HERSH/NEW YORKER: RUMMY'S TERROR HUNT
[Drudge Report - Sun Dec 15 2002]:
The November 3rd killing of Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, an Al Qaeda leader, in Yemen, by a Hellfire missile, 'marked a dramatic escalation of the American war on terrorism,' Seymour Hersh claims in 'Manhunt,' in the December 23 & 30, 2002, issue of the NEW YORKER.
On July 22nd, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld 'issued a secret directive ordering Air Force General Charles Holland, the four-star commander of Special Operations, 'to develop a plan to find and deal with members of terrorist organizations,' Hersh reveals, stating in his order that 'the objective is to capture terrorists for interrogation, or if necessary, to kill them, not simply to arrest them in a law-enforcement exercise.'
A Defense Department consultant tells Hersh that, as of this fall, seven Al Qaeda targets ['top guys that they're really after''] have been designated for elimination by the Bush Administration.
Two of these men are still at large in Yemen, according to a Yemeni official. Hersh also reports that 'many past and present military and intelligence officials have expressed alarm at the Pentagon policy about targeting Al Qaeda members.
Their concerns have less to do with the legality of the program than with its wisdom, its ethics, and, ultimately, its efficacy. Some of the most heated criticism comes from within the Special Forces.'
Internal Defense Department memos that Hersh has obtained reflect the 'skepticism' of Rumsfeld and the civilian officials close to him 'toward the generals and admirals who run the armed forces.'
One paper written for Rumsfeld notes, 'The worst way to organize for the manhunt...is to have it planned in the Pentagon.' Another states, 'We 'over-plan' for every contingency....This denies us the agility and tactical surprise so necessary for manhunts, snatches, and retribution raids. We must be willing to accept the risks associated with a smaller footprint.'
The paper goes on to urge Rumsfeld to 'ensure that the military leadership understands fully the cultural change you seek.' A senior Administration official notes that Rumsfeld was able to get what he wanted because he had successfully personalized the issue.
'He's the strangest guy I've ever run into,' the official says. 'He doesn't delegate.'
Some senior officers attached to the Joint Chiefs of Staff argue that Rumsfeld's plans would turn the military's most Úlite forces into 'hunter-killer teams,' Hersh writes.
One defense consultant with ties to Special Forces says, 'There is concern that emphasis on a target list will turn the Special Operations Forces into a counter-terror force and atrophy other attributes.'
Intelligence officials are also skeptical of Rumsfeld's attempts to change intelligence gathering. 'If it became known that Rummy wanted them to link the government of Tonga to 9/11, within a few months they would come up with sources who'd do it,' one former senior official says.
One Pentagon adviser suggests, 'What Rumsfeld wants them to do is to fight it differently, but his way makes most of our senior military leadership's understanding of war fighting irrelevant.' He says Rumsfeld?s purpose in authorizing a high-value list of terrorists is 'obviously to go after the command structure of Al Qaeda.'
The adviser also suggests, 'The idea of not wanting to go after the senior leadership of a paramilitary group that has declared war on you is such a perversion that it's mind-boggling.'
The adviser wonders if 'we'll have to have a dirty nuke go off to realize how serious this is.'
One former C.I.A. official says, 'There are five hundred guys out there you have to kill. There's no way to sugarcoat it -- you just have to kill them. And you can't always be one hundred per cent sure of the intelligence. Sometimes you have to settle for ninety-five per cent.'
However, a recently retired Special Forces operative, a colonel, tells Hersh that the civilians running the Pentagon are no longer trying to 'avoid the gray area.' He adds, 'It is not unlawful, but ethics is about what we ought to do in our position as the most powerful country in human history....Unintended consequences are huge.'