tv Weekly Standard - Bin Laden Files CSPAN July 3, 2018 7:04pm-8:01pm EDT
>> c-span, where history unfolds dali. in 1979 c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> next "the weekly standard"'s editor-in-chief stephen hays discusses the osama bin laden files and america's approach to counterterrorism during the obama and trump administrations. this is part of "the weekly standard"'s annual political summit in colorado springs. it is just under an hour. >> i would like to introduce two gentlemen here for our next
panel. one of them is a brilliant writer, incredibly keen thinker, one of the most important really intellectuals in america. the other is steve hayes. [laughter] >> i saw that coming when you started the sentence i knew where you were going. >> so in all seriousness one of the great things about working at "the weekly standard," in fact being in journalism, you get to meet a lot of people with very high intellectual horsepower. tom joseclyn, who i have known for 15 years? is one of the guys whose intellect i find genuinely intimidating. i really can't overstate how smart this guy is. to say he is an expert is counterterrorism does not begin to cover what he really is. he has trained members of the fbi counterterrorism division.
advised presidents. analyzed hundreds of thousands of documents from terrorists. without his work the government would have never released the bin laden documents without the work tom has done. he is a brilliant writer. his stuff is fantastic to read. i don't say this to embarass you, i think america owes this guy a tremendous debt for the work he has done over the years. [applause] with that, please welcome tom joseclyn, steve hayes. have a good time, guys. >> i will start by breaking two rules. the first rule is we're going to start by talking about ourselves. and then the second rule i will break, i will read something to you. doesn't that sound riveting? i think it's fun to talk a little bit just at the beginning how tom and i got to know one another because it is such a great story. i was hard at work, this is back in the days before and then
shortly after the iraq war. i was doing a lot of reporting on iraq. saddam hussein's support for jihadist terrorism including al qaeda. any manner of, all manner of. >> haweddist groups, saddam was supporting them, despite what the mainstream media said then, in many ways continues to say today. i would write these articles and occasionally get an email from a got i never heard from a hotmail account. >> which i still have by the way. >> which you still have although hacked and compromised a few times i think by the terrorists. maybe by the cia. >> no. >> i would get these e-mails, hey, read your article. really interesting stuff. i think you're right about this stuff. have you looked at this? i would go and look at whatever the tip was, and lo and behold it advanced the argument. so i would look at that, i would do some reporting and write another story. it would appear in the magazine.
i would get another email. that is really interesting what you wrote there. i'm glad you followed up on this, have you looked at this? i would follow, this went on and on and i had, you know, i gotten to know who tom was. he was a trained economist. his work in doing all sorts of by think, big head economist stuff and we started working together. finally i said to him, after he sent me the 10th or 15th tip on this stuff, why don't you write some of this for us? he said, i'm not really trained of this. i'm not much of a writer. you write some of it. you will do a great job. and he did. his first piece came in clean and smart as everything he has written for us since. he started writing more and he started writing more and next thing i know we're writing pieces together and we're collaborating on anything and everything having to do with national security and in particular jihadist terror.
>> much to my employer's -- >> the at time. >> employed by a major economic consulting firm. working on multimillion-dollar projects, why are you cowriting articles on jihadi terrorism with steve hayes? what is this all about? >> i became a lesson very quickly that tom is a lot smarter than i am. he works a lot harder than i do. >> that may be true. >> i had him write this stuff. i had him write this stuff, put my name on it. the perfect arrangement. we've been doing this for a long time. tom started to really get some acclaim. he is writing things elsewhere. everything jonathan said about him is true. tom is writing, generally regarded as one of the nation's top national security experts broadly. certainly in the field of jihadism and terrorism. he has briefed, as jonathan said, fbi, he briefed down at fort bragg, briefed nypd folks,
briefed vice presidents, briefed secretaries of state, cia directors, and i don't think i would vie lawsuit any confidences what i disclosed to you, mike pompeo, cia director, current state department secretary told me about tom, said tom is the smartest analyst on these issues of anybody i have ever come across. and he said that at the time he was running the cia. and he said, i want to be clear, i'm not denigrating people that work here. we have brilliant people working here but tom is the best. i tell you that story just so you have some idea of what you're getting. maybe just a second before i break rule number two and reed this thing, tom, a second how and why you moved from being an economist and doing the work that you were doing into this field? >> so i was reading steve's stuff. after 9/11 i actually wrote an algorithm that downloaded every
article or reference to al qaeda or jihadist terrorism you could find, dumped in an email in box to myself. it is running every day, i get it 4:00 in the morning and i read everything available publicly on the stuff. steve's articles came up in there. i thought they were much smarter than the average articles can on jihad terrorism. he was able to see things, able to put together details in ways that other sort of journalists and writers on these issues were not able to do. he could put together a composite case whereas other thinkers and writers on this could not and steve was out on a limb be saying saddam's regime in iraq was providing support to al qaeda. the first article he mentioned was actually an article i wrote because the head of the cia's bin laden, guy named michael shoyer, in 2002 he wrote a book anonymously, through our enemy's ice. in that book he had page after page he explained how the
saddam's regime colluded with al qaeda. in 2004 in middle after hotly-contested presidential election, shortly thereafter, lead up to it shoyer became publicly known, warmongering neocons like bill crystal or steve hayes would say iraq was working with al qaeda. in addition to my nerdy endeavors i get a little hotheaded. i was ticked off. i think the only person read the 2002 book he made the case himself. so i wrote simple article called, now you don't tell us. steve very kindly got it published at "weekly standard." steve sent it to a producer at tim russert at mete the press. tim russ set was one of the most honest journalists in washington. we miss him to this day. not saying because it is self-serving. he took the article on air impeached michael shoyer not a single journalist, buddy, 19
months ago you're saying exact opposite what you are saying now. only one would do it with steve's insistence. steve is not giving himself enough credit. what you have to understand, steve hayes only major journalist in washington take on the system, take on the bureaucracy. that's big thing, that's a very big thing. you have a lot of people are protected in protecting their bureaucrat turf at expense of truth and what the american people should know. that is what journalism is about. steve is taking "weekly standard," fighting bin laden files or iraq any other issues journalists don't want to fight. >> we better stop this. we'll lose everybody. way too much back scratching. >> that's true. getting into nerdy stuff. >> we're getting in the weeds. let me break rule number two. read beginning of a piece tom and i wrote together couple years back, to set the scene what we're talking about with this bin laden document stash. some of you have been with us before here.
we've talked about this several times. so this will be a timely update. and a happy update in many ways. in the early morning hours of may 2nd, 2011, a small team of american military and intelligence professionals landed inside the high white walls of a mysterious compound in abbottabad, pakistan. the code name, neptune spear had two primary objectives, capture or kill usama bin laden and capture as much intelligence as possible about the al qaeda leader and his network. a bullet to bin laden's head accomplished first. quick work of sensitive site exploitation team accomplished second. it was quite a haul. 10 hard drives, 100 thumb drives and dozen cell phones. dv. dids, audio, videotapes, data cards, reams of handwritten tears, newspapers and magazines. at a pentagon briefing days after the raid a senior military intelligence official described it as quote, the single largest collection of senior terrorist
materials ever. the united states had gotten its hand on al qaeda's playbook, its recent history, current operations, future plans. inneragency team lead by the cia got a first look at the cache. they performed a hasty scrub, called it a triage, small sliver of the document collection looking for actionable intelligence. according to direct are to have national intelligence james clapper, the team produced 400 separate reports based on information in the documents. just a small sliver of the documents. >> in six weeks. >> in six week, six-week study. basically key word searches. but what happened next is truly stunning. nothing. the analysis of the materials, the document exploitation and parlance of intelligence professionals came to an abrupt stop. according to five senior u.s. intelligence officials the documents sat largely untouched for months, perhaps as long as a year. so that's the beginning of this
project that has turned into something of an obsession for me and tom. we have, our view from the beginning, talking to intelligence professionals, military leaders, was that this contained valuable information that our warfighters should have access to. initially after that first scrub, that first triage, the cia had what was called executive authority over the document collection. that means the cia and only the cia had access to the documents. remember the creation of the directorate of national intelligence was supposed to stop that. it was supposed to contribute to broader document sharing so other parts of the intelligence community could perform their own analyses of materials. we thought it particularly important people at centcom, defense intelligence agency get their hands on this since they were supplying information to the people on the battlefield, to the people actually fighting in these places but the dia was for a long time blocked.
they were not given access to the documents. the cia said simply you don't get it. didn't have to give much of an explanation. there was a long, protracted bureaucratic turf battle. won't bore you with details. the details in most cases are anything but boring. they're really interesting but we don't have enough time to go through all the details. so skipping forward we pushed extensively to get these documents released. they were ultimately a provision requiring them to be released was included in the 2014 intelligence authorization act and that required the director of national intelligence to start releasing these documents to the public. well the dni, then james clapper, was reluctant to do this. tom is going to i think give you a pretty good idea why he was reluctant to do this. so they put out 40 documents here and 50 documents here. some of them included interesting material.
some of them were sort of silly things. and the entire time the argument from the obama administration was, there is nothing to see here. there is really nothing to see here. nobody's interested in this. it doesn't tell us anything. and oh, by the way al qaeda is on the run or al qaeda is decimated. we don't have to worry about them anymore. the more we talked to our sources the more we understood just how wrong that was. and when you hear people today say there was no scandal in the obama administration, first of all i could list about 10 others, this is the biggest one in my estimation. they hid this body of documentation about al qaeda, what it was up to, about overlap with state networks, about the ways in which it adapted adjusted to the war as we took the fight to al qaeda, they with held it from lawmakers for a long time. withheld it from other parts of the intelligence community and withheld it from the american
people. they did this at a time when the united states was engaged in a national debate about these issues. there are documents that some of which have been released, some of which we have and have written about, some of which we don't yet even have, relating to the relationship between al qaeda and iran and support that the iranian regime provided to al qaeda, despite their theological differences. those documents would have been very helpful to see in the debate about the iran deal. what is the iranian regime up to. if the iranian regime is providing support to al qaeda what does that tell us about their broader approach, what does that tell us about how they treat us? these are the issues we dove into, why we pushed as hard as we did to get the documents released. i will turn it over to tom to go there. this will be a rather compelling presentation as to just what it was we ought to have known
earlier and just how big of a scandal this is. >> do you want to, so we'll do, play a few clips here first from my presentation of obama administration officials who are characterizing the bin laden files. and now because we worked to get the files released we have the actual files. so i can actually see what they were citing and how they were misciting the files and how they were politicizing intelligence in real time to justify their policy prescriptions or ideas and their ideology. can we play the first clip? this is john brennan. >> indeed the decade before 9/11 was time of al qaeda's rise and decade after 9/11 was the time of its decline, then i believe this decade will be the one that sees its demise. >> so this is john brennan, national security advisor to president barack obama. this speech was april 30th, 2012, at the wilson center. i teed up this little short clip because it starts by showing you what this was all about.
during 2002 presidential don't worry about the al qaeda threat. barack obama that he brought responsible end to the iraq war. not true. he says that you know, basically will do the same thing in afghanistan. he will end the war. not true. as if he can do that unilaterally. if you're looking bin laden's files, see how the terror master himself saw the world that can complicate your political arguments greatly. the first clip of john brennan basically explaining their viewpoint, he thought that al qaeda, remember before the rise of isis, this does have to do with isis by the way. this is before the rise of isis. brennan says next decade it is all over. >> jihadist terror is done. >> don't worry about it. >> we're now a year and half the end of the next decade. >> play the second clip. pay attention carefully what he says. there are multiple lies in here.
>> pakistani forces. with this most skilled and experienced commanders being lost so quickly, al qaeda has had trouble replacing them. this is one of the many conclusions we have been able to draw from documents seized at bin laden's compound. some of which will be pubbished online first time this week by west point's combating terrorism center. for example, bin laden worried about and i quote, the rise of lower leaders who are not as experienced and this would lead to the repeat of mistakes. al qaeda leaders continue to struggle to communicate with subordinates and affiliates. under intense pressure in the tribal regions of pakistan they have fewer places to train and groom the next generation of operatives. they're struggling to attract new recruits. morale is low with intelligence indicating that some members are giving up and returning home, no doubt aware that this is a fight they will never win. in short al qaeda is losing badly. and bin laden knew it at the time of his death.
in documents we seized he confess toddies sasster after disdisaster. urged leaders to leave tribal regions go away from aircraft photography and bombardment. for all of these reasons -- >> so a few things about this. one this is where we first detected playing serious political games with intelligence from bin laden's files. people i talking to, what brennan was saying here, highly selective at best. i have a file here, this is one of the files which, remember he leads off this clip here, talking about how al qaeda struggling to replace its fallen leaders that obama has taken them all out. don't worry about it. they can't replace them at all. just a few months before bin laden was killed he received a memo talking about their current leadership status, what they were doing to in fact replace leaders being killed in the drone strikes. and his top manager at time,
rachman, sends him a detailed memo, not only do we have old generation guys who are still around who can fill in the second layer of our leadership tier, we have new generation we're grooming. we successfully done this, with a lot of talent coming up in this new generation this was written few months before bin laden was killed, several months before bin laden was killed early morning hours of may 2011. some of the guys listed in this document, contrary to what bin laden have you believe, they're still in the game, still senior al qaeda leaders. al qaeda knew we were trying to take out leadership. they took steps to prevent total decapitation. they groomed new guys to replace old ones. obama folks never wanted to tell you that. hey, they have taken steps to counteract what we're doing. two other things about the clip. one, brennan claims that bin laden was struggling to communicate with affiliates. al qaeda leaders struggling to communicate with affiliates. he talks about how they're
struggling to communicate with al qaeda affiliates. that is flat-out false. one of the things we're working on, basically a week week by wek timeline of all the correspondence that bin laden was having. and what you would see he was frequent pen pal to all sorts of terrorists around the globe, everywhere from west africa to southeast asia. he was getting detailed memos like this one, multiple pages, this is 12 pages total in arabic, that summarized communications from multiple people around the globe all over the place. exact opposite what brennan said. interesting, why would he say that? why would he say bin laden wasn't communicating with all the other parties around the globe? if you look at it through the obama administration world view, they wanted to say it is all over. if these other groups really are connected to al qaeda are part of al qaeda and being groomed by al qaeda to lead going forward, this thing is metastasizing they said, spreading across the globe but really part of al qaeda's structure, well, that means your whole narrative about 9/11 war
being over falls flat, doesn't it? i coinedded with people in the intelligence community, what the obama folks played disconnect dots. when you had intelligence that connected bin laden to other entities around the globe they would downplay that because it didn't fit their idealogical world view and policies they preferred. let's go ahead, play the next clip. this is from president barack obama. this one i think is stunning. go ahead. >> to begin with, our actions are effective. don't take my word for it. in the intelligence gathered at bin laden's compound we found that he wrote, we could lose the reserves to enemy airstrikes. we can not fight airstrikes with explosives. other communications from al qaeda operatives confirmed this as well. >> so obama is there cites two lines from a 17-page letter that osama bin laden wrote. guess what he takes entirely out
of context ignores all parts of the letter that contradict what he was saying. in fact right here, you can see, hold this up, there are two lines at bottom i highlighted what obama cited f you read the preceding paragraphs they all directly contradict the point he was trying to make. what he says is, bin laden wrote, correct, basically we could lose reserves to enemy airstrikes. we can not fight airstrikes with explosives. correct. why bin laden said we won't put reserves on the front line to allow you to bomb them to death. the whole point of the letter, exact opposite what obama's tactics were weren't going to work, we'll keep reserves out of the front lines to make sure you can't kill them. not only did, is that what bin laden actually said was, oma, worldwide community of muslims that bin laden pretended to speak for, oma should put forward some, enough forces to fight america. the oma mutt keep some forces on reserve. this will be in the oma best interests.
meanwhile we do not want to send reserves to the front lines especially area where enemy only uses airstrikes to attack forces. so the reserves for not for most part be effective in such conflicts they're not on the front lines where we're getting bombed. then the two lines obama picks up on saying we're, look how effective we are taking these guys out. what is amazing about this letter that obama selectively cited from this major speech, this was may 2013 speech at national defense university. this sun with his three or four top presidential addresses on jihadism, terrorism, al qaeda, 9/11 wars. this is one -- in history books this will be one of three or four speeches go down as seminal obama speech on these issues. to give you a example how badly he politicized this the next page from the same file he is talking about how they hemmed al qaeda in and going to keep them at bay. bin laden wrote, we still have a powerful force we can organize to prepare for deployment. the organization in process and
preparation for deployment needs time. in other words we have more forces. he goes on to explain the two main battles field will americans are, are iraq and afghanistan. well, what was the whole point of obama's speech in brennan speech, all these other speeches they gave? we're out. responsible end of war to iraq. we'll do the same thing in afghanistan. here in the files that he himself citing president of the united states, the terror master himself say those are the two principle battlefields we're fighting on. not only that but bin laden wrote, this is before the rise of isis, remember, the reason they're fighting there, this is our best chance to create a caliphate. john brennan, who you saw in the first clip in another speech called the jihadist dream building caliphate, absurd, feckless dilution, that is his words, not mine, absurd, feckless, dilution we will not organize our counterterrorism principles around. if they looked at enemy, looking
at files, maybe would have stopped rise of isis. isis was offshoot of al qaeda. groomed at i recall stages of al qaeda. i won't get into all that here. let's get into the last clip here. >> how many al qaeda do you think are in afghanistan? >> i think the, you know the estimate on number of al qaeda is actually relatively small. i think at most we're looking maybe 50 to 100, maybe less, in that vicinity. there is no question that the main location of al qaeda is in the tribal areas of pakistan. >> let me tell you about this assessment. so, this is leon panetta, cia director for obama at the time. that footage from july 29th, 2010. and he says at the time that there are only 50 to 100 al qaeda guys in all afghanistan. that is it all in afghanistan. lo and behold subsequently came out of bin ben's compound
includes a status up tate on their fighting in afghanistan, written eight days before panetta got on tv said that the u.s. government did not have this file at the time panetta made assessment. it did have the file months later in 2011s right? it never changed that erroneous assessment. so what panetta says there stands more than six years, or about six years. now what is the assessment? eight days before panetta gets on abc, what does al qaeda's assessment say about their presence in afghanistan? the author to bin laden our groups inside afghanistan are the same they have been every season for many years. he lists eight different provinces that al qaeda is fighting us. this is what he says. we have very strong military activity in afghanistan, many special operations and americans and nato are being hit hard. he goes on to explain, just one al qaeda battalion had 70 fighters in it. that is greater than the cia's entire estimate of al qaeda's
presence for all of afghanistan. just one al qaeda battalion in afghanistan had more than the low end of the estimate leon panetta giving on tv for entirety of al qaeda in afghanistan. he goes on to explain how they're working with various taliban figures. thatthat is a he various key po. several other things we'll get into. go real quick. want to do this very quickly. there were series of assumption obama folks made about the world were disproven in the bin laden files. one of which, this ties to current events you guys are up on, 2011 with the outbreak of the arab uprising, arab revolutions. there was this big meme across washington, that is the death knell of screen haweddism. political process is opened up jihadist countries. jihadists don't have a play. don't worry about al qaeda spreading. it's a all done, right? not only al qaeda spread in the arab spring, it led to rise of
more virulent jihadist threat in isis. not only al qaeda took advantage of arab spring, but isis built on al qaeda. in any event what did bin laden say about the arab up rising? cia, there were series of clips i could play, arab uprisings are the end for al qaeda. what did bin laden say? bin laden wrote, what we are seeing these days of consecutive revolutions is great, glorious event, moist probable according to reality in history will encompass majority of islamic world. he writes we'll take advantage of this for our own, for our own ideology and our own organization. he writes, there are many different vehicles they can do for this. this is another letter he gets from one of his top lieutenants again on arab uprising, arab spring. he also had, this is weeks before bin laden is killed, remember at time, set the scene here, obama administration officials in early 2011, through
2011, through 2012, benghazi attacks, september, 2012, they're telling american public. it is all over. we're coming home. al qaeda isn't spreading. offshoots are affiliates but not really al qaeda, local threats. well, here is a letter that bin laden received explaining jihadist threat, how they would take advantage of the arab spring. one of the things, this is written in april of 2011. if this file had been properly analyzed, then people would have understood sort of what was coming in the months to come. and what he says is, take libya as an example. the last thing we have heard from the brothers in libya they started to arrange their affairs. there is active jihadist islamic renaissance underway in eastern libya, especially benghazi. this is april 2011 of the file goes on to say, they're already receiving communications from al qaeda operatives in libya, including in benghazi at this early stage. i'm going to give you two other
ones. i will wrap this up, i could nerd out obviously as you could guess for hours. >> it is true. he can. >> quickly in five minutes. steve loves this one. i love this one too. so undersecretary of state hillary clinton -- >> you will all love this one. >> this is fun. undersecretary of state hillary clinton of the big idea for the state department we'll negotiate with the taliban to get a peace deal where they will foreswear al qaeda and that will pave the way for to us withdraw from afghanistan. because they will not back al qaeda. they will not al qaeda to stage attacks anymore from afghan soil. find a taliban emmys sir ray. this emissary will move forward to basically end the afghan war. that emissary after several is frauds were put forth to the state department, they finally found a guy who was the real deal. clinton, and her people nicknamed a-rod as alex
rodriguez he would be most valuable player for delivering are her peace deal. >> this is in her book. >> hard choices, look at heart choices her memoir had to dissect at one point, it is laborious details. many details would confirm exactly what would you expect. who, oh, pray tell was he funding right before the times he has talks with state department? al qaeda. had here is a file from bin laden's compound, late twine, early 2010, right before the talks which agai is listed as main fund-raiser for them in the most recent cycle of fund-raising. he delivers the most funds for anybody for bin laden's covers, just months before the state department embrace this is guy as. a rod. there are other files in the bin laden compound like this, showing correspondence back and forth from this guy. i want you to think about this. at the time that our diplomats
are supposed to be professionals and diplomacy pushing to advance american interests, negotiating with this guy, who is he also talking to? bin laden in his islamabad compound. giving him intel what is going on. previously had been fund-raising for him. give you another state department goodie, under the clinton years, there was this big, tortuous debate whether or not boko haram in nigeria should be designated terroristorgization. everybody knows here boko haram. they kidnap girls, they're totally psychotic. it is awful. this debate hinged on pseudo intellectual idea, they may be local extreme it group and they're not tied to al qaeda. we don't want to lump them in with global screen hawed and a al qaeda and make them a bigger threat than they were. turn to the obama files. the head of boko haram had
written to bin laden asking for unity under common banner. here is the official authorization for al qaeda in islamic maghreb reports directly to bin laden they will give money, funding weapons to boko haram for training. this is 2009, before this whole debate is occurring whether or not boko haram is really part of the al qaeda network at time. this organization wasn't even designated a terrorist organization right away because of this ridiculous assumption that it didn't really have any ties to al qaeda and global network. meanwhile smoking gun files are found in bin laden's compound should have told everybody that wasn't true. last one, this is the one steve and i have the most fun with, because it ticks off bad guys in washington, ben rhodes and echo chamber. they really hit this one. one of the things we documented over and over again, despite al qaeda and iran are at odds, iranian regime, and al qaeda are at odds in various places they have curious deals where iranian
regime allows key al qaeda personnel, senior personnel to operate on iranian soil. i referenced file talking about new generation of leadership for al qaeda they were grooming? guess where number one guy is today? inside iran. defense minister, running operations for seven different countries from iranian soil. some of the files forced out, when the obama administration officers released files they didn't want to release files. these trickled out over time. we kept on them. one of the files subsequently came out was a file from osama bin laden dressing down his top leader in iraq. the leader of al qaeda in iraq threatened iranians. bin laden says whoa, whoa, what are you doing? you can't be threatening iranians of the reason you can't be threatening iranians is this we expected you would consult with us on these important matters for as you are well aware iran is our main artery for funds, personnel and
communications. the main artery for the al qaeda organization according to bin laden himself in his own hand is on iranian soil. so i will give you this one last file just came out again in this last release. so bin laden, much like myself had research ocd. so you had everything compiled nicely so you can keep track of everything. one of the things he would get is personnel files. this is in arabic. we translated it. it basically listed the top facilitators where they were. most of them in afghanistan and pakistan but the number one guy i highlighted his name in arabic, number one guy on the list most important is yassin al kurd di, will give the audience one guess, one guess alone where his personnel file says he is based? inside iran. that's right. under an agreement with the iranian regime. this is the type of stuff a lot of energy has been put into
washington to play disconnect the dots on, try to explain away, to try to say it doesn't exist. that, you know, for some reason we're in the wrong for pointing out facts from bin laden's compound. these are not intelligence assessments based on second or third hand sources. these are from the horse's mouth himself as he is running this international enterprise. leave you on one last point. i don't know if you have anything else to add, this absolutely has to do with isis as well. one of the most common misconceptions that isis brand new organization that popped out of nowhere. no. what you see in the bin laden files, we have processed, dozens and dozens of nice now involving reports from iraq on what is going there. bin laden and al qaeda senior leadership from pakistan was managing their al qaeda in iraq, and immediate predecessor to current isis, they were managing that for years. eventually a power struggle develops in the jihadi world. way i describe it,
osama bin laden is the don of the mafia, one of the captains says i don't want to be a captain anymore, i want to be don, right? that happens with al-baghdadi and rise of isis. we'll take the groundwork al qaeda built, go our own way with it, do our own thing with it. if the u.s. government had properly assessed these files they would have understood the amount of resources that al qaeda and jihadists put into iraq. they would have understood it would have the ability to bounce back after we withdrew from iraq. maybe they wouldn't predict the rise of isis itself, i give you one audio recording said to bin laden, one of the lieutenants said, sheikh, even if we lose the islamic state of iraq we'll be able to wage jihad for generations to come. that is something the obama administration did not want to hear. [applause] >> so we've got, lots and lots
of questions, which is good. let me just add before we get to these, we'll try to go through them pretty quickly, sort of current state of play on the bin laden documents. we'll touch on this in a little bit in the next discussion i have with michael anton, who is inside the nsc when these documents were finally released. the trump administration released these documents. in january of -- >> november 1st, 2017. >> november 1st, see tom knows these things. in january -- >> 2017. >> january 19th of 2017, the obama administration, these documents had not yet been released. the obama administration put out a press release, director of national intelligence, james clapper, put out a press release included couple dozen additional bin laden files. >> yeah. >> the press release declared
that all of the files had been released. that was it. that is january 19th of 2017. >> hundreds of thousands of files had not been released. hundred of thousands. they released 282 out of hundreds of thousands of files. that press release came from something, a note from odi, office director national intelligence, only thing to see in file al qaeda and iran they hate each other. nothing about the main artery of al qaeda organization being inside of iran of the they did not want to say that. >> that document, that january 19th document, i would say, it might be, in my two decade plus of covering these issues and covering washington, the single most misleading document i have ever seen in, one lie after another. the documents suggest that iran and al qaeda are working together. bin laden says this is the main artery. this is how we replenish.
this is what we do. that document says they don't like each other. they won't mess with each other. but those documents are out. and what's sort of stunning to me, we're seeing the same thing, much the same thing in the broader public, in the academic community we saw in the intelligence community before. not a lot of people are taking the time to look at these documents. poor tom, who taught himself arabic, going through the documents one after another, after another, with the help of some of our friends. >> we're the dogs that caught the car. >> let's jump to questions so we can get through a few of these. did obama administration officials offer protection of sources and methods as a reason to we're hold the bin laden documents? if so, was it valid? >> they only sometimes would float this there is quick retort they were well aware of. sources, well, they're
bin laden's files. everybody knows we killed him. everybody knows we got them of the bad twice no we got them. there is no sources or methods to protect because we procured this in that particular, very well-publicized manner. in fact our side was citing some of the files. up to the point, this is what is really funny about this. for a period over a year al qaeda was transparent what was in bin laden's files than obama administration. osama bin laden's success are al-zawahiri would have the long diatribes, as the sheikh noted in all these files you guys recovered, he would list them in the files, this date, this is what it says, why aren't you referring to this? they were actually giving as you tell. no, only thing you could worry about in the files were there specific things to do with american agents that they had uncovered or specific personalities who may be compromised in a very small, handful of files. and there may be a case in
southerner ran, beluga stan they recovered agents. the argument doesn't hold water. >> from talking to some of these people, guy named ned price, had been a spokesman for the cia, later a spokesman for the director of national intelligence -- >> serial liar by the way. >> sometimes make totally contradictory arguments to me in the space of days. so when we were pursuing a particular document that we thought was useful and should be seen by the american public, we would get that argument. this stuff is, this stuff is way too valuable to just let this out, to let people see it. it has got all of this valuable intelligence information. we have to withhold it because people can't be allowed to see that stuff. and literally days later, i would call and talk to the same person, he would say, there is nothing in the files. there is nothing there. what do you guys think you're going to find? it is all old newspapers. nothing in the files.
they would literally make those arguments within days of one another, which suggests the level of -- >> give you one more nerdy detail. you guys remember last year trump administration put into effect controversial laptop ban on certain flights, if you were coming from international flights you couldn't put laptop on your seat, carry it on you, stowed it away. we found the file just recently of the original report to bin laden because this was actually an al qaeda threat, they say, sheikh, we devised perfected our laptop bomb. can get it on a plane. it is in the files. this laptop ban became controversial people thought it was motivated by something other than real intelligence. well you can see this was a threat percolating for years. in fact bin laden himself overseen the efforts to develop these types of sophisticated explosives to smuggle on to civilian aircraft. >> which organizations in the u.s. government can be trusted to provide the government and
the u.s. people current and accurate intelligence agencies? let me rephrase that or add to that question. is there a deep state? >> you know i got to tell you, i think in one sense there is in fact a deep state. it is this. twofold, actually. one, bureaucratic interests protect themselves. so there is a deep state mechanism that says we have to protect the bureaucracy at all costs. if you're protecting the bureaucracy, that means you may be taking liberties with the truth, not care about the truth at all. so in that sense, that first sense it is very important motivator for a lot of people. there is a deep state along those lines. the second one is, policy grounds, without getting into all the trump battles with deep state, fair number of people in the intelligence community who think they should tell us what we should think and how we should view the world and what we should view policy to be. i'm sorry, your right as american voters to vote on elected representatives who will
represent the policies of this country, not to unelected bureaucrat sitting in an office somewhere in washington. [applause] >> the other, i think there are institutional, internal institutional biases at work. a lot of what we're talking about sort of broaden the focus a little bit, you have intelligence analysts who for years have made assessments, have provided assessments, this what we think we know. this is what we think we know. they would update these assessments. when you get, this is the answer sheet to the test, right? you can correct your work. you can check your work. and they didn't want to check their work. the intelligence community had said for years, intelligence assessment after intelligence assessment, there was no way the shiites, iranian mullahs, would cooperate with the sunni extremists of al qaeda. their differences are far too great. they would never cooperate. lo and behold we have this
documentation suggests they not only cooperated they were essential to one another. the same is true with the taliban and al qaeda. you had the intelligence community, u.s. intelligence community trying to say on the one hand, we can work with the taliban. there are lots of moderates in the taliban, including taliban leadership. we can separate them from al qaeda who are really irredeemable, irreconcilable. work with the taliban to establish governing structure in afghanistan. and again, we get these documents and you look at the documents, well, you can't separate them at all. the last, the last one is on the demise of al qaeda, i mean president obama and john brennan in the clips at that tom played, they were, leaning far forward beyond where the intelligence assessments were how far gone, how damaged al qaeda was, but that doesn't mean that there weren't such intelligence assessments. there were intelligence assessments like one tom
mentioned 50 al qaeda fighters in all of afghanistan. that was the standard intel assessment for the u.s. intelligence community for six years and it was totally and completely false. the documents showed that it was false. we later found a training camp that tom and others had identified. >> thank you for bringing this up. so that is the punch line on that point. 50 to 100, they didn't correct it for six years. the reason why they eventually corrected it, even though they had the files, they would have corrected assessments there are only 50 to 100 twice in afghanistan disproving from variety of sources including when files came out, they had this five of six years they had this file and other files to correct that assessment and didn't correct it. eventually think corrected it and why. this is stunning. most people don't know this in october 2015 the u.s. military and our afghan allies discovered the largest al qaeda training camp in afghanistan's history. 30 square miles. it was a town.
they were churning out fighters every day. at a time, when the u.s. government was telling us, including president of the united states was saying core al qaeda is decimated, shadow of its former self, al qaeda had its largest training camp in history in afghanistan. if they would have known that was coming, if they corrected their assessments years earlier they had primary source data at their fingertips. they wouldn't do it. that is stunning example. >> a lot of why we're fighting al qaeda and isis jihadists the way that we're fighting them today is as a result of not taking advantage, not learning about our enemy. the enemy is telling us here it is. they chose, they chose not to learn. let me go on. let me jump in. if mike pompeo is such a fan of yours, tom, why are you not working for the cia? think of contribution you could make. >> yeah, right. imagine working for a work place where you know, a lot of the people you're going into work
already hate you because you've been critiquing them for years. you think you will have a lot of success turning that out? come on. once you get a security clearance, they then can tell me what i can say and can't say. they can hold that over me. guess what, i can do a lot of what i need to do out here in public. i like it. 85 to 90% of information i need to do my job is public. use usually we beat those guys an assessments. beat them on afghanistan. here is how bad, this is what i was going to add. i was briefing another senior white house official, very senior, he told me the assessments he was receiving from the top analysts of office of director national intelligence, like those analysts were defacto taliban apologists. there was no difference between the analysis they were giving him and a taliban press release. so when i mustered some brief facts to show him in fact al qaeda was deeply embedded with taliban was deeply embedded with taliban this day, something
he was not hearing at all from top intelligence analyst. they were going out of their way to dispute. one of the guys mentioned in bin laden files, key ally in afghanistan is number two of the taliban overall, number two guy for warlord has been in al qaeda east pocket for years. >> lightning round. we heard a lot of lot of talk about isis being defeated. in fact we've had vice president pence give eachs that used language sounds a lot like the language that barack obama used to describe al qaeda. do you have thoughts on that? >> i have thoughts on that. i told them not to use language. i told the obama administration, biggest mistake with the trump administration, president trump is dying to say isis is defeated. he wants to say they're gone, don't worry about it. we collect data every morning what isis is doing in iraq and syria, around the world. they have started to mimic some
of the same terrible sort of saying that the obama administration had. they started icing phrases, on the run, decimated, this sort of thing. we've been very clear to the trump administration, white house, don't go down this route. you're under selling what is going on. the american people need a clear assessment what is happening. don't go for cheap political victory. you can take credit for victories. obama takes credit for carrying out obama raid and taking out a few high value terrorists but don't oversell the picture. >> that is pretty good for lightning. >> for me that is good as it gets. >> what do you feel about waterboarding now? light of all this? >> actually revised my assessment on waterboarding a little bit because some of what was said about waterboarding was inaccurate. some of the ways cia explained waterboarding is no different than what navy servicemen go
through as part of their training. that is not true. when you read detailed description what is happen, it was far more severe than our navy servicemen. one of our guys went into seizures from the waterboarding experience that is the not typical experience ever somebody going through training. look, there is a lot of people obsessed with this issue. my view at end of the day, the waterboarding was used on three senior al qaeda terrorists who had american brood on their hands. nobody would objected if we droned them to death. bombed them to death early on, nobody complained. bottom line we got intelligence out of them. methods were controversial some i would not have employed. we did get valuable intelligence. at the end of the day that is better than just killing them and not getting intelligence at all. >> it worries me, i think gina haspel opposed release of bin laden documents by the way. i still like her. i disagreed with her on that. i disagree with her on
interrogation. i think it should be part of the tool box, united states should retain the ability to use enhanced interrogation techniques to extract information from these bad guys in the case of, in exigent circumstances. it worries me, she not only said we shouldn't have done this, won't do it in the future, but that she sort of went further, said cia should not be in the interrogation business at all. somebody has got to do it. right now it's people on battlefield who don't have experience in interrogations. >> or allies. >> we ship them to dubious allies. you're already taking information secondhand. or it's the fbi who has to, whose interrogating these people for entirely different reasons, for law enforcement, for prosecutorial reasons. we don't really have a serious interrogation program in the u.s. government right now.
and it will get hit again. it will happen again. last question for tom. what are the consequences for those who lied to us? >> they're basically are none, unless there is more accountability somehow, i guess at ballot box or from the american people. i don't think there will be any accountability, the problem it's a swamp in washington, you know. great people like steve and people. >> no noter how many files we throw at them showing their talking about they will not car. mainstream journalists in big publications, who know about the story, saw it first-hand, know the files are important. yet will never be a-1 above the full story at "washington post" or "new york times" or any of these places. >> thank you very much, tom. appreciate it.