NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
Directorate S probed
U.S. intelligence and security agencies are sifting through thousands of pages of documents obtained from Osama bin Laden’s lair in Pakistan in a hunt for links between the al Qaeda leader and Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence service.
Specifically, spies are trying to pinpoint whether any ISI officers were involved in hiding and supporting bin Laden through ISI’s shadowy Directorate S, the unit that in the past was the covert liaison with foreign terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Wednesday that there were “elements” of the ISI that “knew and looked the other way” on bin Laden’s logistics network in Pakistan.
“But we can’t say the institutions, yet, knew and looked the other way,” the Michigan Republican added.
“We know that certain ISI members still have a sympathy toward the Taliban, and certain al Qaeda elements, and the Haqqani network.”
Intelligence officials say ultimate power in Pakistan is not held by civilian government leaders but with two key officials: Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, a former ISI chief, and current ISI Director Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha.
However, Directorate S is believed to be a power unto itself, operating outside the control of both military leaders, officials said.
A 2009 cable made public recently by WikiLeaks stated that in preparation for the visit to the United States by Gen. Kayani, “We [U.S. officials] need to lay down a clear marker that Pakistan’s Army/ISI must stop overt or tacit support for militant proxies” including the Haqqani network, Commander Nazir, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Gen. Kayani was ISI director from 2004 to 2007, a period when bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound was built and the terrorist leader moved into it.
According to the cable, the Pakistan military and ISI do not share the views of civilian Pakistani leaders that the country’s biggest threat comes from the growing militant insurgency on the Pakistan-Afghan border.
“The military and ISI have not yet made that leap; they still view India as their principle threat and Afghanistan as strategic depth in a possible conflict with India,” the cable said.
“They continue to provide overt or tacit support for proxy forces, including the Haqqani group, Commander Nazir, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, and Lashkar-e-Taiba as a foreign policy tool.”
The Haqqani group in Afghanistan is headed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a close associate of bin Laden from the 1980s.
Directorate S has been linked in the past by U.S. intelligence to sub rosa activities beyond support for terrorists, including drug trafficking. It also is believed to be the main covert link between Pakistan’s government and the Islamist Taliban militia, currently the target of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
Officially, the Obama administration to date has said there is no evidence in the captured files linking the Pakistani government, military or intelligence “leaders” to the support network in Pakistan for al Qaeda. But the administration remains convinced there was an organized unit that was protecting bin Laden.
North Korea abductions
North Korea’s communist government has carried out abductions of people of 12 different nationalities from 14 countries around the world through a policy aimed at bolstering espionage capabilities and learning foreign ways.
Those findings are contained in a report set for release Thursday by the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
North Korean government abductions were confirmed Sept. 17, 2000, when North Korean leader Kim Jong-il admitted to the practice of taking Japanese citizens in snatch operations by its intelligence services.
“Kim Jong-il’s admission did not tell the whole story,” said Chuck Downs, a former Pentagon official and the committee’s executive director. “Telling the full story, or at least as much of it as is now known, is the objective of the report.”
According to the Pyongyang leader, the abductions were carried out “to enable Japanese language training in special agencies and for agents to obtain false identities to infiltrate [other countries] …,” the report says.
The statement confirmed suspicions of family members who had tried for years to alert authorities to the kidnappings and get the abductees, including at least one Japanese school girl, returned from the harshest totalitarian state on Earth.
The North Koreans admitted to kidnapping only 13 people and said eight had died in North Korea.
The report, however, says the abductions were not limited to Japan or small groups.
“North Korea’s policy of abducting foreign citizens dates back to the earliest days of the regime, and to policy decisions made by North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung himself,” the report says.
“Those abducted came from widely diverse backgrounds, numerous nationalities, both genders, and all ages, and were taken from places as far away as London, Copenhagen, Zagreb, Beirut, Hong Kong, and China, in addition to Japan.”
The report concludes that the number of people taken by North Korean agents may be close to 180,000.
“There may be hundreds of abductees inside North Korea who are not known to be there,” the report said.
“The regime undertakes to abduct its victims in absolute secrecy and detains them indefinitely in closely monitored circumstances, which do not permit them to come in contact with many people even inside North Korea.”
“The crimes North Korea has committed must also be condemned by the international community,” the report concludes.
Osama bin Laden’s remains were given a U.S. fighter escort to his final resting place in the Arabian Sea, reports special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.
Two Navy F-18s escorted a V-22 Osprey carrying the al Qaeda leader’s bullet-riddled body on May 2 to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. There, a Muslim sailor recited from the Koran before the world’s one-time most wanted man slipped into the sea.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment to Inside the Ring.
At a White House news briefing the day bin Laden was buried, counterterror adviser John Brennan said: “The burial of bin Laden’s remains was done in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices. It was prepared in accordance with the Islamic requirements.
“We early on made provisions for that type of burial, and we wanted to make sure that it was going to be done, again, in strict conformance. So it was taken care of in the appropriate way. I’m not going to go into details about … the where, but that burial has taken place.”
“Strict conformance” would include burying the body within 24 hours after washing it and wrapping it in a shroud.
Cable on U.S.-Japan ties
A State Department cable made public Saturday reveals the growing links between the U.S. and Japanese militaries in dealing with major security problems, including China’s growing military power.
The Feb. 5, 2010, cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo quoted Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, as telling his Japanese counterparts that “given North Korea’s activities, China’s growing military and increased nontraditional threats, including extremism, piracy and climate change, the United States and Japan face the most challenging security environment in the history of the alliance.”
Kazuyoshi Umemoto, the Japanese Foreign Ministry official for North America, said greater U.S.-Japan regional security cooperation “focusing initially on China,” is needed and that U.S. and Japanese military forces would expand cooperation, including on countering Chinese cyberwarfare and espionage.
Wallace “Chip” Gregson, until recently assistant defense secretary for Asia, was quoted in the cable as telling Japanese leaders that the United States is not reducing its presence in Northeast Asia “but rather expanding throughout the Pacific the presence of its existing alliances.”
“The United States encourages the increase in Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) presence and operations around Guam and Asia,” the cable stated. “This will help protect sea lanes of communication from nontraditional and conventional threats.”
The U.S. government also is seeking the expanded use of Guam for joint U.S.-Japan military training.
• Bill Gertz can be reached at email@example.com.
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