Sunday, February 11, 2007

Outstanding article

Mark Bowden has an article in the latest Atlantic that is just unbelievably good and important.

Jihadists in Paradise

A kidnapping at a Philippine resort triggered a yearlong hunt for pirate terrorists and their American hostages. A behind-the-scenes tale of intrigue, spycraft, and betrayal.
A sampling:

Trudging behind their captors, the missionary couple endured. They focused on staying alive, attending to basic bodily needs—eating, sleeping, staying clean. No strangers to religious conviction, the Burnhams gently engaged their captors in theological discussion and found these jihadists to be shallow, even adolescent, in their faith. Unfamiliar with the Koran, the outlaws had only a sketchy notion of Islam, which they saw as a set of behavioral rules, to be violated when it suited them. Kidnapping, murder, and theft were justified by their special status as “holy warriors.” One by one they sexually appropriated several of the women captives, claiming them as “wives.”
*** This example of the post-9/11 mindset in CIA deserves more investigation:
For most of early 2002, thanks to the CIA, the marines had at least a periodic fix on the meandering guerrilla band. When Tilao boasted in radio interviews—saying, for instance, “It’s really an embarrassment [to the authorities], because the superpower can’t do anything to us”—he was doing so on a CIA-supplied satellite phone, which gave away his position as he spoke.

The only hitch was that the spy agency was not allowed to relay the precise coordinates—in part to cloak the capabilities of the CIA’s equipment, in part because the agency had not been given a “lethal finding”—permission to pass along potentially lethal information. When its agents on the ground pressed, their request triggered an argument in Washington. The Pentagon wanted the precise coordinates turned over to Philippine forces, but the CIA refused, instructing its agents to give Sabban and his men only a five-mile radius.

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