Monday, October 25, 2010
Sent via the Guardian's iPhone application.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 email@example.com
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
VIDEOS. Lyon, Nanterre, Argenteuil... encore des violences en marge des défilés (depuis leParisien.fr sur iPhone)
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Al Qaeda plots to attack Europe may be just a prelude to new strikes in the U.S. http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/15/time-to-worry.html
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. http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/04/how-muslim-bashers-raise-europe-s-terrorism-risk.html
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 - http://tinyurl.com/22q3rcy Part 2 - http://tinyurl.com/2d8l3n3
[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
leParisien.fr sur iTunes : http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=300832619&mt=8
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Le Monde.fr: 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 Monde.fr Olivier Truc | 29.09.10 | 10:53
Droit de reproduction et de diffusion reservé © Le Monde.fr 2010
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A story from AP Mobile:
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Risque d'attentats : Paris recommande la vigilance en Grande-Bretagne (depuis leParisien.fr sur iPhone)
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
A story from AP Mobile:
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
The best part of this program hosted by Marwan Bishara was the documentary at the beginning about the war in and around Marja, Afghanistan.
Colonel Richard Kemp
Former British commander in Afghanistan
Middle East editor, Newsweek
Editor, Le Monde Diplomatique
Associate editor, The Guardian
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Saturday, August 07, 2010
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. http://www.newsweek.com/2010/01/04/al-qaeda-s-pandora.html
Divorce, Jihadi Style
What role do women play in Al Qaeda? A few are suicide bombers; others may encourage their men to become one. http://www.newsweek.com/2010/01/12/divorce-jihadi-style.html
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. http://www.newsweek.com/2009/09/28/the-new-tnt.html
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 http://www.newsweek.com/2005/09/05/the-suicide-solution.html
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. http://www.newsweek.com/2005/12/11/women-of-al-qaeda.html
Also note the foreword I wrote to Barbara Victor's "Army of Roses" in 2004:
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.
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.
(c) The Washington Post
Monday, July 05, 2010
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.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
NYPD Unseen from Lee Wang on Vimeo.
A collection of columns and articles about NYPD counterterror strategies and homegrown terrorism:
Friday, June 04, 2010
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
May 29, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
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)
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Sent from my iPhone
Sent from my iPhone
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Dispute Over France a Factor in Intelligence Rift
By MARK MAZZETTI
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. ... http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/22/us/politics/22intel.html
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
This makes an interesting companion piece to my column on Thursday:
Shadowland: Immigration and IDs: A Modest Proposal, 13 May 2010
All Americans—whether brown, white, or black—should be required to carry a passport showing they are red, white, and blue. http://www.newsweek.com/id/
Saturday, May 08, 2010
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.
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 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
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
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."... http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/04/new.york.car.bomb/index.html?hpt=T1&iref=BN1
Sunday, May 02, 2010
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.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Photo of Noriega taken at his home in 1982. (c) Christopher Dickey
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Playing the Identity Card
Jordan and its Palestinians
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’.... http://www.majalla.com/en/ideas/article37894.ece
Friday, April 09, 2010
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
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
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.
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."
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