The Central Intelligence Agency has finally declassified and released hundreds of thousands of documents it seized when it liquidated al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Initially, the Obama administration released only a handful of documents which, divorced from the context of the larger trove, appeared to support its narrative that the war on terrorism was largely won.
Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, has now rightly released the bulk of the bin Laden cache. There’s no reason why he should not have: As soon as Obama announced bin Laden’s death, the clock toward the expiration of their operational relevance began counting down.
The new documents, so far, reveal few surprises. The documents show just how deep Iran-al Qaeda links are. The close operational relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al Qaeda is well-known. The 9/11 Commission, for example, detailed tight relations between the two on several occasions. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iranian officials acknowledged sheltering senior al Qaeda operatives when they sought to use their presence to compel the United States to turn over all Mujahedin al-Khalq members at the time present in Iraq.
The real scandal now seems to be how Obama and his CIA heads Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, John Brennan, and acting head Mike Morell released only what upheld and affirmed Obama’s tenuous theories about Iran. Had the U.S. public known about the Iranian leadership’s outreach and association with al Qaeda, even Democratic congressmen might have been far less willing to tolerate the trust which Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry placed in their Iranian counterparts. After all, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, the coordinating body for Iran’s security and defense policy, at a time when Iran was developing its al Qaeda outreach.
Indeed, the refusal to declassify documents not out of fear that sources and methods might be exposed but rather to enable the White House and State Department to avoid calibrating their own policy goals with reality and in pursuit of Obama and Kerry’s goals appear to be both an abuse of classification and textbook intelligence politicization.
It’s time to ask under oath and in public hearings what senior officials — including every former CIA director from the time bin Laden was killed — knew about the Iran-al Qaeda partnership, when they knew it, and why they believed they needed to cover up that information.
To purposely bury proof of an enemy’s culpability with a terrorist group, to leave that rogue regime with an industrial-scale nuclear program capable and enough centrifuges to build an arsenal, to provide billions of dollars in untraceable cash under the guise of sanctions relief and ransom payments, and to acquiesce with a nod and a wink to a no-inspections policy in the same military bases which sheltered al Qaeda operatives is, to put it mildly, policy malpractice.
Just as with the release of the bin Laden documents, truth should be the goal, not a liability. Indeed, there is no better foundation than reality for U.S. foreign and defense policy.
Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.
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