Category Archive 'FOB Chapman Bombing'

17 Apr 2010

Goodbye, Mr. Kappes

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Stephen R. Kappes
Stephen R. Kappes has announced his retirement as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency next month.

WaPoNew York Times

Kappes dramatically returned in triumph to the CIA as DDCIA in May of 2006, having come close to being appointed Director but being edged out by Leon Panetta. Kappes was the preferred candidate for the directorship of Senators Jay Rockefeller and Diane Feinstein, and his Deputy Directorship was a concession to Feinstein.

Kappes had earlier resigned as Deputy Director of Operations in November of 2004 after a brief interval of conflict with Porter Goss, who had been appointed CIA Director with a charter to reform the Agency in late September. Stephen Hayes describes what happened.

On November 5, Goss’s new chief of staff Patrick Murray confronted Mary Margaret Graham, then serving as associate deputy director for counterterrorism in the directorate of operations. The two discussed several items, including the prospective replacement for Kostiw, a CIA veteran named Kyle “Dusty” Foggo. Murray had a simple message: No more leaks.

Graham took offense at the accusatory warning and notified her boss, Michael Sulick, who in turn notified his boss, Stephen Kappes. A meeting of Goss, Murray, Sulick, and Kappes followed. Goss attended most of the meeting, in which the two new CIA leaders reiterated their concern about leaks. After Goss left, Murray once again warned the two career CIA officials that leaks would not be tolerated. According to a source with knowledge of the incident, Sulick took offense, called Murray “a Hill puke,” and threw a stack of papers in his direction.

Goss summoned Kappes the following day. Although others in the new CIA leadership believed Sulick’s behavior was an act of insubordination worthy of firing, Goss didn’t go quite that far. He ordered Kappes to reassign Sulick to a position outside of the building. Goss suggested Sulick be named New York City station chief. Kappes refused and threatened to resign if Sulick were reassigned. Goss accepted his resignation and Sulick soon followed him out the door.

William Safire referred at the time to the exodus of “a flock of pouting spooks at Langley who bet on a Kerry victory.”

Stephen Kappes had a distinguished career in CIA Operations, but he was one of the central figures in Agency efforts to oppose the policies of a Republican elected administration.

Scott Johnson, at Power-line, quotes the pseudononymous former CIA case officer and author “Ishmael Jones” on the reasons for Kappes’ resignation.

His departure suggests that the Obama administration understands that the status quo at the CIA is unacceptable.

The bomb attack at the CIA base in Khost helped push Kappes out. Kappes had personally briefed President Obama on the quality of the operation beforehand. Following the bombing, we learned that the operation had been a classic bureaucratic boondoggle: 14 people, many with little experience, had met the agent when there should have been only one. Espionage is a one on one business. With so many layers of management involved both in the field and at Headquarters, the chain of command was vague and no-one was really in charge. The CIA’s chief at Khost was set up for failure.

Kappes then attempted to recover from the Khost debacle by leaking news of the defection of an Iranian nuclear scientist. But closer examination showed this to be a hollow achievement. CIA officers are taught to keep agents operating in place because once they defect, their access to intelligence is lost. Defection is an option only when the agent’s life is at risk. And then, once an agent has defected, the news is not to be leaked to the press. The scientist in question turned out to be a low-level participant in the Iranian program who had left the program almost a year ago.

Kappes had outlived his usefulness and become a liability. And so, like Jeremiah Wright, under the bus he goes.

18 Mar 2010

FOB Chapman Bombing Avenged

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CBS
Thought to be a photo of Hussami

Last week, a predator drone strike in Waziristan sent a number of al Qaeda militants to the Prophet’s Paradise, including a top trainer who helped arrange the suicide bombing at a CIA post in Afghanistan last December.

Bill Roggio
reports.

The US killed a key al Qaeda operative involved in the network’s external operations during an airstrike last week in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, who is also known as Ghazwan al Yemeni, was killed during the March 10 airstrike in the town of Miramshah, according to a statement released on a jihadist forum.

The March 10 airstrike was carried out by unmanned US attack aircraft and targeted two terrorist compounds in the middle of a bazaar in the town. Six Haqqani Network and al Qaeda operatives were reported killed.

Three other al Qaeda operatives, identified as Abu Jameelah al Kuwaiti Hamed al Aazimi, who served with slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi; Abu Zahra al Maghrebi; and Akramah al Bunjabi al Pakistani, were killed with Hussami, according to a translation of the martyrdom statement released on March 12 by Abu Abdulrahman al Qahtani, who is said to be based in Waziristan. The statement was posted on the Al Falluja Forum and a translation is provided by Global Terror Alert. [For more information on Aazimi, see Threat Matrix report, “Al Qaeda operative killed in Pakistan linked to Zarqawi.”]

According to Qahtani, Hussami was a protégé of Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s top bomb maker and WMD chief who was killed in a US airstrike in July 2008. Hussami was in a prison in Yemen but was released at an unknown point in time.

Hussami “was involved in training Taliban and foreign al Qaeda recruits for strikes on troops in Afghanistan and targets outside the region,” The Wall Street Journal reported. He “was also on a small council that helped plan” the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman that killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The slain intelligence operatives were involved in gathering intelligence for the hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban leaders along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

“Hussami was a skilled operative high up in al Qaeda’s external operations network,” a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “He also has direct links to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the terror branch that operates in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

“He was sorely wanted for his involvement in the COP Chapman suicide attack,” the intelligence official continued. Hussami is said to have been instrumental in helping the Jordanian suicide bomber Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, who is also known as Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, plan and execute the attack.

Hussami is the first al Qaeda operative killed by the US who is directly linked to the suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman. The US has been hunting Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, after he appeared on a videotape with Khurasani.

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Hussami’s death was considered sufficient cause for Leon Panetta to indulge in a certain amount of public self congratulation on behalf of the Agency and the current administration.

Aggressive attacks against al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal region have driven Osama bin Laden and his top deputies deeper into hiding and disrupted their ability to plan sophisticated operations, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Wednesday.

So profound is al-Qaeda’s disarray that one of its lieutenants, in a recently intercepted message, pleaded with bin Laden to come to the group’s rescue and provide some leadership, Panetta said. He credited improved coordination with Pakistan’s government and what he called “the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history,” offering a near-acknowledgment of what is officially a secret war.

“Those operations are seriously disrupting al-Qaeda,” Panetta said. “It’s pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run.” …

t he said the combined U.S.-Pakistani campaign is taking a steady toll in terms of al-Qaeda leaders killed and captured, and is undercutting the group’s ability to coordinate attacks outside its base along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

To illustrate that progress, U.S. intelligence officials revealed new details of a March 8 killing of a top al-Qaeda commander in the militant stronghold of Miram Shah in North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s autonomous tribal region. The al-Qaeda official died in what local news reports described as a missile strike by an unmanned aerial vehicle. In keeping with long-standing practice, the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the CIA formally declines to acknowledge U.S. participation in attacks inside Pakistani territory.

Hussein al-Yemeni, the man killed in the attack, was identified by one intelligence official as among al-Qaeda’s top 20 leaders and a participant in the planning for a Dec. 30 suicide bombing at a CIA base in the province of Khost in eastern Afghanistan. The bombing, in which a Jordanian double agent gained access to the CIA base and killed seven officers and contractors, was the deadliest single blow against the agency in a quarter-century.

This is the same Central Intelligence Agency that is winning on Wednesday that includes elements who leaked to the New York Times for publication two days earlier a story alleging that private contractor efforts which seem to have been succeeding rather well in identifying enemy targets have been conducted in contravention of unspecified Intelligence statutes and International Law, and represented a fraudulent diversion of funds.

If I were Mr. Panetta, I’d be doing something about some of my own internal adversaries, those in the habit of employing leaks and innuendo to undermine Agency efforts in the field. It is also essential to do something to terminate the enthusiastic cooperation of their establishment media allies and enablers. Putting a Hellfire missile into certain offices at the New York Times and the Washington Post may be off-limits, but there is still on the books an Intelligence Act of 1917, which makes it a crime to convey information with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies, punishable by death or by imprisonment for not more than 30 years.

If the private contractor operation mentioned by the Times on Monday really was, as seems most probable, a legitimate US Intelligence covert operation, Messrs. Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazetti of the New York Times and their informants could very well be guilty of producing “false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies and whoever when the United States is at war.” False reports or statements in such a case would be punishable by a fine and 20 years in prison.

The Bush Administration chickened out on prosecuting its leakers, and the result has been a dysfunctional situation in which certain members of the Intelligence community are permitted to exercise their own liberum veto over policies and operations.

04 Jan 2010

Al Qaeda Suicide Bomber Was Jordanian Doctor

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MSNBC has more details on the circumstances of the disaster at FOB Chapman.

The suicide bombing on a CIA base in Afghanistan last week was carried out by a Jordanian doctor who was an al-Qaida double agent, Western intelligence officials told NBC News.

Initial reports said that the attack, which killed seven CIA officers, was carried out by a member of the Afghan National Army.

According to Western intelligence officials, the perpetrator was Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, 36, an al-Qaida sympathizer from the town of Zarqa, which is also the hometown of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant Islamist responsible for several devastating attacks in Iraq.

Al-Balawi was arrested by Jordanian intelligence more than a year ago. However, the Jordanians believed that al-Balawi had been successfully reformed and brought over to the American and Jordanian side, setting him up as an agent and sending him off to Afghanistan and Pakistan to infiltrate al-Qaida.

His specific mission, according to officials, was to find and meet Ayman al Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s No. 2, also a physician.

However, the Al-Jazeera Web site quoted a Taliban spokesman who said al-Balawi misled Jordanian and U.S. intelligence services for a year. The spokesman, Al-Hajj Ya’qub, promised to release a video confirming his account of the attack.

Last week, according to the Western officials, al-Balawi reportedly called his handler to say he needed to meet with the CIA’s team based in Khost, Afghanistan, because he said he had urgent information he needed to relay about Zawahiri.

His handler was a senior intelligence official, identified in Jordanian press accounts as Sharif Ali bin Zeid.

But bin Zeid was not just a Jordanian intelligence officer; he was also a member of the Jordanian royal family and was a first cousin of the king and grandnephew of the first king Abdullah.

Bin Zeid’s prominent role offers rare insight into the close partnership between American and Jordanian intelligence officials and how crucial their relationship has become to the overall counterterrorism strategy.

“We have a close partnership with the Jordanians on counterterrorism matters,” a U.S. official told The Washington Post. “Having suffered serious losses from terrorist attacks on their own soil, they are keenly aware of the significant threat posed by extremists.”

Jordan’s official news agency, Petra, said bin Zeid was killed “on Wednesday evening as a martyr while performing the sacred duty of the Jordanian forces in Afghanistan” and provided no further details about his death.

03 Jan 2010

FOB Chapman Deaths Represent Major CIA Setback

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ABC News reports that Wednesday’s suicide attack was the result of the unprecedented infiltration of the Agency by jihadi opponents employing a double agent who had successfully gained the trust of CIA officers.

The losses inflicted by the suicide attack were key personnel central to the Agency’s drone attack program whose regional expertise and experience will be very difficult to replace.

The suicide bomber who killed at least six Central Intelligence Agency officers in a base along the Afghan-Pakistan border on Wednesday was a regular CIA informant who had visited the same base multiple times in the past, according to someone close to the base’s security director.

The informant was a Pakistani and a member of the Wazir tribe from the Pakistani tribal area North Waziristan, according to the same source. The base security director, an Afghan named Arghawan, would pick up the informant at the Ghulam Khan border crossing and drive him about two hours into Forward Operating Base Chapman, from where the CIA operates.

Because he was with Arghawan, the informant was not searched, the source says. Arghawan also died in the attack.

The story seems to corroborate a claim by the Taliban on the Pakistani side of the border that they had turned a CIA asset into a double agent and sent him to kill the officers in the base, located in the eastern Afghan province of Khost.

The infiltration into the heart of the CIA’s operation in eastern Afghanistan deals a strong blow to the agency’s ability to fight Taliban and al Qaeda, former intelligence officials say, and will make the agency reconsider how it recruits Pakistani and Afghan informants.

The officers who were killed in the attack were at the heart of the United States’ effort against senior members of al Qaeda and the Taliban, former intelligence officials say. They collected intelligence on the militant commanders living on both sides of the border and helped run paramilitary campaigns that tired to kill those commanders, including the drone program that has killed a dozen senior al Qaeda with missiles fired from unpiloted aircraft.

The former intelligence officials all say the CIA will be able to replace those who were killed, but the officials acknowledge the attack killed decades of knowledge held by some of the agency’s most informed experts on the region, the Taliban and al Qaeda. It also killed at least one officer who had been part of the agency’s initial hunt for Osama bin Laden in the mid-1990s.

“This is a tremendous loss for the agency,” says Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who led the bin Laden unit. “The agency is a relatively small organization, and its expertise in al Qaeda is even a smaller subset of that overall group.”

At least 13 officers gathered in the base’s gym to talk with the informant, suggesting he was highly valued. His prior visits to the base and his ability to get so close to so many officers also suggests that he had already provided the agency with valuable intelligence that had proven successful, former intelligence officials say.

That information was most likely linked with the CIA’s drone program on the Pakistani side of the border. …

The most likely Taliban group to have perpetrated the attack is the one led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the CIA’s most important assets when the agency was helping fund the Afghan mujahedeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Haqqanis have been running militant operations for 30 years and have recently become perhaps the most lethal commanders targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They are based in North Waziristan but control large parts of Khost and other provinces in eastern Afghanistan as well.

The Haqqanis have also kidnapped the only known American soldier in enemy custody — PFC Bowe Bergdahl — according to a senior NATO official. Since Bergdahl was kidnapped in late June, the official says the Haqqanis “have been getting pounded” and a “great many of their mid to senior leaders have been captured and/or killed.”

The infiltration into the CIA base suggests an extremely high level of sophistication, even for a network that has a huge reach across the area.

“The Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Cubans during the Cold War were able to run double agents against the CIA very successfully,” says Clarke. “But for a non-nation state to be able to do this — for the Haqqani network of the Taliban to be able to do this — represents a huge increase in the sophistication of the enemy.”

Clarke and other former intelligence officials predict the CIA in Afghanistan will be forced to question who they can trust and change their methods in how they find informants.

The only victim of the attack who has been publicly identified is 37-year-old Harold Brown Jr., a father of three. The base chief, a woman in her 30s, was also killed, according to current and former intelligence officials. She is believed to have been focused on al Qaeda since before 9/11. A former U.S. official says a second woman was also killed in the attack, and that both women had “considerable counterintelligence experience.”

The attack also killed Captain Al Shareef Ali bin Zeid, a member of the Jordanian spy agency Dairat al-Mukhabarat al-Ammah, according to people who have spoken with bin Zeid’s family. The Jordanian military released a statement acknowledging bin Zeid had been killed in Afghanistan, but did not mention he was working with the CIA.

5:22 video

03 Jan 2010

FOB Chapman Suicide Bombing Linked to Failed Saudi Assassination and Flight 253

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A suicide bombing assassination attempt last August on the life of the Saudi chief of Counter-terrorism Operations, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, Debka sources reveal, was the opening move in a new al Qaeda terrorism offensive, and served as a tactical example both for the failed bombing of Flight 253 and for the successful suicide attack responsible for the deaths of seven CIA officers at Forward Operating Base Chapman on December 30th.

Debkafile
:

Had the White House National Security Council, US intelligence and counter-terror agencies properly studied al Qaeda’s failed attempt to assassinate Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, deputy interior minister and commander of the Saudi anti-terror campaign in Yemen five motnhs ago, they might have detected pointers to al Qaeda’s latest terror offensive and its methods.

Like the Nigerian bomber Umar Abdulmutallab, the Saudi minister’s would-be assassin, Abdullah Hassan Tali’ al-Asiri (al Qaeda-styled Abu Khair), who did not survive the attack, used explosives hidden in his underwear to fool the prince’s bodyguards. He won an audience with the prince by posing as an informant, the same trick used by the Taliban suicide bomber to penetrate a US base and kill 7 CIA agents and a US soldier last month.

This emerging prototype was missed by US intelligence experts. …

Obama, who has called a meeting of US security agency chiefs for Tuesday, Jan. 5, cannot expect serious brainstorming because it would be inhibited by a mindset that refuses to refer to the failed mass-murderer as an illegal or enemy combatant or terrorist but only as a “suspect.” Treated like a common or garden criminal, the Nigerian has been committed to an ordinary lock-up. This has given him the opportunity to hire American lawyers, who right away shut his mouth and advised him not to cooperate in answering questions about his accessories and masters.

With this invaluable intelligence door closed, the US president has turned to measures for enhancing the security of US air travelers and air traffic bound for US ports and demanded the matching-up of the counter-terror watch and no-fly lists. Abdulmutallab appeared on the first but was left off the second as a result of the failure of US intelligence agencies to share incoming data about his record.

Furthermore, should Obama and his advisers decide on retaliation, DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources are assured by reports from Yemen that al Qaeda’s operatives were no longer hanging around their bases twelve days after the airliner episode; they had packed up and made tracks for fresh hideouts in the northern mountains and Hadhramaut.

Since Obama’s Monday, Dec. 23 pledge: “We will not rest until we find all who were involved,” the days slipping by without a US reaction have given al Qaeda the chance to plot more airliner attacks from a safe location.

The second breach in US defenses against terrorist attack has deeper roots and derives from the misconceptions about al Qaeda governing US intelligence thinking well before Barack Obama’s day in the White House.

Prince Muhammad in Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s top counter-terror executive, escaped with light injuries from Abu Khair’s attempt to kill him at his Jeddah palace on August 27, 2009, thanks mainly to the partial detonation of the explosive materials hidden in his underpants, a glitch repeated in the Nigerian bomber’s attempt.

The assassin gained entry to the most heavily fortified and guarded palace in the Red Sea town of Jeddah by convincing Saudi agents in Yemen that he was ready to switch sides – but only if he could discuss terms face to face with Prince Muhammad.

They did in fact hold several meetings – not in the palace but out in Najran province on the Yemen border. The data he handed over was solid enough to convince the Saudi prince that he was on the threshold of his government’s biggest breakthrough in its war on al Qaeda.

So when Abu Khair offered to bring with him to the Jeddah palace a list of al Qaeda high-ups in Yemen willing to defect to Saudi Arabia, the prince not only agreed to the venue but sent his private jet to pick him up from Najran.

Our counter-terror sources allow that the government in Riyadh may have kept the details of this plot from the Americans – and not for the first time. Still, CIA and FBI undercover agents in the oil kingdom could have got wind of it from their own contacts.

Had it been properly scrutinized and analyzed, there was much valuable input to be gained from the attempt on Prince Muhammad, betraying as it did Al Qaeda methods which were later replicated in the attempted bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner and, again, in the deadly attack on Dec. 30 against the CIA contingent at Forward Operation Base Chapman, in the remote Afghan Khost province.

The bomber, who has not been identified yet, not only gained entry with explosives in his possession to the well-guarded US base, but detonated the device while the agents were unarmed and working out in the base gym.

How was this accomplished? The bomber had in fact been employed as a CIA informer and was therefore known at the gate and familiar with the routines of Base Chapman. Furthermore, he knew enough to time his attack for the day of the arrival in Kabul of a high-ranking CIA official. There has been no word about this official’s fate.

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And, in Newsweek, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball are reporting that Prince Muhammad bin Nayef briefed the White House in October about al Qaeda’s new explosive undergarments.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was briefed in October on an assassination attempt by Al Qaeda that investigators now believe used the same underwear bombing technique as the Nigerian suspect who tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, U.S. intelligence and administration officials tell NEWSWEEK.

The briefing to Brennan was delivered at the White House by Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s chief counterterrorism official. …

U.S. officials now suspect that Nayef’s attempted assassin and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect aboard the Northwest flight, had the same bomb maker in Yemen.

31 Dec 2009

8 CIA Officers Killed By Taliban Suicide Bomber

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8 more stars will be needed for the Agency’s memorial wall

LA Times:

A bomber slipped into a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday and detonated a suicide vest, killing eight CIA officers in one of the deadliest days in the agency’s history, current and former U.S. officials said.

The attack took place at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khowst province, an area near the border with Pakistan that is a hotbed of insurgent activity. An undisclosed number of civilians were wounded, the officials said. No military personnel with the U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces were killed or injured, they said.

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the CIA had a major presence at the base, in part because of its strategic location.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a message posted early today on its Pashto-language website. The statement, attributed to spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, said the attacker was a member of the Afghan army who entered the base clad in his military uniform. It identified him only as Samiullah. …

A former U.S. intelligence official knowledgeable about the bombing said it killed more CIA personnel than any attack since the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983. Before Wednesday’s attack, four CIA operatives had been killed in Afghanistan, the former official said.

The eight dead were CIA officers, the former official said. “They were all career CIA officials.”

The U.S. official said the bomber detonated his explosives vest in an area that was used as a fitness center.


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