A group of ex-special forces operators and intelligence folks have apparently joined together to create a group that is focused on showcasing the Obama Administration’s supposed use of sensitive operational and intelligence details for political gain. They have raised over a million dollars to start placing television ads in key states, and now that the mainstream knows these guys exist, conservative donations will most likely pour in by the bushel load.
Much of this controversy stems from the aftermath of Neptune Spear, the operation that saw US Army, Navy, Air Force, CIA and other services assets brought to bear to kill Osama Bin Laden in his bunker-like home in a Pakistani suburb. The fact that literally garbage bags full of hard drives, documents and other intel was extracted from the scene yet the Obama Administration chose to disclose that the raid took place only hours after its conclusion was seen by some as totally reckless and a huge missed opportunity. The gobs of actionable intelligence in those bags could have led to foiled plots, lives saved, and terrorists killed as at the time we had no idea what exactly would be found in such a treasure trove. President Obama immediately telling the world that the US not only killed Bin Laden, but how we did it and exactly where we did it alerted every terror contact related directly to the terror mastermind that their cover may have been blown and thus they should change their location, plans, and other important details immediately, which would render the potential intelligence jackpot found in the Bin Laden compound historically significant but for the most part not actionable. This infuriated many in the intelligence community who know damn well what a missed opportunity like this could mean, especially innocent lives lost.
Then there were the actual special forces operators themselves who were involved or associated with the raid, who like to remain nameless and their tactics to kept under a shroud of secrecy as the element of surprise and tactical unpredictability are key ingredients in the successful implementation of their dangerous trade. When you tell the world exactly how many people were involved with such an assault, what units those people come from, what technology they brought to the fight and other operational details it does degrade these units’ capabilities, although to what level is really debatable. Even the Pakistani doctor who the CIA tapped to attempt to retrieve DNA samples from the occupants of the still at the time unidentified mystery compound in Abbottabad paid a very high price for such openness, as he has been sentenced to 33 years by Pakistan courts.
Other leaks and confirmations have also infuriated those in the intelligence trade as of late, such as details about recent cyber warfare attacks on Iran and detailed descriptions pertaining to the existence of the United States’ “kill list,” as well as other security endangering revelations. Still the Administration’s openness about Operation Neptune Spear seems to remain the most bewildering case for many. The upcoming film “Zero Dark Thirty,” by famed “Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow, for which the Obama Administration and DoD gave special access to intelligence and operational details, will no doubt only inflame this national security and political controversy, although the movie will be released shortly after the Presidential election cycle ends.
It has long been my opinion that if that stealth Blackhawk had not crashed in Bin Laden’s backyard we would have only heard rumors, if even that, about the Abbottabad raid and the killing of Osama Bin Laden possibly weeks after the event took place, with a formal acknowledgement from the Administration and the DoD coming only after the intelligence taken from the compound had been fully exploited. The fact that a burnt out Blackhawk carcass was left behind, as well as a perfectly intact tail, one of which the world had never seen before, most likely accelerated the timetable for disclosure to warp speed. The seemingly impromptu speech given by the President late that Sunday night was also a tell that such an immediate disclosure was not fully planned in advance. Once the helicopter was deemed written off in place, the choices were limited, either bomb the place to smithereens, which would have basically been a declaration of war by the US against Pakistan, or come clean as the fallout and speculation surrounding such strange circumstances would have been more damaging than the truth.
It is also important to note that the Pakistanis were almost certainly alerted to the operation once the MH-47 spec-ops Chinooks made their way into the Abbottabad valley, as they are loud and detectable. A high-level emergency demand by the DoD made to the Pakistanis not to launch fighter aircraft or to interfere directly in the mission underway without intense repercussions was most likely made. The reality is that those thermite grenades used to destroy the downed stealth Blackhawk helicopter would have probably been used to set the compound of fire as the teams departed if the mission had gone as planned, leaving little evidence behind and allowing the US to have some sort of plausible deniability for enough time to leverage the actionable intelligence gained from the raid. Even if the other compound inhabitants were not shot and burnt in the compound, but were left to live, the Pakistani intelligence folks would have been so embarrassed by the fact that they were Bin Laden’s own nuclear family and members of his inner most circle that they would have most likely classified the truth surrounding the operation as well. It would have all looked like a classic gangland hit, a drug lord and his family dyeing at the hand of their own endeavors, not a top-tier US counter-terrorism operation. This would have also explained the size, design and high security of the compound to locals who undoubtedly had their own suspicions over the years and would have been totally interested once the raid had taken place.
In the end I believe that Obama Administration had no choice but to come clean with the world that the US was responsible for the strange activities in Abbottabad and that they took out Bin Laden down in the process as foreign policy and defense experts and commentators would have known that the use of silver bullet stealth helicopters deep inside Pakistani territory would not have been ordered to take a mid-level terrorist target. Once the Administration began talking they got caught up in the moment and recognized the political and historic significance of the event and proceeded with blabbering much more than they needed to. Literally the story could have been as simple as Bin Laden is dead, we got him at that compound in Abbottabad, we lost a “unique” insertion platform in the process and all our heroes made it out alive. That is all that needed to be said at the time. Over time, specific details would have leaked out and eventually an official account could have been released once all the participating commands and operational security folks have signed off on what details would be included and what details would be omitted for national security purposes.
In the end Operation Neptune Spear and its particulars shot out into the public domain in a geyser like manner within 24 hours after the now infamous raid on Bin Laden’s compound had been completed, and yes the Obama Administration shared more information than they probably should have in the days following the raid. Yet if that stealth helicopter had never crashed in the first place the story of how Bin Laden was sent to hell would have almost certainly been conveyed in a much more vague and security conscious manner and only well after all available intelligence gathered at the compound was disseminated and acted upon to its maximum potential. Doing otherwise would have been almost criminal. I am a little surprised that so many highly trained special forces and intelligence operators, all American heroes in their own right, have not figured this out for themselves.