Troubling End Note: Asia Times Online on 24 March published an article by Syed Saleem Shahzad, who is an insightful commentator on South Asian affairs, as well as the publication's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He has studied al Qaida a long time. He wrote that US intelligence has actionable information that Osama bin Laden has been “criss-crossing” the Pakistan – Afghanistan border region in northwestern Pakistan during the past few weeks.
Phi Beta Iota: Bin Laden sets alarm bells ringing By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Shahzad wrote that US officials are “stunned” by bin Laden's visibility and the frequency of his movements. Bin Laden's purposes are not known. Terrorist analysts reportedly think the new level of activity means bin Laden is planning another large attack, though the 9/11 planning was actually not done by bin Laden. The South Asia analysts think he is meeting with friendly Afghan warlords to bring the Afghan War to a favorable conclusion for the Taliban.
What is disturbing is how little mainstream media attention this article has received. Readers are encouraged to read it.
Phi Beta Iota: We are skeptical. A close reading of the article suggests that Operations Security (OPSEC) by the alleged Bin Laden and those he was meeting was nearly non-existent, and that virtually all reports came from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, perhaps the least trustworthy sources on the planet. Syed Sleem Shahzad is an extraordinary journalist, and he may be an extraordinary Pakistani intelligence asset as well (although we credit the Indian service with being able to play the long game). Overall this reeks of a distractor covert action media operation, not by the Americans, but by the Saudis and the Pakistanis. [If it were an American PSYOP the the New York Times and the Washington Post would be broadcasting the story.] The naivete of the Americans cannot be underestimated, at the same time that we all know the $80 billion a year secret intelligence system is worthless and incapable of finding Bin Laden if he is still alive. Most evidence points to his having died at Tora Bora and then been a CIA “four day march” illusion campaign intended to keep the myth going for political disinformation purposes. We consider General Tommy Franks, then CINCCENT, to be an honorable man, and this is the only possible reason we can think of to justify his refusing to drop a Ranger battalion between Bin Laden and the Pakistani frontier–he knew Bin Laden was dead and CIA was playing. The sad truth is we don't know, and cannot trust any existing sources for “The Virgin Truth.”