tv Al- Qaeda and Osama bin Laden Documents CSPAN November 18, 2017 2:00am-3:30am EST
well, good afternoon and welcome to the foundation for defense of democracies. i'm cliff may, the founder and president and i'm pleased to welcome you today to our conversation, understanding al qaeda through the massive trove of osama bin laden's files. i think you all know the background in may of 20 laechb 11. a naval navy s.e.a.l. team got osaum ma bin laden. we should have learned a huge amount of information but we couldn't because it was under lock and key. the most resiferous pressures to
release that information but most recently 470,000 documents have been released and we were given an advanced look bike mike pompeo who said this should be available to scholars and journalists and others. so with that i'm pleased to thand conversation over to our moderator, kimberley dozier who has had a distinguished career reporting on intelligence and national security issues. she covered the war in iraq until she was wounded in the car bombing in 2006. i should note that today's event should be live streamed. i encourage guests here to join in today's conversation on twitter and also ask you to please silence your phones. hand it over to you. >> so today we have with us
three of the practitioners of the dark art of delving into everything al qaeda. also isis but we're going to dwell on al qaeda today. we have founder of the long ward journal. kalamaki, innew york times specialist on al qaeda foreign correspondent and an ap veteran. and tom jawsline who i asked him to bring out this notebook. believe me we're going to start broad but get pretty grannialer about this stuff pretty fast. these guys know this stuff inside and out. so with that, i'll start with the broad question. why did it take so long, tom, to release these documents? >> anybody who deals with the intelligence bureaucracy knows they're definitely allergic to
releasing anything. we think that's basically the media's job to push for transparency. we think epihads inform the public because here we are sitting in 2017 and the u.s. may not have large scale deployments but we're still deployed in several areas and fighting through the air and understanding this whole threat spectrum we think is crucial for understanding and debating the efficacy of these policies and understanding our enemy and what better way to see it than through the eyes of obama been sauden. but we started fighting for release in these files in may 2012. obama put out 17 files from this massive trove and bill and i are proudly nerds and thinking we're going to get all these goodies and all that comes out is 17
files. there was a narrative that said basically al qaeda was on the decline, everything was going poorly. there was no cohesion to the international network. they're not really al qaeda. bin laden had little control over all of this. that narrative in 2012 we knew immediately was totally wrong and basically a cherry picked version of what was going on. we said we can -- even the 17 files that came out we can prove it is wrong and based on a lot of other information we can prove it's wrong. the only way to put this to rest is to get everything released as soon as possible. it began with a very simple question. what role did osama bin laden play when he was killed? >> can you describe what were in the first 17 and what was recently released to you guys
first? >> the first 17 files, there was a little information. we had information on the communications with the pakistani taliban. we had had information -- one of the first files daeshz i right? the somali file? >> there was a letter written to the head oftia bob, that was an attachment to another letter that wasn't released. we're going to get nerdy. >> so i actually reported on it in 2010 that zohere ordered -- and the reason i reported from very good sources was that they were concerned about getting -- having aid cut off because there was lot of famine in somalia at this time and they wanted to keep the international coalition from coalescing so shabob could
run an insurgeoncy. in one of the files conformation of that report. we saw a letter. >> so that was in the first set? >> and we seen more information. we seen more information on that, that actually we saw the next attachment to that. there was a smattering of information in various different areas. we have to understand about these files is we're looking at -- we may see one or two communications that would be a long string of communications. when you said it was cherry pecked, that has that feeling of they put out this piece for this, this piece for that. and that was -- and the argument was made that there were no ties. >> he says we see indications
that there are. there was a mix of information in that first batch. 17 files is not enough to draw any kind of concrete conclusions made at that time. >> between then and now, can you describe again what was just released in terms of size and scope? >> i believe -- >> 107,thousand plus. >> it's like 450,000 pages. >> audio either reports in audio. so for instance reports on al qaeda and iraq at that time which eventually became the islamic state. communications back and forth. bin laden's personal journal. we see -- there's family videos in there. a lot has been made of the tom and jerry videos. they didn't just seize bin laden's laptop and his book case
but they seized everything that was used. so i imagine if anyone would look at your family computer, they would see a whole lot of different information. we really only scratched the surface. >> it's his digital life. >> his had family's as well. >> the difference between the first release and the second release. why do you think the obama administration was holding those documents back? >> i can only speak to my own reporting and my interaction with theed administration. in 2011 with had osama bin laden was killed, i was based in senegal but i covered the region. about six months later a branch of al qaeda called al qaeda and the islamic migrip or aqim took over northern half of mari. so this enormous, enormous
military squh i was calling dip lupats, many of them except tom and a few others, the narrative i would get is this group in mali was actually not really connected to al qaeda. it had opportunistically taken the al qaeda name to scare people and that in fact those people were just criminals, drug dealers, cigarette smugglers and kidnapping people for ransom in a criminal way. this is not al qaeda. in 2013 the french flushed out this group. i was among the reporters able to get to timbuctu. and i went building by building and started collecting the thousands of documents they had left behind. i work with the translator for the next year and suddenly my
world view which had had been informed by officials, i think most reporters work this way because it's very hard to get access to the terror group, that world view started to fall apart. because among the documents i was finding in mali a disciplinary letter from al qaeda reprimanding a mallian commander who had negotiated a hostage without contacting al qaeda central. that was going back to 2008/2009. suddenly this group i was told -- >> a bunch of criminals with no connection. >> exactly. was in fact being micromanaged. if you read them carefully with this knowledge in mind, you find everyday of this micromanaging. where you see them giving each other instructions, guidance, etc. but the overall narrative i
think was being pushed to the press and if you look back at the editorials was an image of bin laden isolated. he had lost control of this group. i remember one of the headlines describing him was a lion in winter and in fact the new trove that has now come out confirms very much what i was seeing in mali which is not just real connective tissue but connective tissue to the point of them being micromanaged from afghanistan and pakistan. very minor personal decisions are being decided by the group thousands of miles away. >> do you think that was something kept from the public's view because it revealed there had had to be reams of communication back and forth which means western intelligence was missing this? >> you know i think back to when
bin laden was killed. it was 2011. it was right before a major campaign season. i don't want to underplay the role that killing of osama bin laden had. that was obviously a very, very important thing that happened. but i think that was theorized into something much bigger. the head of the organization has been killed and now these are literally quotes i would get. the organization has been desmayed. it's in disray. the organization is on the run. and at the same time we were preparing to pull out troops from iraq and afghanistan, i think it was important to portray this as a problem that no longer existed. >> so tom, you all badgered two administrations, you got cia director mike pompeo to release
the information. why did it not come like the last set of documents? there's been accusations that pompeo released this to hammer home a link, a supposed link between al qaeda and iran. >> this is why you asked me to bring the binder. >> because i asked that question back there and he started blinding me with science and documents. >> so we're going to get nerdy. the bottom line is this was -- our role in this started with exactly the reasons you just outlined. what is al qaeda? what does the organization look like? it has all sorts of problems in answering these questions. and so the big reason why we wanted these files out was to answer these types of questions based on primary source evidence so we don't have somebody chattering at each other. mike pompeo, i don't know who he
was when we started advocating for this stuff. but he certainly heard us saying this has to be released, has to be released. and he fought to have this released as well. he was a key architect of having this stuff in the national authorization act that led to the release of more files. >> and i just have to say hipsy is the house intelligence community for those on c-span who don't live and breathe this every day like we do. >> good clarification. i laughed when i saw this was all about jining up a tie between iran and al qaeda. it's so uncontroversial that obama administration, their state and treasury departments issued numerous terrorist designations siting the link
that allows alki qaeda to maintn a core facilitation pipeline if hadicide iran. i said look, i don't need the bin laden files. that's the argument i wanted to make. it's probably one of 50 things we're interested in, in the files. all i have to do is point to what the obama administration said. this is a treasury department terrorist designation. this goes through a very rigorous interagency process. this is siting firm iftelligence to make this designation and a whole series that started july 28th, 2011. >> this is a classified document any of you all can look up. >> using iran as a critical transit point. and they talked about uncovering the formerly secret deal between iran and al qaeda. then in december 2011 --
>> this is all after the may 2011 raid. >> right. this stuff is flowing out. parts of the u.s. government are justify terrorist designations and that sort of thing while other parts are putting their heads in the sand and don't want to hear it. here's the state department now. they offer a $10 million reward for suri. that's a major al qaeda facilitator and they say he's operating under an agreement between al qaeda and the iranian government. we can go on. listen, we can go on with this through the next eight hours if you want. but the bottom line is when it comes to the thorny issue between iran and al qaeda, the truth is they do van agreement. they fight each other in syria, yemen and elsewhere. you have to tell the whole story. we alone were saying tell the whole story.
tell all the bits and pieces of it. that whole story includes a file written by osama bin laden himself. the house intelligence committee told him you have to release more files. this file came out because of that. and this was written october 18th, 2011. the head of islamic state of iraq had just threatened iran publicly. what happens is bin laden says to him youicidant have done that. you have to consult with us if your going to threaten the iranians. he says iran is our main artery for funds, personal and communication and he also mentions the hostages. so while iran was allowing some al qaeda guys to operate, they were keeping others as hostages. and our point in all of this is you want to understand this stuff grannialerly.
you need to see all the evidence. not just parts of what people want to show you. you mention this whole accusation that mike pompeo's trying to jin up a connection. all anybodies to the do is point to what the obama administration said were in the files. they repeatedly sited this agreement between the two. >> you did reporting on the hostages being held? >> yes, i was -- the new york times was it first to break the story that a very senior al qaeda figure and was imprisoned in iran been released as part of a prisoner swap. and that he had been released from iran and was on the move. i was never able to confirm where he went. we got a lot of push back from the white house saying the story wasn't true. i had sourced it to an al qaeda commander i was speaking to.
so this iran thing has always been a really touchy subject. and i agree with tom that most important thing is the primary source material. let us see the evidence and let us try to report based on the evidence rather than based on opinion. >> one quick point. the reason why it's important to report on that evidence is not to justify a set of policies. sunshine causes problems for these guys. so when the state department in 2011 came out with a $10 million reward, the iranians were embarrassed. they had to sideline him temporarily because of this embarrassment. sunshine is the ultimate disinfectant. and because having a relationship with iran is controversial for jihadists, this is something al qaeda finds itself having to explain both internally and externaly.
so that's the whole point. you have two sides of it. yes, they're at odds in many ways. >> you've done a lot of study over the years on how al qaeda operates, communicates. what did you learn from the latest traunch that surprised you? >> yeah. there's a -- one document we're working on right now, rarlit's personnel file of mid-level leaders at that time. we're able to date it to a certain time period. one of these leaders was escaped in late 2005 and later he was recaptured in late 2006. so we know it was written some time frame, 2006. i believe we were able to identify somewhere around eight or nine of them. i would call him the -- if you were in the military colonels, lieutenants, majors.
these are the up andcoming al qaeda. we killed several in drone strikes. al qaeda's leader in pakistan, afghanistan. suri, who tom mentioned -- yeah, he's the first guy profiled and they do discuss how he facilitated networks into iran. it's fascinating. al qaeda is evaluating its future leadership. what fascinates me is the ones that we can't. who are they. are they dead? are they alive? several say this guy has a future. we can rely on him. it's a brief but detailed evaluation and not only do you see what al qaeda -- what is important to them? alkoidau likes their leaders to be married. are they -- their physical
fitness, talhat's something they're very interested in. what their expertise is. what they're interested in doing. how are they perceived by their -- and so all of these commanders and this is clear to me based on looking at this particular document and we've seen these type of files, how al qaeda defines its general manager. this is just one of the ones in the new release but in this case this was al qaeda's leadership in afghanistan as well as in pakistan. coast province in afghanistan and pakistan. it's clear these are al qaeda leaders who are embedded in fighting along the network. it is a integral part of the taliban. a deputy of mere for the taliban. this is something we fight often. this attempt to disassociate it
duconnie knenetwork from the talib taliban. it's very clear that when we seize a document like this we start targeting these individuals. because they started coming off the radar. did the u.s. government know this? these are interesting questions which we may never know. but how al qaeda perceives its leadership, where they're operating, all of these things. i think it's important -- the best way to ultimately defeat your enemy is to understand what's important to them. we see elements of that within these files. >> you're describing a very sophisticated network and one of the things we've heard in the post bin laden era is much of their network has been decima d decimated. we're hearing that now about
isis. from what you've read in the files and the sophistication you're describing, how do you think they're operating now? >> al qaeda? >> zawarhi? >> we know they're still fighting in afghanistan. remember obama administration narrative from cia, al qaeda's decimated. one of the things they told us is al qaeda has gift 50 to 100 fighters. and here, without even having the bin laden documents, i'm reading international security system force, which has now become resolute support, they're launching press releases on al qaeda members who have been kill canned in afghanistan. one particular raid killed 50 guys. the question is there now zero to 50?
we compile this information. so this is what's going on outside of the bin laden files. low and behold in october 2015 -- and the other thing the defense department intelligence said was al qaeda's confined to northeast afghanistan, minimal presence outside of there. this is up to 2015 when we conducted a raid in kandahar province in southeastern afghanistan. they killed around 200 al qaeda fighters. >> so thats r's negative 50. >> yeah, you do the math. more than 50 to 100 al qaeda fighters. so al qaeda formed a branch in the indian subcontinent. bin laden files do state that they were taking losses and it was hurting them.
they were talking about moving operatives. we're talking pre2011 here. they're moving operatives in afghanistan. they identified provinces where they would be safe. four that -- one of them was kuhn ar. >> they're sticking to places with security that is challenged. remote locations. places they can blend in. >> friendly forces operating there. difficult for particularly american forces to operate and we believe -- there's been press reports. al qaeda has a large network. i never believe bin laden was hiding in a cave and i don't believe zwahiri is. >> anyone want to take a guess where? >> take your city in central
pakistan. >> i did spot some friends from the pakistani embassy. may have q and a from that later. >> pick a city. who ever heard of badabada, pakistan before bin laden? >> what's been your take away? >> so super interesting communication between al qaeda central and this group that had been poer trayed as a bunch of criminals in mali. aqim. so there's a letter in the trove that tom just got to me yesterday and it's regarding the two tunisians who were -- two austrian tourists who were kidnapped in tunisia. i've actually gone to austria to interview this couple. they were there with their two german shepherds and at the
moment when they were kidnapped, the al qaeda affiliate did not want to waste its bullets and so they beat them to death in fronted of the couple. the woman could barely talk. and at the time i had spoken to the negotiator who had had gone into the desert to negotiate the release. it was less than a year. i was seeing her had in 2014 and she couldn't conduct the interview without crying. >> right. >> she was clearly a wounded person that i think had been changed by this. the negotiator told me at the time that austrian government had had paid 2 million euros. i reported that and got enormous push back that we were very upset we were reporting this. so there's a letter in this trove that is found in pakistan
in osama bin laden's house that confirms it's 2 million euro ransom and al qaeda says we feed to keep this on the qt. austria has been pressured by it united states not to pay a ransom. >> did you ever think you'd get your reporting confirmed? >> i was like emailing the hostages going hi had, i don't know if you remember me from 2014. and by the way here's proof that what you and other people were telling me is true. so anyway again the thing that i find remarkable is these are physical letters, right? so the presumption is these are being hand carried right from the deserts of northern africa, are the way over to pakistan and yet for things that there 2 million euro ransom is not that
much compared to what they would later get. i find it remarkable that there's this voluminous correspondence between the affiliate in the suhairau and the core group. another example is al qaeda and the group in africa, it was -- it had a different name and it pledges allegiance to al qaeda 2006/2007. there's a letter where he's going over the charter for it al qaeda group in africa. giving notes on their by lines and saying article 16 i think you should phrase it a little bit more differently. and one of the interesting -- like editors you and i have worked with. one of the suggestions he makes is the article stating what their goal was going to be in
africa was initially formulated to say it was going to be jihad against the aljeerian regime and he very gently says i think you would be better positioned that this is a more global thing and basically suggests this is against the west but in this territory. >> shaping their mission? >> shaping their mission. making it global. even isis is that these are local groups with local grievances. but the whole point is when you become part of this terror brand, those grievances become part of something more global. so you're hitting a western target like the hilton or you're hitting algeria but you're hitting the united nations compound in algeria.
>> she made a statement. we've seen in previous documents where al qaeda is getting some of the funding, at least locally. they're getting their cut. and another thing to follow up with. we've seen documents where again al qaeda is basically redlining the ttp movement. they're saying do this, do that. there's another document in there where al qaeda is the head -- was the head of the movement in taliban. where he was being upgraded for the quote on quote companies operating if hadicinside pakist. it's a local group that hates the pakistani government and sure, they have ties to it but you see acical -- >> trade ties or something when
you talk to counterterrorism briefers on it. >> it's like corporate telling its local affiliate you've got to do this. this is how you're going to play the game. it's -- from as far flung as the african desert to as close as where al qaeda central was inside of pakistan. >> you're saying every day you're finding new stuff and the communications with the commanders in iran will do a lot of stuff. >> i think the files are going to rewrite the history of the iraq war. we've already learned things from these files that nobody knew previously. for example bin laden was receiving fairly regularly audio reports from his commanders in iraq. if stead they would sit down and record a summary of the weekly
events or however long a time line was to explain what their thinking was. and these are very in-depth reports talking about the political situation, the economy, talking about different insurgeoncy groups they're cooperating with or having problems with. >> this is al qaeda and iraq under zaka are, i? >> yes. and one of the big debates between isis and al qaeda was whether or not isis was really part of al qaeda past 2006. i think the files are going to end that debate once and for all. i think it's pretty clear that al qaeda was still guiding and providing leadership and bin laden considered it to be part of his global empire.
people are now saying isis is desinated like al qaeda was desinated. his commander in iraq is saying to him the field for jihad here is fertile. we have plenty of resources, plenty of opportunities to wage jihad indefinitely. and this is years before the complexity of that war spilled over. they were already eyeing syria years before from iraq. they were eyeing it, seeing it as the islamic state of iraq could see in particular. they were already talking about that years before the opportunity we saw manifest itself. that's the point is that there's an eb and flow. it's not that they're invincible. far from it it. but if you say that's it. well, we saw what happened. it became isis the global
phenomenon. and that's why you constantly have to keep track of the long war that we keep trying to document. >> now, before opening up to the audience one question i had had wanted to ask you all was which copy of the documents do you have? it first one that the cia put out and then it pulled back? you got the malware version. so cia posted these documents and then. >> and english translations. i have experts tell me with more. instead of being epihhelpful int regard, we were given basically a giant jumble of files. so you'll see a picture of a cat and a rose. and this is a letter from a very important senior al qaeda facilitator, that sort of thing. that's basically what's been given to us. and many of the files the
malware in it. they had to scrub it and relaunch it. i got the original unscrubbed version with the malware in it. you don't have to give them to us yet. you can wait but we got the malware version. >> awesome. anything to add on that? you fire walled one computer that you're using to access it? >> we think. >> well, on that note, i would like to open up to questions from the audience. so do we have anyone who can be equally -- >> there's one back here. >> there's a microphone to the person in the blue tie and if you could introduce yourself. >> derek harvey and great run down. i really appreciate it. there's a lot that's still going to come out as you said. i'm wondering do you have any idea about if there's any gap
between what was released in the 470,000? do you think besides a select number of highly classified documents that they want to retain, they're saying proprietary information -- not proprietary but copyrighted material and pornography they weren't releasing but do you think there's a gap of other material that might not be releas released? and question number two is the raid we covered only what the raid team could bring back with them and there was a lot laof material with them and we have pakistanis here in the audience. but there was a treasure trove they recovered too that has not been made accessible. >> derek just hit on two key questions. i don't know of course what wasn't given to us. it was represented to me that -- what was released publicly now, basically the only operationally
sensitive stuff. i'm not sure about how much that is, of course. but the second part of the question is something i asked about can had is if you go back through the raid, the americans did carry out -- basically the navaly s.e.a.l.s killed bin laden and started pushing as much stuff in duffle bags as they can and they're just trying to carry as much of this stuff out but they did not get everything. there's an open question about whether or not the stuff that pakistanis recovered -- i'm going to assume the u.s. intelligence got it. but there's an open question about whether or not that was included in what was released because that may include a piece of a picture. you may have part of the files that maybe fill in correspondence or blanks where we have them. the answer to your question is we don't know. >> to your knowledge how much was there an exchange of information with it pakistani
government? because it wasn't going well in 2011. >> highly controversial raid. the report had some details on this. my sense is that -- my guess is -- i'll put it as a guest that the u.s. got from pakistan what they recovered or at least got from pakistan what pakistan was willing to give them and i doubt all of that was included in the release. >> sir in the front row. it microphone is heading your way. and if you could introduce yourself. >> my name is david jackson. i'm a former director of voice of america. i was curious whether you got a sense, any of you about what percentage of this recent trove of documents as been shared over the years with america's allies. >> i'll take that one too if you
want. this is a great question. couple things. one, we know the documents have been used in a number of criminal cases including europe and elsewhere. so some have been shared clearly. in germany for example where somebody is mentioned in the files and that's used to prosecute that individual. but part of the reason why we advocated transparency in this regard is we were hearing a lot of stories in 2012 that there were fights about who was given access within the u.s. government to the if hentirety the files and different fights bureaucratically even regards to that. so our answer to that is we believe in competitive analysis and the only way you can do that is inhad sure as wide of access as possible. >> i was hearing gripes within the u.s. government saying we can't get our hands on these files. it's strange. now we're living in a world of fake news, information operations, weaponizing
information. you spent a lot of time watching isis and al qaeda on social media. and bill i know you do too. has there been anything from the files that would be embarrassing to al qaeda that you've seen turn people off or be weaponized in a way that it might turn followers off? >> i think this trove is toot young to have made it that far. but when the raid occurred and they found pornography in osama bin laden was computer, of course the al qaeda community took that as something that had been planted. they would never believe that bin laden, a human being, could possibly ingest porn raugraphy. so that was surely something embarrassing for the group. >> by the way we also found --
somebody in the compound was a big fan of ioaria videos. >> you're looking for hid hadden messages. >> and you raise an interesting question, an important question to me. no matter what we put forward from those documents the jihadists are going to generally dismiss it. i do think probably one of the things that is very difficult for them to dismiss is the iran/al qaeda ties. i think everyone knows what's going on in for. members of al qaeda have transited through iran to get to iraq and syria and afghanistan. they all know it's going on and having the files come out and prove it. i thinkets to rr something very difficult for them to deny. >> i think isis has made fun of al qaeda on this point.
>> so our news letter, right. they had a defector from al qaeda who accused him of being soft on iran and his response was basically they didn't deny they to deal with iran. it became something of an embarrassment for them and the isis detecter was saying you are soft on iran and there are safe houses it iranian intelligence is monitoring and you don't do anything about it. al qaeda's are esponse was yeah, but you too. how did you get to syria and iraq. you went to the same safe house. bottom line is that agreement or that relationship is actually not controversial within isis literature recognizes it. the files recognize it. the obumau administration recognize it. on and on and on. it's something that has to be discussed because as they were saying it causes problems for al qaeda. >> and yet in the hands of a
savvy information officer, if they'd had that information back in 2011, that might have been something they would have wanted to include in a file to be made public. so maybe it wouldn't sway the jihadists but how about that vast middle of people who are considering going in that direction? >> if i can have one more point on that. if you want something controversial. there's a big argument between isis and al qaeda about whether or not isis had allegiance to al qaeda when baghdady declared himself it caliphate and the leader of isis. these could have been weaponized to undermine the idea that isis never really had a buy oult to al qaeda that was broken. al qaeda was calling him the oath breaker and their argument was how can you pledge alooejs liegeance to him when he's broken his own oath to us. it's something that could have
been weaponized in that regard. >> sir, with the mustache. >> thank you very much. i'm a cnn analyst and iurd had these three words desisseminate disray, and -- is the president pfsz strategy of eliminating, disseminating al qaeda extremists, is their strategy at present working to bring this -- is it expanding instead? and if it is expanding what should be the strategy to bring it to a closure? >> i'm a journalist so of course i can't make policy recommendations. let's look at isis for a moment.
isis held a territory in iraq, syria and libya for more than three years that at its height was the size of the united kingdom. they riled 12 million people. they had had recruits from 100 different countries. it is significant that has been taken away. 96% of the territory has been taken away. but yob see analysts and officials making the same declarations that iurd had in 2011 and 2012 where they are thinking that because the territory has been erased that the group has been desinacimated on the run and all you have to do is be on their television channels to see how active they remain today. hundreds and hundred hads of channels are populated by literally thousands of their
aclites online and they continue their jihad virtually. just in october we saw the attack using a car in my home city in new york. the young man who did that initially tried to put the isis flag on the hood of his car. he decided that would bea little too obvious. instead he used it to cause violence and kill people. and then when he was in his hospital bed, he then asked the nurse to deliver him an isis flag. so clearly this guy, whether or not he was actually speaking to isis is taking on their mantle and is believed that he is working in their name. so i would caution us from thinking, especially with isis in light of what we've seen with al qaeda that the current successes, which are importedant, that this somehow spells the end of the group. >> i have heard from
administration officials, both talk about the virtual caliphate and refer to this as a generational war. but there's a difference between the national security officials you hear from and some of the messages out some of the messages out of the white house. >> exactly. i spent a lot of time in paris and france because that was where the most devastating isis attack took place. i find the rhetoric of french officials to be very interesting. it was very similar to american officials before the november 13th attack. following the november 13th attack, the state's prosecutor, the one who does the press conferences after every subsequent attack that has occurred, in my opinion started to really level with the population and he would say things like this. almost like an israeli dialogue. >> november 13th attack? >> exactly. right.
he would say things where he would make sure this group is not defeated, it won't be defeated any time soon. we're doing everything we can to keep you safe and we have this many investigations going on. you have to understand this is a major problem. that's the rhetoric out of france because they faced it in such an acute way. we haven't heard that except privately in america. the most informed analysts i speak to do call it a generational war. this is something that is going to be here for a while. i think frankly i think we don't completely know how to defeat them. perhaps you disagree with me. if we did i think we would have done it by now. >> you might add even though they lost 96% of the territory, whatever that number is i'm seeing them launch attacks in areas. >> right. >> they recently lost, you see
on videos. and these look like those we witnessed in '11, '12 and '13, prior to the islamic state in early 2013 and mosul and northern iraq mid-2014. it's very easy to say they lost territory therefore they're defeated. they're not defeated on the battlefield, they transitioned from openly fighting territory and fighting a guerilla insurgency and still active with combat power and still draws in recruits showing their followers they're not just a virtual caliphate and they still have a presence on the battlefield even though they don't control territory. >> reading these documents you see they think strategically, do alliance of convenience or seize
power, could you see cooperation with isis in its current form? >> you could see isis could go to the al qaeda fold. the isis literature has been anti-al qaeda for years. they have adopted you're too soft al qaeda approach. there are disagreements in terms of tactics and methodologies between the two organizations. i'm on the lookout for collusion between these different countries or bargain between these different factions, i don't think you will see a full-scale connection with isis. isis has its own methodology and messaging to recruits distinctly different than al qaeda has been saying. >> more like operations -- the cooperation of convenience on the battlefield in libya, we're
in this area so you stay in this area? >> isis killed one of the most senior guys in al qaeda, sent a senior guy to kill him in 2013. they had pretty intense infighting between the two in different areas. one of the things to keep looking out for, they understand there's an ebb and flow to this fight. they understand there's times they're surging and retreating. bottom line keep an eye on it to make sure you understand where they are. bottom line for us, none of this is political. if the current white house spikes the football on isis, we will say you're wrong as the previous administration spiked the football on al qaeda and we said, you're wrong. to us it's the details and analysis going on. not any political messaging, that's the key thing here. >> sir.
>> my name is ken kimmerman. were there any documents in this release related to the 9/11 attacks? second, there was a great deal of information out of the public realm before 2011 you mentioned when we could have weaponized the iran-al qaeda connection there's an iranian defector that walked into the u.s. embassy in 2001 and warned about the upcoming attacks. i was involved in a lawsuit that won a $10 million judgment against the islamic state iran for their involvement in the 9/11 attacks. you had documents that came out in the 9/11 report on pages 240, 41, why do you think it is the u.s. intelligence community consistently pushed back until just recently on the iranian connection to al qaeda and september 11th, 2001 attacks which was mentioned first in the 9/11 commission report. >> we have to be careful not to
conflate the u.s. intelligence community pushing back versus certain administrations pushing back. >> my quick answers are we're punting for anything 9/11 related. seems like the cash is probably more dated, not as old as that, more recent than a lot of stuff we've seen. we still haven't gotten through a great deal of it. when it comes to iran, part of this issue to justify the iraq war the bush administration was supposedly hyping saddam's connection to al qaeda and to justify the iraq war. that's a reflexive thing we see. when we bring this up that doesn't follow we want a regime change in iran. we've watched iraq how many years? this is a nightmare. the fact we'd want another iraq war, are you kidding me? the point is reporting on the facts and what they are is another issue. there is resistance for policy
reasons to admit iran and al qaeda collude at times. that's a policy. politicalization goes both ways in the direction of trying to support a war or the other way somebody decides they want to nix any ideas about a war and relationships. we don't want to justify any war, we want to understand what our enemies are doing. >> i was referring about the fact if you read michael murrow's book, great war of our time, he comes out with the narrative in these current -- this current release, it's a different narrative than al qaeda was on its heels and it was the lion in winter watching the good old days in reruns on his non-cable tv. instead, this former deputy director of the cia, former acting director said, no, we
realize they were in touch in a very micromanaging way with their entire network. so what the intelligence community thought versus what the two administrations in a row decided to release seem to be different things. >> commenting. >> i was referring to the behavior of al qaeda. >> the book is very good on the point of what was bin laden doing when he was killed. he was very good at explaining the cia assessed he had given up day-to-day control of al qaeda. after the documents are scooped up in the files lo and behold they realize, no, me was running the whole thing. good clarifying language, not just us nerds going through the files or a journalist like yourself looking at the stuff and an official says that's what it was. that's the clean analysis of it.
part of why we wanted these files out, to settle this all. that narrative that took hold in 2012, we still see traces of it and it affects the analysis to this day, you still see it. still see people, that's not really al qaeda, a local group or bill talking about pakistani taliban. the afghan taliban, we have good stories coming there. that's a very interesting set of files. >> previews? >> i think there's uncomfortable truths that make certain policies difficult to negotiate. the obama administration wanted to negotiate with the afghan taliban and seeing obama's views the individuals they were negotiating with were actually nobodies within the taliban. if there's evidence of al qaeda and taliban collusion in these document, how can you release those documents if you want to
push a policy negotiating with taliban, not just iran. what if we expose, hope to see and suspect you will see perhaps exposing that golden chain, the donors of -- we haven't found the absolute proof of this yet. if these things like that are in these files it makes executing policy in the middle east. >> part of what bill is holding back are found files from an unknown saudi sheikh we will find out who he is and signs them your loving brother you know really well. all about stuff inside saudi. this is the ti this is the type of thing very fascinating about the files. who is that guy and why does he have a direct line to bin laden and why can he chastise him about what he's doing. >> that's actually more embarrassing potentially to the obama administration because they would have had access to
those files. is that guy still active? did they ask the saudi government to crack down on him, will raise all those questions. >> not just obama, the whole kit and caboodle. this is not about any one politician or political group, what is the ground truth of these files and what do they expose. like i said at the outset we're fighting in more places than ever. don't have large troop deployments, fighting in different areas. shouldn't we have more information who we're fighting and who supports them and why does this thing keep going? isn't that important to discuss and debate and figure out the best approach for countering it. you asked the exact question, we don't know how to win this thing yet. >> in the front row. >> from embassy of afghanistan political counselor. question about potential
relationship or questions on the pakistani government, its military, to allow osama bin laden to be there and operate from under the nose of the pakistani military . is there anything the previous administration could have looked to hold them accountable or the trump administration has evidence for this bold policy that puts pakistan in its place. >> so, first, we need the government of afghanistan to talk to me about him and his current role in afghanistan. we'll follow up after this. there's very interesting things there. the second thing the pakistan information is very complex. you see in fact al qaeda was leading the insurgency against parts of the pakistani state and
certain pakistani officials in the files, certain pakistani officials knew when they wanted to negotiate truce with the negligents knew where to go with the intermediaries for obama and suggests they knew he was close at hand. this are other groups in afghanistan including the afghan taliban de facto sponsored by the pakistani for years. here's the trick. some of those groups are also deeply in bed with al qaeda and part of obamabin laden's suppor network in pakistan and buttress what was done in pakistan and on the other hand maintaining relations with the pakistani state. our point is all that needs to be untangled. we spent more time trying to answer that question since we got the files, many sleepless nights and pots of coffee. it's a difficult web to untang toll get to the truth of it. we have been suspicious all
along as everybody else has, who knew he was there and how do we prove that? >> gentleman in the back of the room. green jacket. >> thank you very much. raheem rahidi from kurdistan tv. simple question. he confirms where he was. it is very clear they use u.s. weapon to overtake kurdistan, pergsha and it's not clear. >> i agree. the u.s. military has whitewashed the roles of shia militia inside iraq. these are militia, they're under an umbrella called popular
mobilization forces. its operations leader is an individual listed and a special designated global terrorist by the u.s. government and the one you mentioned in his destination listed as an advisor. the popular mobilization forces today reports directly to the prime minister of iraq, an official institutionalized as an official arm of the iraqi military. again, it only reports to the prime minister. the u.s. military, u.s. state department has white-washed this issue. their position has been that they're part of the official government. one of these is hezbollah brigade, not lebanese hezbollah. all of the key groups in the popular mobilization forces and most influential most powerful
that have been at the forefront of iraqi offenses are all hostile to the united states. several leaders especially global designated global terrorists. some have openly stated if i told khomeini iran supreme leader orders me to overthrow the iraqi government i will do that. i'm at his calling. they made threats against the united states and said they would target the united states if ordered to do so by khomeini and somani has been identified as an advisor by the pakistan minister. you have a significant problem inside iraq. the u.s. withdrawing, in my estimation, they open the door for iranian influence to flood in. when i was embedded in iraq and spoke to a senior mid-level iraqi military officers by all accounts were loyal to the iraqi government they feared just this thing. they predicted a u.s. withdrawal
would allow this to happen. there needs to be clarity from the u.s. government how to deal with this problem or you basically -- what has been established inside iraq with popular mobilization forces is analogous to iraq's iruc. they will usurp power over the military. they already have done that, been the most influential force on the battlefield next to the counter tirn counter-terrorism service that also reports to iraq's military service. i'm not confident seeing this problem resolved any time shortly unless there's a major change in the policy. you have to understand, i realize there's no connection between the two, we have to understand what is actually going on and look at it reasonably and say this is what's happening in order to develop policy and strategy to counter it. when you have top u.s. officials and u.s. generals saying pmf is
not a problem inside iraq that's what u.s. policymakers are getting and therefore you have this problem. look, i'm going to say one more thing. look at the problem hezbollah has created with a population of 4 million in lebanon? now, you have iraq with a population of 30 something million people. that's what the pmf's recruiting base is. this is what's in store for the middle east. >> as moderator i have to ask is there anyone from the state department or iraqi embassy in the crowd who wants to take that? not this time. we have a question in the back of the room. >> dan from foreign policy. i want to ask you this, in light of these documents you studied over the years, how would you compare al qaeda's leadership relationship to pakistan, elements of pakistan's government and its relationship with iran and the irgc? is there any analogy there?
is it totally different? >> that's a really tough question because it's two totally different contexts. when it comes to pakistan, their big complaint you'll see in the al qaeda letters they cooperate in the u.s. against al qaeda, parts of the pakistani state do. they complain about that, where they don't have that complaint with iran necessarily. the trick is pakistan is not exporting their own revolution throughout the region whereas iran is. al qaeda's big problem with iran is they don't want the iranian style sheism to spread throughout the region when they want their own version of islam to spread throughout the region. there are problems big-time between what iran wants to do and al qaeda wants to do. but that doesn't preclude them from cooperating in some ways. in pakistan, the problem comes back to the role of the american state. we've seen a lot of files they're even debating, what do you do when you have a pakistani
spy. somebody clearly working for some part of pakistani intel or part of the pakistani establishment against us, do we kill them outright? what do we have to do with them? you can see that granular level of struggle. steve cole has a book coming out on director s part of the intelligence service of isi, i will review. i think it's pretty good. i haven't read the whole thing yet and strikes me as pretty important. in pakistan you have wheels within wheels. in the intelligence service that assisted and helped the u.s. against jihadis and part has not. the part that has not is still not fully understood. that's what we're trying to figure out parts of the pakistani establishment, what is their level of collusion with al qaeda specifically. you can tell they're colluding with groups that collude with al qaeda or aligned with al qaeda and the question is what about the direct relationship we're
trying to figure out. >> one of the things we have seen about pakistan, they have targeted al qaeda leaders, whether it was intentional or accidental i can't tell you. we know they have permitted u.s. strikes to kill al qaeda leaders. there's certainly a tension there. al qaeda has supported the movement and taliban in pakistan that had its whole insurgency in the midwestern frontier province. that was a problem. that was contentious with the pakistani state establishment in general. at the same time, this is the good taliban versus bad taliban narrative. what pakistan tried to do is say, we have good taliban and they're the afghan taliban. it esmujahadeen, all the folks that fight in kashmir and the good taliban and taliban in pakistan and one i'm not even
sure about that one any more. you have this dynamic going on. they either ignore intentionally or unintentionally, i'm sure it's intentional, the good taliban supports the bad taliban. when the pakistani -- this is in the bin laden files, when pakistani wanted to negotiate a truce with al qaeda, who did they reach out to? the good taliban, khalil and mujahadeen and the director of afghan taliban and try to facilitate and coordinate a truce with al qaeda and movement of taliban in pakistan. that's the dynamic we see there. what they don't understand the good taliban shelters the bad taliban with arms and weapons, safe haven. everything they need to survive. that's the dynamic we see publicly and part we're seeing inside the documents as well.
we do expect to see again, i go back to how did osama bin laden live outside pakistan's westpoint without the direct knowledge. anybody who understands what abbottabad is, it doesn't have checkpoints throughout the city. >> i have to ask, was there anything so far in the document file, recent release that shows communications between pakistani officials and al qaeda? >> that's the information they're trying to negotiate a truce. >> i mean not just a truce, other types of -- >> i haven't seen- >> real cooperation. a truce is -- >> we're still trying to figure this out. this is what we're working on desperately to figure out from these files. i'll say this one quick point. one interesting file we just finished translating, which is al qaeda's assessment of the u.s. strategy for combatting al qaeda and affiliated groups in
pakistan. al qaeda believed they didn't want the pakistan problem go away entirely because then they would have to focus on other issues including the nuclear issues in pakistan. it was a very sophisticated issue al qaeda had on pakistan and that file is very interesting for a lot of reasons. >> we have time for one more question. i want to see, i hadn't asked anyone on this side of the room. >> a gentleman in the back of the room. >> the gentleman in the back of the room i cannot see because of the building structure. >> thank you. >> john mueller from the cato institute. i'd like to exwhether these communications had consequences, the usual take on zarqawi for example was there were a lot of messages from al qaeda central but kept doing what he was doing. do you see a different take looking at these materials coming after 2011.
>> this gentleman, can you ask your question as well? we're getting you a microphone, just a second. the microphone traveled to that side of the room. it's a lightning round of two questions to finish us. >> from the hudson institute. one of the more amazing things that comes out of it it seems to me is the amount of communication al qaeda central must have been managing. i was just wondering if you got any sense from these documents how this was done, you would think there would be enough indications how this was going on that would have given us a lot of opportunities to intercept it. i was wondering if you saw anything. >> real quick on the al qaeda and iraq point on zarqawi. i think the internal files still clouds zarqawi and there were tensions in terms of the relationship, i think part of that whole messaging they were
trying to dress down zarqawi constantly was only one window with him. numerous other times they were praising zarqawi and saw him as their guy in iraq. they had problems with some of his tactics for sure but overall still their guy especially after swearing allegiance and i think he was affiliated with al qaeda. to answer both your points or start to. al qaeda militia was issuing directives. after zarqawi was killed in 2006 we are seeing his successors talking about the minutia, granular detail he was talking about the affairs and heads of the state of iraq, al qaeda successors, sheikh says need to set up an office. here's what you will do, take down the personal by graphical information and sort them and figure out who they are
basically issuing administrative orders to iraq. how it was transported, some was courier, thumb drives. what you're looking at are files that come into al qaeda at different times with different personalities. one of his key guys rahman, his right handman at the time of his death communicated at different times in different ways, not always necessarily courier in the end for everything we're looking at although a portion of it was. >> did you have anything to add? >> it's funny you mentioned the mujahadeen office for this administrative office. that letter from the man who is now the head of al qaeda specifically says they need to keep a register of all their new recruits and they need to identify their special skills, what talents do they have, basically like an hr department. just to fast forward to the
islamic state, i have found these documents they issue to new recruits like an intake form, right, application, who's your mom? who's your dad, where did you go to school? what do you want to do inside the islamic state, have you ever been arrested? for terrorism charges? obviously, that would be a good thing. [ laughter ] >> you see the successor to islamic state in iraq very much applying this piece of administrative device i think came in 2008. >> one more point. that just shows this wasn't just a group with some terrorist cells here and there and if we just kill this key leader and this key leader the whole thing falls apart. they were built to survive the drone campaign from 2007 and 2015, when it started winding down in pakistan. that's a small cellular
terrorist group doesn't set up an administrative office. this is the things we learn and see it time and time again. central is directing to branches we prefer, affiliates and they're passing down lessons learned and being passed back up to the top. this is what successful organizations do, whether they did it as well as some of the finest corporations out there that remains to be seen but well enough to go from jihad al qaeda had a presence in afghanistan fighting alongside the taliban to a global terrorist insurgency to this day. >> closing thoughts from each of you, my lightning round question is what have you seen in the files that answers the question? what keeps drawing followers to al qaeda? >> i haven't seen a lot of the recruiting stuff yet. you can see consistently in their messaging they're telling others to disseminate.
they do believe in a conspiratorial view of the world. they believe there is a grand alliance between america and the zionists to conspire against muslims and everything that happens or we falls them is a product of this conspiratorial anti-islamic viewpoint. that's why we've been strong when talking about rhetoric in this country when it comes to muslims or abroad to be careful distinguishing between the vast majority of muslims who have nothing to do with this and not part of this and ultimately on the front lines in afghanistan or mali, on the front lines a local muslim more often than not has to fight these guys. they want to erase that distinction and want to say they represent all islams and muslims, that's false. a key thing they're saying in their messaging. it's important on us to be careful in our rhetoric to not give in to that falls narrative. >> regarding the messaging i
think what i would take away from them is their timeline, if you take them at their word seems to be eternity. they're fighting forever. i was in iraq last year when the start of the mosul operation happened in october. at that point in time when i was speaking to both u.s. and iraqi officials they were hopeful, optimistic they could take mosul before obama left office, which would have been in january, three months. instead, it was a nine month-long slog that the most senior general on the american side helping the coalition describe as the worst fighting he had seen in 35 years, comparable to the worst battles of world war ii. i think that one of the things we're up against is their timeline is forever and our timeline is a political one, where our leaders are, of course, under enormous pressure to show results.
unfortunately, in that effort to show results we repeatedly underestimate them. we repeatedly see them as smaller than they are. >> we tell ourselves the story we want to hear. >> that's right. >> opposed to the reality in front of us. >> that's right. >> i think there's -- in addition to what you said, i see two other things there. i see that commitment to the fight, which is they are planning for the long haul, very important to them and the religious justification to what they're doing they put themselves as the fighting vanguard and true believers, they're very concerned about killing muslims unnecessarily nor instance. this is part of the schizoimbetween the islamic state and al qaeda. you see the seeds of this. zarqawi was definitely their guy, i read one recent document when they said they swore
allegiance to us from his group before he hit became al qaeda and iraq. they're very clear they want to project themselves as being righteous fighters, religious fighters. it's not just a war against the west but a religious war they're putting forward. i think that is appealing to a segment of the muslim world that they will support them. >> on that note, i want to thank you all for the discussion, thank fdd for sponsoring this. if there are any folks in the intel world watching this and you have war documents you want to release, we're all for it. thank you very much. [ applause ]
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saturday eastern saturday morning. join the discussion. this weekend on american history tv on c-span3, saturday at noon eastern, the 70th anniversary of the hollywood tent hearings before the house on american activities committee. family members of blacklisted artists read from congressional hearing scripts. >> what was your last employment? >> my last employment, i just finished a picture called "the tall target". >> did you furnish any references to those studios for your employment? >> i have been in theater about 25 years, sir. i think i'm well enough known to all of them from the roles i have played. >> were you a member of the communist party in 1942? >> i stand on the grounds of the fifth amendment. well, that might incriminate or degrade me. see, the word "communist" is an emotional hysterical word of the day, much like the word "witch"
in salem. >> and discussion on civil war monuments. >> it was about victory. the victory, in many ways, celebrated in so many confederate monuments was the victory over reconstruction. >> sunday at 4:00 p.m. in real america. the 1942 propaganda film on the north africa campaign. >> the president of the united states welcomes the prime minister of great britain. the gravity of the moment had brought them together. >> at 8:00 on the presidency, alexandra talks about her book "26 seconds," history of the film. >> gradually, starting in the late '60s, versions of the film began to leak out and people began to see it. when they saw it, because of the way that the film looks, it did not look like what the warren
commission concluded. >> american history tv all weekend every weekend only on c-span3. >> so grant walked into the room first. he was wearing military camouflage fatigues with the emblem right here and initials kkk right here on his chest, embroidered across his beret on his head were knights of the ku klux klan. on his hip he had a semi-automatic handgun in the holster. it was followed right behind him mr. kelly, the grand dragon in a blue suit and tie. when the night hawk saw me, he froze. mr. kelly bumped into his back because he stopped short. they stumbled and regained their balance looking all around the room. i knew what they were thinking, either the desk clerk gave them
the wrong room number or this was a setup, ambush. i went like this to display my hands, nothing in them. i stood up and approached them, hi, mr. kelly, my name is daryl davis, come on in. >> for the past 30 years, daryl davis has befriended ku klux klan members to understand their hatred and convince them they are wrong. sunday night on c-span. on thursday, new jersey senator, bob menendez spoke to reporters after a judge declared a mistrial in his federal corruption case. he thanks his supporters for believing he was innocent and faces charges for conspiracy, bribery and abuse of power. this is 10 minutes. >> first and above all i want to thank god because it