Foreign and Defense Policy, Terrorism

Former CIA counterterrorism chief offers new details of how detainees led us to Bin Laden

It’s no coincidence that former CIA counterterrorism chief Jose Rodriguez chose the one year anniversary of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden to finally break his silence. In his new memoir, Hard Measures, published today, Rodriguez reveals never before told details about how the questioning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other CIA detainees made the bin Laden operation possible.

Rodriguez reveals that it was KSM’s efforts to cover for bin Laden’s courier (who eventually led the CIA to bin Laden) that put the agency on his trail. He writes:

The detainees were always trying to game the system. At one point we discovered that KSM was trying to signal his fellow detainees (using a method I cannot describe). In one message he instructed another detainee to “tell them nothing about the courier.” Short of giving us a name, you couldn’t ask for a better tipoff.

This altered the agency to focus on uncovering bin Laden’s courier network. And when another senior al Qaeda leader was taken into custody, he revealed still more information about the courier:

An al-Qa’ida operative was captured in 2004. He was quickly turned over to the CIA. He had computer discs with him that showed that he was relaying information between al-Qa’ida and Abu Musab Zarqawi… Initially, he played the role of a tough mujahideen and refused to cooperate. We then received permission to use some (but not all) of the EIT procedures on him. Before long he became compliant and started to provide some excellent information…. He told us that bin Ladin conducted business by using a trusted courier with whom he was in contact only sporadically. He said that the Sheikh (as bin Ladin was referred to by his subordinates) stayed completely away from telephones, radios, or the internet in an effort to frustrate American attempts to find him. And frustrated we were.

We pressed him on who this courier was and he said all he knew was a pseudonym: “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.” This was a critical bit of information about the identity of the man who would eventually lead us to bin Ladin.

Armed with this information, CIA debriefers confronted KSM with what they had learned:

Agency officers went to KSM and asked him, “What can you tell us about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti?” KSM’s eyes grew wide and he backed up into his cell. He said no words but spoke volumes with his actions.

Then in May 2005, they captured another senior terrorist named Abu Faraj al-Libi. Rodriguez writes:

Al-Libi admitted that a courier like the one we described was the person who had informed him that he had been elevated to the status of AQ’s operational leader. That kind of information and assignment isn’t entrusted to a run-of-the-mill runner. We figured a courier empowered to deliver the news that someone had been anointed “number three” had to be well wired with “number one.” Al-Libi vehemently denied, however, that he had ever met a courier named al-Kuwaiti. His denial was so vociferous that it was obvious to us that he was trying to hide something very important….

By now we were pretty convinced that this mysterious courier by the name of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti could be the key to unlock the mystery we most wanted to solve: Where is bin Ladin? From that point on, finding Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti became one of our top intelligence-collection priorities. About two years later we learned the true name of the man we sought. That was progress, but it wasn’t enough. Now the CIA had to find him….

The courier exercised excellent tradecraft, maintaining a low profile and generally avoiding using methods of communication that might trip him up. Then, sometime after I left the CIA, he made a mistake. He slipped and did something that allowed U.S. intelligence to find him. From there, using great patience and skill, CIA officers eventually were able to trace him to the compound in Abbottabad and assemble the intelligence case that led to the successful raid on May 2, 2011. It all started with information a detainee provided after receiving EITs bolstered by information that KSM and Abu Faraj al-Libi (who both became compliant after receiving EITs) gave us, whether they meant to or not.

Rodriguez concludes:

President Obama and his national security team deserve great credit for following the trail to its conclusion and making the gutsy decision to send in the U.S. special operations forces team that performed so magnificently.

President Obama is happy to take the credit for this operation, and even use it as fodder for political attack ads. How sad that he refuses to share the credit with the dedicated CIA officers who made the greatest achievement of his presidency possible.

15 thoughts on “Former CIA counterterrorism chief offers new details of how detainees led us to Bin Laden

  1. His greatest accomplishment? Balderdash. You forget about bankrupting the country, dismembering the military, or wrecking our medical system. And it seems that the systems that Bush put in place (intelligence, EIT, etc) that Obama campaigned against were responsible for gathering the intelligence he needed to find the guy.

    The only person that wouldn’t have given the SEALs the green light was Joe Biden, the self-described foreign policy expert.

      • The last republican administration in concert with a republican dominated congress is the only adminstration ever to cut taxes in time of war, or even go to war without funding it. I guess that is what true conservatives call leadership

  2. Yes it’s sad that our arrogant President wants to have all the credit for most of which he doesn’t deserve. From what I have read on this from most insiders Obama not only delayed the capture almost to a point of failure but he only went forward with it after the CIA pressed over and over and over and accepted the failure to all their fault! He even went so far as to delay the raid for 3 days after the final scheduled date so he could get the results of a poll to see if the nation would blame him if one of the operators was killed during the raid. So he wants all this political acclaim but only if it comes with zero risk to himself, YEA THAT’S BRAVE ALRIGHT! He didn’t care if one of our bravest were killed, he only cared if it came back on him if it happened. I think the CIA deserves most of the credit on this one from the top down to the field operators especially the guy who risked his life in the field to watch the house for months with no back up! Unbelievably brave!

    • You want a real example of arrogance? How about lying about WMD’s and taking the country into an economy killing war? The last republican administration in concert with a republican dominated congress is the only adminstration ever to cut taxes in time of war, or even go to war without funding it. I guess that is what true conservatives call leadership.

  3. obama is a narcisstic communist leaning muslimist leaning person and not fit to be called President of this great country!!!!!!!!

  4. Right, Obama is grand standing, what a crock, I remember George Bush standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier claiming “Mission accomplished”. What was accomplished was the looting of the American treasury. Any conservative commentator commenting negatively on Obama’s accomplishment need only look at the last republican president’s track record for a true comparison. Its a track record that Romney fully endorses as his plan for his first 4 years.

    • Obama’s campaign slogan is a Marxist,Nazi and socialist slogan,but what can You expect from a racist socialist like Obama!!!

  5. Some of you will use anything to turn any piece of information into an attack on Obama.

    Anyone who even thinks that Obama takes every piece of credit, as if he did this himself, has deluded himself, or has been pumped with brainwash fluid from the conservative media.

    NOWHERE and at no time had Obama ever taken ALL THE CREDIT for killing Bin Laden and pretty much taking down the rest of Al queida.

    Obama taking ‘all the credit’ is BS being spewed by the right just to make the President look like a narcissist, which is far from the truth.

    Obama has clearly, distinctly, and directly thanked ALL the people who were part of that mission and all the others, that brought down Bin Laden and his gang.
    Obama have NEVER taken all the credit.

    What the right can’t stand is the FACT that Bush and his gang ignored all of this information during Bush’s reign and didn’t use any information to go after Bin Laden, as Bush’s gang was too busy trying to convince the American people of the continual need to fight a war with Iraq that has NOTHING to do with the 9/11 events.

    So, the fact are clear and evident. Bin Laden was killed under the watch and direction of the current President. And, the people who carried out his orders are to be commended for following through with great success. That’s how it works, even if it doesn’t work for the rights political desires.

    BTW, Obama didn’t bankrupt the country. If he didn’t take action along with Paulson (bush’s man), there would have been an economic disaster so great, it would make the events that have happened look appealing. The firs thing Obama had to deal with was the final and greatest potential of economic meltdown, that started during Bush’s terms. The bailout was a bipartisan decision.
    In hindsight the banks got too much bailout. But remember, how much money was needed for the bailout was Paulson’s decision. He made the argument, and was given the money he asked for.
    So, Bush’s guy, Paulson, may have gone overboard and given too much to the banks to keep them and our economy afloat. But, that’s second guessing the next day after am immediate disaster was diverted.
    Obama isn’t to blame and our country is far from bankrupt. The military is still strong even in a time where we can spend less on it and we should. Obama can be blamed for not cutting more military spending.

    Obama was not opposed to gathering intelligence, that is just a clear lie.
    He, and many others, were opposed to using torture to gather information. And, it has become very clear that there was no credible information gathered by torturing prisoners, NONE.
    The information used to actually get Bin Laden was gathered in a standard intelligence manner without the need for torture. That is difference.
    You’re making up lies, like Obama was against gathering intelligence. That’s total BS.
    You’re deluding yourself.

    Just get a grip on reality and accept it. Bush had access to intelligence about Bin Laden and he didn’t care to use it and get Bin Laden. He, Bush, even said that to us, the people, on TV that he didn’t care about Bin Laden. How much more proof or evidence do you need, then Bush telling us he didn’t care?
    Reality is that NO president actually puts on gear and heads off to fight a mission. What world to you people live in? The President directs and gives orders as that is his job. And for sake of politics you guys now change how we acknowledge a good leader, by saying that the leader deserves no credit because the people who work for him did all the hard work.
    Get off it. The “right” is sounding more and more childish and self centered every day.
    Logic continues to elude you. :)

    • You are an idiot!!It took Obama 16 hours and a lot of prodding to give the go ahead.Never knew until lately that drinkin that koolaide destroyed brain cells but You are a prime example.If I were You I would stop drinkin it before all Your brain cells are destroyed!
      With idiots like You I see why We are in the mess We are in!!!!

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