# Al Qaeda

Osama Bin Laden dead

President Barack Obama announced minutes ago that Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda movement, is dead following a “targeted” U.S. operation in the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan. Speaking on national television late Sunday night, Obama said that shortly after taking office, he had instructed the CIA to make capturing Bin Laden a top priority. He was briefed on a possible lead to Bin Laden last August, and last week he decided that the U.S. had “enough intelligence to take action.” Today Obama authorized a “targeted operation,” in which Bin Laden was killed in a firefight. The U.S. has custody of his body, according to the president, and there were no American casualties. Obama emphasized that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, saying Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader and was a “mass murderer” of Muslims. Obama credited Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts with helping locate Bin Laden and said he had contacted Pakistani leaders, who agreed that the death of Bin Laden is good for both countries.

I will update this post as more news and Iowa reaction become available. Official statements from Representatives Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Bruce Braley (IA-01) are after the jump. Former President George W. Bush issued a statement congratulating Obama and the members of the U.S. intelligence community who made today’s events possible.

Meanwhile, use this thread to discuss the political implications of Bin Laden’s death. Al Qaeda isn’t going to disappear overnight, nor is the U.S. likely to end its military presence in Afghanistan sooner. I don’t know enough about U.S.-Pakistani relations to have a sense of the likely impact.

The UK newspaper Daily Mail published an article yesterday on how Bin Laden escaped elite British and American troops near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001.

Comments about other U.S. military interventions are also welcome in this thread. Yesterday in Tripoli, a NATO air strike killed the youngest son and three grandchildren of Col. Moammar Qaddafi. The Libyan leader and his wife were reportedly not harmed. Some GOP senators have said regime change should become the explicit U.S. policy goal in Libya.

UPDATE: Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released a statement congratulating “our intelligence community, our military and the president.”

SECOND UPDATE: Representative Tom Latham (IA-04) via Twitter: “On this night of historic news may God bless the victims of 9/11 and may God continue to bless the United States and freedom’s cause.” Kind of a strange tweet from Senator Chuck Grassley: “Pres bush was right when he said there aren’t enuf caves for Osama bin Laden to hide. That we wld get him. We got him”

THIRD UPDATE: The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert for American citizens due “to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given counterterrorism activity in Pakistan.”

FOURTH UPDATE: An administration official briefing journalists after Obama’s speech said the U.S. did not inform Pakistani authorities about this mission in advance. Official says four people were killed in raid in addition to Bin Laden: one of Bin Laden’s sons, two other male associates and a woman who allegedly was being used as a shield. The large compound where Bin Laden was found was reportedly built about five years ago, but U.S. officials do not know how long Bin Laden had been living there.

FIFTH UPDATE: Added Representative Dave Loebsack’s (IA-02) statement after the jump.

MONDAY UPDATE: The large compound where Bin Laden was reportedly killed is very close to a Pakistani military academy, raising “suspicions that Pakistan has played a double game, and perhaps even knowingly harbored the Qaeda leader.”

U.S. officials said they buried Bin Laden at sea last night in accordance with Islamic law, after flying his body to Afghanistan to confirm his identity. Burial at sea will prevent any gravesite from becoming a shrine for the Al Qaeda leader’s followers, but the quick disposal of the body may prompt questions about whether he is really dead.

Marc Ambinder reports on “The Secret Team That Killed bin Laden.”

After the jump I’ve added Latham’s full statement, comments from Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and a interesting stream of comments from an Abbottabad resident who started tweeting after hearing a helicopter at 1 am Sunday (“a rare event”). Still no statements released by Senators Tom Harkin or Chuck Grassley or Representative Steve King (IA-05).

FINAL UPDATE: I never did find a press release from Steve King regarding Bin Laden’s reported death, but he seems to have given most of the credit to U.S. policies sanctioning torture of terror suspects. On May 2, King posted these two Twitter updates:

Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?

ObL “Sealed” into eternal damnation. Intel from KSM in Gitmo:-) “It feels like the entire country won the World Series,” Bill Hemmer-FOX.

I don’t know why King would be quick to assume torture led to Bin Laden’s capture. Interrogating Khalid Sheikh Mohammed didn’t stop the trail for Bin Laden from growing cold. If this New York Times article “Behind the Hunt for Bin Laden” is accurate, Pakistani agents working for the CIA produced the key lead in the search for the Al Qaeda leader last summer.

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Illinois prison may not house Guantanamo prisoners after all

In December, the Obama administration signaled its intention to move some federal prisoners as well as detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Clinton, Iowa.

However, on May 19 the House Armed Services Committee “unanimously approved a defense bill for 2011 that bans spending money to build or modify any facility inside the United States to house Guantánamo detainees,” the New York Times reported.

At TalkLeft, Jeralyn posted an excerpt from the bill summary:

The Committee firmly believes that the construction or modification of any facility in the U.S. to detain or imprison individuals currently being held at Guantanamo must be accompanied by a thorough and comprehensive plan that outlines the merits, costs, and risks associated with utilizing such a facility. No such plan has been presented to date. The bill prohibits the use of any funds for this purpose. Additionally, the bill requires the Secretary of Defense to present Congress with a report that adequately justifies any proposal to build or modify such a facility in the future.

Last fall prominent Iowa Republicans fanned fears about terrorists in the heartland as a political weapon against President Obama and Representative Bruce Braley, who represents the Iowa counties closest to Thomson, Illinois. At the time, Braley expressed support for the plan to convert the Illinois facility, saying his constituents “have told me with a resounding voice they want these jobs to come to their area.” Some jobs will almost certainly come to the area in 2011 or 2012, because the federal government still plans to purchase and renovate the Thomson Correctional Center to use for federal prisoners, with or without detainees from Guantanamo.

Iowa Democrats Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell are among the 61 members of the House Armed Services Committee. I don’t know whether they were present at Wednesday’s meeting, where the defense authorization bill passed by a 59 to 0 vote.

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Guantanamo prisoners to be moved to Illinois?

The conservative blog biggovernment.com published an alleged December 10 memo from the Department of Justice to Defense Secretary Robert Gates authorizing the transfer of some prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. The center was built to be a high-security state prison but has mostly remained mothballed for lack of state funding to operate it. Elected officials in Illinois have urged the federal government to use this facility to house some of the alleged terrorist prisoners because doing so is expected to create around 3,000 jobs in the area.

Iowa Republicans have been hammering Bruce Braley (IA-01) over this proposal, because the Thomson facility is just across the river from Clinton, Iowa. However, Braley says his constituents overwhelmingly favor the plan.

I will update this post if other reports confirm the authenticity of the memo.

UPDATE: Ed Tibbetts reported for the Quad-City Times:

An administration official, responding to the memo Friday, cautioned that it is only a draft and said it is not unusual for such documents to be prepared for multiple possibilities.

“This is a draft, predecisional document that lawyers at various agencies were drafting in preparation for a potential future announcement about where to house Gitmo detainees,” the official said.

“Drafts of official documents are often prepared for any and all possibilities, regardless of whether a decision has been made about the policy or if the document will be used,” said the official, who requested not to be identified because the person was not authorized to discuss the issue.

Despite the cautions, top Illinois backers were reacting positively to the development.

“Even though the final decision has not been made, we are encouraged by this development,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement.

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Braley says constituents support plan for Illinois prison

Representative Bruce Braley has rejected Republican critics of a proposal to transfer some prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the Thomson Correctional Center, just across the Mississippi River from Clinton.

“The time for fear-mongering is over,” Braley said. “I have listened to my constituents all week, and they have told me with a resounding voice they want these jobs to come to their area.”

According to the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, the plan for Thomson “would create 840 to 910 temporary jobs and between 3,180 and 3,880 ongoing jobs over the first four years,” and local residents could fill as many as 1,400 of those jobs.

Iowa Republicans don’t appear ready to stop stoking fears about terrorists coming to a prison near you. State GOP chairman Matt Strawn’s November 20 e-mail blast slammed Braley, along with Representatives Leonard Boswell and Dave Loebsack:

On the only vote specifically related to keeping these terrorists off American soil, all three voted to welcome them with open arms. Now Iowans face the prospect of them being housed minutes from our state.

Iowa’s Republican members of Congress, U.S. Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King both voted in support of the legislation keeping terrorist detainees out of the U.S. […]

Additionally, Congressman Latham this week introduced the ‘Keep Terrorists out of the Midwest Act” following the news that the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., has emerged as a leading option for prosecution and incarceration.

I gather that Republicans are confident this is a winning issue for them, but is there any evidence that Iowans are afraid to have prisoners moved to a maximum-security facility on the other side of the Mississippi? John Carlson, the Des Moines Register’s conservative columnist, went to Clinton last week and found broad support for the plan.  

I’d like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers who live in the area. Will Republicans score political points with this controversy, or will their efforts backfire in eastern Iowa counties that stand to gain jobs from Thomson’s expansion?

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Republican hypocrisy watch: terrorist prisoner edition

Congressional Republicans were fine with the Bush administration’s decision to prosecute the “20th 9/11 hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui in U.S. federal court.

Republicans didn’t hit the panic button when would-be “shoe bomber” Richard Reid was tried in federal court.

Numerous international terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda are already in U.S. prisons. In May, Fred Kaplan reported for Slate:

According to data provided by Traci L. Billingsley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, federal facilities on American soil currently house 216 international terrorists and 139 domestic terrorists. Some of these miscreants have been locked up here since the early 1990s. None of them has escaped. At the most secure prisons, nobody has ever escaped, period.

Now that the Obama administration is planning to try some terrorism suspects in U.S. criminal courts and transfer others to U.S. prisons, GOP leaders want Americans to be very afraid. Iowa’s Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon.

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