’s Nuclear Plant

From The New York Times:

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR: Al Qaeda's Nuclear Plant

Did an American nuclear-plant maintenance worker arrested in Yemen
give Al Qaeda vital information?

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

CNN Video: Attorney General Eric Holder on Arrest in Times Square Bomb Case

New York (CNN) -- A U.S. citizen has been arrested in the Times Square bombing probe, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced early Tuesday.

Faisal Shahzad was arrested at JFK airport in New York as he prepared to board a flight to Dubai, Holder said.

"It is clear the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans," Holder said. "We will not rest until we bring everyone responsible to justice."...

WNYC Brian Lehrer Show: See Something, Say Something

Reports indicate that a street vendor was the first to act in this weekend's thwarted Times Square bomb attempt.  Karen Greenberg, Executive Director of The Center on Law and Security at NYU Law School, andChristopher Dickey--blogger, Newsweek's Middle East Regional Editor, and author of Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force--The NYPD--look at the balance between professional security and the “see-something-say-something” approach.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

CNN Video: Bloomberg and Kelly on Times Square Bomb

How do you protect New Yorkers from this kind of attack?

If you look at the last chapter of Securing the City, which you can browse on Amazon, I go into considerable detail about the measures taken at Times Square on New Year's Eve. They give an idea of the extreme means used when the risk is highest. But at normal times you have to depend on the vigilance of the public, the quick response of cops on the scene, and on aggressive, proactive intelligence work that tries to stop this kind of thing long before it gets to the stage of fireworks popping in the backs of cars. Two examples would be the Herald Square case in '04 and the Zazi case last year. 

We are all helped by the fact that most terrorists are idiots and they're inept. But unless you have multiple layers of defense you really are vulnerable. Fortunately that is what the NYPD, working with the Feds (and occasionally in spite of them) set out to achieve - and so far, it has to be said, the cops have been pretty effective.

Most analysis of this incident so far focuses on some threat related to Al Qaeda. The design of the bomb -- and the incompetence of the bomb maker(s) -- are reminiscent of attempted attacks in London and Glasgow in 2007. Those were inspired by Osama bin Laden's war of terror, but none of the people involved ever trained with AQ or took orders from its leadership. 

We should not discount the possibility that this attempted mass murder was the work of an individual or small group with no Muslim ties and no sympathy for AQ whatsoever. Anarchists out to mark May 1, right-wing crazies looking to send some demented message of their own against taxes (like Joe Stack, who flew his little plane into some Texas IRS offices), or someone who hated "Lion King" ticket holders, or had a vendetta against the Bank of America ... Never underestimate the range of people who look to make their point by making mayhem in New York City. The potential list of perpetrators is long and will remain so until more evidence has been analyzed.

-- C.D.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Noriega's Last Laugh

Shadowland: Noriega’s Last Laugh, 27 April 2010After the United States overthrew Panama's dictator in 1989, it thought such operations would be easy. Then came Afghanistan and Iraq.

Audio: BBC/NPR The World: Noriega Appears Before French Judge
Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega appeared before a French judge today after being extradited from the United States on money laundering charges. Noriega had been in a US jail since 1989 when American troops ousted him from power. Marco Werman gets details from Christopher Dickey, Paris Bureau Chief for Newsweek.
 Photo of Noriega taken at his home in 1982. (c) Christopher Dickey


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Playing the Identity Card

Jordan and its Palestinians

By Chris Phillips
Jordan has been the subject of criticism for its decision to withdraw citizenship from several thousand of its citizens of Palestinian origin. Although the decision has been defended by Jordan as a means to counter Israeli plans to transfer the Palestinian population of the West Bank to Jordan, there is more at play in the situation. Palestinians in Jordan are predisposed to economic and political disenfranchisement, and the decision to withdraw their citizenship is an unrealistic solution to this problem.
For a country that takes great care to promote a positive image abroad, Jordan has recently been subjected to unusually harsh criticism from Western NGOs. In February, Human Rights Watch accused Amman of arbitrarily withdrawing citizenship from several thousand of its citizens of Palestinian origin, “denying them basic citizenship rights such as access to education and health care.” Similarly, the previous month Freedom House, the Washington-based democracy watchdog, relegated the Hashemite Kingdom from the tiny list of ‘partly free’ Arab governments to the ever-increasing collection of ‘not free’ states in the Middle East.
The two complaints are not unrelated. The failure of Jordanian democratizing initiatives has much to do with government fears that genuine freedom will allow its Palestinian-originating majority to dominate over the East Bank elite who have ruled in Amman since independence. The practice of withdrawing citizenship from a select few stems from the same concerns. Though over half of Jordan’s population are of Palestinian origin, many are economically and politically disenfranchised and social divisions remain acute. Despite sixty years of attempted integration, the Hashemite monarchy has still not come to terms with its ‘Palestinian problem’....

Friday, April 09, 2010

Israel: From Targeted Assassinations to Targeting Journalists and Their Sources

Anat Kam photographed by AFP/Chen Galili

In November 2008  Uri Blau wrote an investigative piece for  Haaretz magazine about continuing summary executions -- called "preventive action" or "targeted assassinations" -- by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. These were supposed to have been stopped in 2006, and the deaths of the targets were being reported as the result of arrest operations that went wrong. Anat Kam, who formerly served at the Israeli military's headquarters, was later arrested and accused of hurting state security by passing Blau about 2000 documents, hundreds of which were classified, that enabled him to write the story. Blau learned of the arrest while traveling in the Far East, and also found out someone had broken into his home and tossed it. Blau is now in London, concerned that if he goes back to Israel he will be jailed, too.

This week Israel's censors lifted the gag order that had blocked coverage of the case in the Israeli press, and the papers are now filled with editorials about the conflict between state security and freedom of the press, some of which are quite passionate.

But in the midst of the debate about press freedom, the original story seems to be getting lost -- literally. The links to it on the Haaretz site that I came across were broken, and it took some considerable browsing on the Web to find it. Lest it go missing again, I am posting the full text here:

License to kill
By Uri Blau
Tags: assassinations

The announcement made by the Israel Defense Forces' spokesman on June 20, 2007 was standard: "Two armed terrorists belonging to the Islamic Jihad terror organization were killed last night during the course of a joint activity of the IDF and a special force of the Border Police in Kafr Dan, northwest of Jenin. The two terrorists, Ziad Subahi Mahmad Malaisha and Ibrahim Ahmed Abd al-Latif Abed, opened fire at the force during its activity. In response the force fired at them, killing the terrorists. On their bodies two M-16 rifles, a pistol and ammunition were found. It was also discovered that the terrorists were involved in planning suicide attacks against the Israeli home front, including the attempt in Rishon Letzion last February."

The laconic announcement ignores one important detail: Malaisha was a target for assassination. His fate had been decided several months earlier, in the office of then head of Central Command, Yair Naveh. As far as the public was concerned, on the other hand, the last declared assassination carried out by the IDF in the West Bank took place in August 2006; at the end of that year the High Court of Justice set strict criteria regarding the policy of assassinations in the territories.

A Haaretz Magazine investigation reveals for the first time operational discussions in which the fate of wanted men and innocent people was decided, in apparent disregard of the High Court decision. Thus it was revealed that the IDF approved assassination plans in the West Bank even when it would probably have been possible to arrest the wanted men - in contradiction to the State's statement to the High Court - and that in cold military terminology the most senior IDF echelons approve, in advance and in writing, the harming of innocent Palestinians during the course of assassination operations. Moreover, it turns out that the assassination of a target the defense establishment called part of a "ticking infrastructure" was postponed, because it had been scheduled to take place during the visit of a senior U.S. official.
Leading legal experts who were asked to react to the documents say that the IDF is operating in contradiction to a High Court ruling. "Morality is a very difficult issue," Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer of Hebrew Univeristy said. "The thought that there are people who sit behind a desk and determine that someone is fated to die is a frightening thought."

Another two killings

(at most)

The IDF spokesman refuses to provide precise figures about the number of targeted assassinations carried out since the start of the intifada in 2000: "The subject of preventive strikes is concentrated in the hands of the Shin Bet [security service]." A spokesman for the Shin Bet stated that the organization "does not publish data of this kind." According to the human-rights organization B'Tselem, the IDF assassinated 232 Palestinians between the start of the intifada and the end of October 2008, in operations that also killed 154 non-targeted civilians.

The most common code names for assassination operations are the acronyms Pa'amon (peula mona'at - preventive action) and Sakum (sikul mimukad - targeted assassination). During the past two and a half years the IDF has not announced the carrying out of assassinations in the West Bank, and when wanted men were killed there, the official reports stated that these were "arrest operations" or "exchanges of fire." This was also reported in regard to the killing of Abed and Malaisha - who has now been revealed as a previous target for assassination.

On March 28, 2007 a representative of the Shin Bet, a representative of the Special Police Unit Yamam and several officers from Central Command convened in Naveh's office. On the agenda was the Two Towers operation (the strike at Malaisha). "The mission" said the head of the command, "is arrest," but "in case identification is made of one of the leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad: Walid Obeidi, Ziad Malaisha, Adham Yunis, there is permission for the force to intercept them, and that is according to the situation assessment in the course of carrying out the mission." Naveh did not allow an assassination if there were women or children near the wanted man, and explained that, "in the event that there are women and children in the vehicle, the method is arrest."

On April 12 Naveh convened another meeting about Malaisha. This time he decided that permission would be granted to carry out the assassination of the target and "another two people at most." On the day of the meeting in Naveh's office another discussion took place, chaired by the head of the Operations Directorate, Brig. Gen. Sami Turjeman. At the meeting, the plans for a preventive operation against Malaisha were presented, and the head of the Operations Directorate explained that "a preventive strike in Ayush [Judea and Samaria] is an exceptional sight ... It could be seen as an attempt to damage the attempts to stabilize, which means that it requires sensitivity to causing a minimum of collateral damage. Everything possible must be done to prevent harm to those who are uninvolved." The target of the operation, he added "leads a 'ticking' infrastructure and meets the required criteria for a preventive strike."

At this point Turjeman spelled out the conditions of Malaisha's incrimination, and ruled that only if they existed would the targeted assassination get a green light. He added that no more than five people (including the driver) should be assassinated in the operation. Turjeman approved the operation even if there should be one unidentified person in the car. Regarding the matter of timing, he said that "in light of the anticipated diplomatic events, the prime minister's meeting with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the visit of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, I recommend ... implementation afterward." In the discussion Turjeman also referred to the High Court ruling about appointing a committee whose job would be to examine targeted assassinations after the fact, and said that in light of the High Court instructions on the matter, the operation should be documented.

The next day the operation was brought up for the approval of Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. A limited number of senior officers convened in his office, including his deputy, the head of the Operations Directorate, the head of the Operations Brigade, the chief military prosecutor, a representative of Central Command and a representative of the Shin Bet. The paper summing up the meeting says that Ashkenazi "emphasized that due to the High Court orders regarding the establishment of a professional committee on targeted assassinations, the composition of the committee should be agreed on with the Shin Bet as soon as possible."

Although Malaisha was defined as part of a "ticking infrastructure," Ashkenazi too was disturbed by the timing of the action and said that "in light of the diplomatic meetings anticipated during the course of the week, the date of implementation should be reconsidered." Ashkenazi prohibited attacking the vehicle in which Malaisha was traveling if it was discovered that there was "more than one unidentified passenger" in it.

Two months after the Two Towers plan was approved, and long after the diplomatic visits and meetings that took place in the second week of April 2007, came the operation in which Malaisha was killed in the Jenin area.

Legal approval

At the beginning of 2002, attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard petitioned the High Court of Justice against the policy of targeted assassinations on behalf of the Public Committee against Torture in Israel and the Al-Haq organization. Almost five years later, on December 14, 2006, the president of the Supreme Court at the time, Justice Aharon Barak, issued his decision. Barak, with the concurrence of Justices Dorit Beinisch (now the president of the Supreme Court) and Eliezer Rivlin, rejected the petition and did not rule out the legality of targeted assassinations in the territories.

"We cannot determine that every targeted preemption strike is forbidden under international law, just as we cannot determine that every targeted preemption is permissible under international law," Barak wrote in the last judgment he published in his 28 years on the Supreme Court.

According to the High Court ruling, well-founded and convincing information is necessary in order to classify a civilian as being part of a group of civilians who are carrying out hostile acts; a person should not be assassinated if it is possible to use less damaging methods against him; and he should not be harmed more than necessary for security needs. In other words, a person should not be assassinated if it is possible to arrest him, interrogate him and indict him. However, if the arrest involves serious danger to the lives of the soldiers, there is no need to use this means; after every assassination a thorough and independent examination must be conducted regarding the degree of precision, the identity of the man as a terror activist, and in the case of mistaken identity, the payment of compensation should be considered; harm to innocent civilians should be avoided as much as possible during an assassination, and "harm to innocent civilians will be legal only if it meets the demands of proportionality," ruled Barak.

In this context, Barak gave an example according to which "it is possible to fire at a terrorist who is firing from the balcony of his home at soldiers or civilians, even if as a result an innocent bystander is liable to be hit. Such a strike at an innocent civilian will meet the demands of proportionality. That is not the case if the house is bombed from the air and dozens of its residents and bystanders are hit."

Barak stated that, "The struggle against terror has turned our democracy into a 'defensive democracy' or a 'fighting democracy.' However, this struggle must not overturn the democratic nature of our regime."

According to B'Tselem, since the ruling regarding targeted assassinations was handed down, 19 Palestinians who were targets of assassination have been killed in the territories, and 36 Palestinians who were close to the targets were hit in the course of IDF operations, all of them in the Gaza Strip.

"It turns out that in total contradiction to the High Court ruling, there are cases in which there is an order to assassinate someone when it is possible to arrest him," says David Kretchmer, a professor of international law. "Advance approval to kill civilians who do not take part in hostile activities makes things even worse. The principle of proportionality, to the effect that if one strikes at a military target an accompanying strike against civilians will not be illegal, does not apply in a case when the attack itself is illegal - for example, in a case where there is an obligation, according to the High Court ruling, to arrest the suspect."

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer: "According to the High Court ruling it is clear that where it is possible to carry out an arrest, we must carry out an arrest and avoid what is called a 'targeted assassination' and which I call 'preventive killing.' A substantial part of Judea and Samaria is under the effective rule of the IDF, and in my opinion, in such an area preventive killing must be ruled out. The limited interpretation that I am suggesting for the international law is that an attack must take place in the course of that person's participation in a dangerous action, because then you are in effect acting in self-defense based on the situation taking place."

Legal commentator Moshe Negbi: "'Unidentified people' can also be totally innocent and you are ostensibly giving a license to kill here. The problem is previous knowledge, because usually when we refer to collateral damage we are referring to 'after the fact,' but here this is almost certain foreknowledge. It is very problematic that permission is given to execute an innocent man deliberately. The question is whether it is proportional. I think that the High Court was referring to a situation where perhaps among a mass of people there is one who is innocent, but here it is one on one. It is very grave to grant permission when you know ahead of time that 50 percent of those you are hitting are innocent. Such a thing must certainly be discussed at the level of the attorney general and it certainly must be known to the public and undergo public criticism, if only so that anyone who thinks it is patently illegal can turn to the High Court."

Regarding the fact that assassinations can wait until the conclusion of diplomatic meetings, Kretchmer says: "Postponing an operation for diplomatic reasons is unequivocal proof of the fact that this is not a 'ticking bomb' situation." Kremnitzer adds: "According to my legal understanding, these cases [targeted assassinations] must be cases in which you must act immediately, and if it is not a matter of an immediate need, in my opinion it is against the law."

Although almost two years have passed since the High Court ruling, a committee to examine the assassinations after the fact has yet to be appointed. Last week Aviad Glickman published on Ynet (the website of the mass circulation paper Yedioth Ahronoth) that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz had turned to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanding the establishment of such a committee as soon as possible. "This step must be completed without further delay," wrote Mazuz, "for fear that a continued delay is liable to constitute contempt of court."

The bad guys

Yair Naveh, who served as head of Central Command from 2005 to 2007, confirms that occasionally, there is no genuine attempt to arrest wanted men. "If the guy doesn't put his hands up we don't get into stories, we immediately establish contact. I don't want to have people hurt for no reason. If I know that the guy is armed and is a ticking bomb, then I want him to be hit immediately without fooling around. It's not the preventive action procedure, it's an entirely different story.

"In my time there were no targeted assassinations. Not a single one, as far as I recall. In principle, there were no targeted assassinations in Central Command and none were approved. What I did have was an ability to reach all of [the wanted men]; therefore there is no reason for a targeted assassination. It is relevant only when you can't reach someone, but if you can reach him and arrest him at night or have an exchange of fire with him, then it is not a targeted assassination."

Is it possible that programs were approved and in the end were not carried out?

"No. In principle there was no such thing during my time, because in every operation there were special forces that had to arrive and arrest the guy. To tell the truth, in some places we knew a priori that there would be firing. If you know that you are operating against Islamic Jihad or against Hamasniks or even against some of the jokers who were in the Casbah, then it was clear to me that there would be engagement."

In the approval of the March 2007 plan regarding Ziad Malaisha you said the mission was arrest, but if one of the leaders of Islamic Jihad was identified, the force had permission to carry out interception. What is that if not targeted assassination?

"Those are guys for whom we received basic confirmation that they are ticking bombs. Those are guys that if we had contact with them, because we knew in advance that they were armed, the default choice was not to start calling on them to halt and then to see whether or not they fled, but right from the start, if they didn't put up their hands and throw away their weapons, then we engaged with them. That's not because they had to be killed. It's also because they are both ticking bombs and armed. That's the assumption."

That is semantics. You gave permission to fire at them from the moment they were identified.

"If they don't put up their hands right at the start. You arrive, shout 'IDF, hands up!' You surround them. If the guys don't put up their hands, then you don't wait to close in on them, to make a declaration. If you receive confirmation that the guys have received all the relevant approvals, then we say, 'Friends, I don't want you to get into a pressure cooker here' [methods used by the IDF to make someone give himself up]. If they don't surrender immediately then you immediately engage them, so that you won't be hurt. That's the story. It's not a targeted assassination, where you are approving their execution even if they put up their hands."

The approval you gave the forces states that if there are women and children, there is to be an arrest. In other words, it would have been possible to arrest them.

"That means that if there are women and children we assume another risk and tell the guys that if they fire at you and begin to flee you don't begin to exchange fire, but you try to stop the vehicle by shooting at the tires."

The Operations Directorate approval in the case of Malaisha states that this is a preventive action operation.

"If it was approved as preventive action, that is, as a target for assassination, it's a different story."

But then it contradicts the High Court orders to the effect that Israel controls the area and approval of the plan includes the option of arrest.

"Don't bother me with the High Court orders, I don't know when there were High Court orders and when there weren't. I know that a targeted assassination is approved and there is a preventive action procedure and I receive instructions from the Operations Directorate."

What is the difference between the preventive action procedure and people that you give permission to fire at if they are identified?

"The difference is language. You say 'Hands up. If not, I'm opening fire,' and here I don't say anything and drop a bomb from a plane."

In the instructions there is no mention of the arrest option, and permission is given to fire if there is identification of a wanted man.

"I'm not familiar with such a document."

Why in the approvals for targeted assassination is permission given in advance to harm unidentified people?

"Weren't there people in the Shahadeh case? [Fatah leader Mohammed Shahadeh was assassinated by Hamas in October 2006]. But those aren't questions that you should ask me. What is approved as preventive action goes through approvals all the way to the prime minister, and what is decided is decided. Usually these guys hung around with bad guys, not good guys."

Linguistic innovations

In the State's reply to the High Court, prior to its ruling, it was claimed that carrying out a targeted assassination is "an exceptional step" that is taken "only when there is no other, less severe way of implementing it ... In the context of these strict instructions it was decided that when there are realistic alternatives to the action, such as arrest, these alternatives should be used."

But the most noticeable thing the High Court ruling changed regarding the assassinations is the language used by the IDF in planning them. On December 13, 2006, a day before the High Court ruling was handed down, wanted man Muhammed Ramaha was killed in the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp in the Nablus area. According to the IDF spokesman's report to the media at the time, Ramaha was killed in the course of a joint "arrest operation" of the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Yamam police unit.

Now it turns out that Ramaha's fate had been sealed a month earlier, when the Central Command conducted a discussion on an operation planned by the IDF's Maglan special operations unit in the Nablus area. Those in attendance were presented with orders from Maj. Gen. Naveh, who ruled that the armed men walking around the area were connected to Mohammed Ramaha's unit and "should be attacked." There was no option offered of trying to arrest the members of the squad, and conditions for opening fire were the identification of two armed men, "conspiratorial" activity involving at least one armed man, or "when an indication is given" of the presence of Ramaha in the squad. As mentioned, a month after the discussion Ramaha was killed.

The Maglan soldiers were also the ones who carried out an operation on November 8, 2006 that ended in the killing of five Palestinians, two of them unarmed. The IDF, as usual, did not present it as an assassination mission, but it turns out that the force's assignment was "to sneak into the center of the village, up to the observation point overlooking the killing area that had been designated in advance, to lie in ambush for armed terrorists and to hit them at short range."

Another example: At the end of September 2006 the then head of the Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot (today GOC Northern Command), conducted a discussion in which approval was given to assassinate a Fatah member - an expert on the production of explosives belts - in the Nablus area. "The Time For Chaos Has Arrived" was the name of this operation, in which the major general approved attacking the man "in the context of the procedure of targeted assassination of important figures in light of the fact that he is a 'ticking bomb.'" As opposed to operations planned after the High Court ruling, where there are specific instructions regarding conditions in which the action should not be carried out, in this case the only instructions were "to try to refrain insofar as possible from harming innocent people."

"Apparently what happened in the wake of the High Court ruling is mainly 'word laundering,'" says Kretchmer. "In other words, the use of words referring to arrest when in fact there is no real intention of carrying out an arrest, but the reference is to assassination." Sfard says that, "whoever gave the IDF a permit to execute civilians without trial should not be surprised when the death squads it has created do not adhere to the few restrictions imposed on this policy. It's a natural, logical and inevitable process of moral deterioration involved in assassinations."

A military source said that the first years of the intifada were "a period lacking order. They fired at just about anything that moved." He says that in recent years, especially after the High Court ruling, the procedure in Central Command and the Operations Directorate is somewhat different, one reason being that representatives of the Military Prosecutor's Office "are breathing down their necks." As for the importance attributed by the army to the country's image and to the timing of its activity, the source said, not without a degree of cynicism, that "the criteria for a 'ticking bomb' change if Condoleezza Rice is in the country."

An investigation by Haaretz indicates that IDF operations that are defined in advance as arrest operations rather than assassination operations do for the most part end in arrest. However, there is something disturbing about the fact that when it comes to the plan to arrest a Palestinian, the commander in charge of the operation sometimes feels a need to explain that this is not an assassination assignment and that the wanted man should be brought back alive. For example, in an operation planned last May for the arrest of a Fatah activist in Bethlehem, the GOC Central Command explained to the commander of the Duvdevan undercover commando unit that "the mission is arrest rather than killing." And in fact, that activist was arrested alive. In the same operation, incidentally, it was explained to the forces that "there is no permission to behave aggressively toward foreign media crews."

When Naveh was asked why he occasionally told the forces that the wanted men be brought back alive, which should ostensibly be obvious, he explained: "That means that I am exposing our forces to additional risk, and even if he opens fire, they do not kill him immediately but try nevertheless to arrest him." It also turns out that the presence of children is not always an excuse to cancel military operations. At the end of March 2007, the chief of staff allowed Duvdevan to carry out the arrest of a wanted man during the birthday party of one of his children. The name chosen by the IDF for this action was Kindergarten Party.

(c) Haaretz 2008