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Britain releases document that proves Osama Bin Laden is guilty...
October 4, 2001 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Britain releases document that proves Osama Bin Laden is guilty...
Make of this what you will.....
posted by tomcosgrave (44 comments total)

 
This seems to be exactly what I have been waiting for. Concrete info as to how we know that Osama was responsible. Why has the US gov. not issued a similar document?

These points are particularly compelling (mostly because they're being released here by an independent governmental source):

* We have learned, subsequent to 11 September, that Bin Laden himself asserted shortly before 11 September that he was preparing a major attack on America.
* In August and early September close associates of Bin Laden were warned to return to Afghanistan from other parts of the world by 10 September.
* Immediately prior to 11 September some known associates of Bin Laden were naming the date for action as on or around 11 September.
* Since 11 September we have learned that one of Bin Laden's closest and most senior associates was responsible for the detailed planning of the attacks.
* There is evidence of a very specific nature relating to the guilt of Bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release.


I'm glad to see that one of the ambiguous aspects of this discussion (do we really know one way or another?) can now, probably, be ended.
posted by Marquis at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2001


works for me
posted by walrus at 9:38 AM on October 4, 2001


Opposition leaders are also believed to have been party to the evidence which the document describes as being 'of a very specific nature' and which was considered 'too sensitive to release' and appeared utterly convinced whilst gesturing in parliament their continuing commitment to unilateral support.
posted by Kino at 9:39 AM on October 4, 2001


a step in the right direction...but why the Irish times and not a more prominent media outlet? I'll wait a bit for other sources to start talking about this document before accepting it....
posted by rmolenda at 9:42 AM on October 4, 2001


Marquis: if that is what you call concrete, I can't imagine what you'd call flimsy or circumstantial. Is this it? Is this what they really expect us to go on? For example:

"62: There is evidence of a very specific nature relating to the guilt of Bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release." Thanks. Great. Very useful.

If in itself presented as evidence in court, I doubt this document would hold any weight whatsoever. The UK Government's line of reasoning seems to be: "We've always been pretty sure it's bin Laden, and he seems like a pretty bad guy what with his terrorists and all. So, um, like... he's guilty, okay?"
posted by skylar at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2001


More prominent?
posted by jbelshaw at 9:50 AM on October 4, 2001


The document to which Blair referred this morning is now online here, rmolenda. Is the UK Foreign Office site a reliable enough source for you? Points 61 and onwards are the ones worth reading. Still feels circumstantial, because all the chewy intelligence stuff is off-limits, but the apparent recall of operatives "before the 10th" is certainly significant.
posted by holgate at 9:50 AM on October 4, 2001


since i didn't see it in the posted link, for reference, this document comes from the official 10 Downing Street website. apparently it has caused quite a stir(or at least quite a demand):

For those visitors who are attempting to access the 10 Downing Street website please accept our apologies for the current disruption, this has been caused by the large worldwide demand for the document below.

also, i had no success finding whois information for number10.gov.uk.....anyone else able to get it? i tried several resources:
netsol.com
whois.supralink.net/whois/countries/uk/
worlddomains.aitcom.net/nics/uk/uk.html
www.nic.uk/whois.html

and they all come up empty.
posted by donkeysuck at 9:54 AM on October 4, 2001


OK, some other sources:

The Telegraph(selected quotes)
CNN has Blair's full statement

The full text of the government document is also at The Independent.
posted by maudlin at 9:55 AM on October 4, 2001


You most likely won't ever hear any of the 'highly sensitive' evidence. As well you shouldn't. Most likely, peoples lives would be quickly endangered if that information was made public.
posted by jbelshaw at 9:55 AM on October 4, 2001


(rmolenda.. this wasn't broke in the Irish Times, that's just the instance of the full document that tomcosgrave chose to link to)
posted by Kino at 9:57 AM on October 4, 2001


You most likely won't ever hear any of the 'highly sensitive' evidence. As well you shouldn't. Most likely, peoples lives would be quickly endangered if that information was made public.

That's the old argument against the freedom of information act here in the US. Someone later pointed out the magic of the magic marker. Nothing seems more official nowadays than a badly photocopied government document covered in black lines.
posted by skallas at 10:07 AM on October 4, 2001


"62: There is evidence of a very specific nature relating to the guilt of Bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release." Thanks. Great. Very useful.

the really convincing points had to have been the sensitive material. anyone source with specific enough information to prove definitive linkage would have to be close enough to be in grave danger if that information were made public.

apparently no one that's seen the actual evidence has denied the culpability of bin Laden, including Pakistan, whose lives would be much easier if bin Laden were *not* guilty. if this wasn't good enough for you, jbelshaw, what would be? i can't think of any scenario where we could make more specific information public without putting the lives of operatives and sources at risk. does the public really need to know every little detail? if they did, would they have the expertise to assess it? probably not.
posted by lizs at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2001


[Why has the US gov. not issued a similar document?]

It's most likely more believable from the British than the US. One would assume this information was a collaborative effort that both parties agreed to.
posted by revbrian at 10:19 AM on October 4, 2001


Yeah, Britain seems to be acting as a proxy, in this case, for the release of a document of this nature to the world on behalf of all those who have an interest in issuing its contents.
posted by Kino at 10:22 AM on October 4, 2001


does the public really need to know every little detail? if they did, would they have the expertise to assess it? probably not.

Its one thing not to release classified documents and a completely different thing to accuse the public of being too dense to understand them. Nothing wrong with independent examination.
posted by skallas at 10:32 AM on October 4, 2001


Seriously, gang, I don't doubt for a second that Bin Laden did it, but how can anyone consider this document "conclusive proof"? It's a history of Al'Queda, a catalog of Bin Laden's public threats, the flimsiest circumstantial evidence ("No warnings were given for [previous] attacks, just as there was none on 11 September"), and hints that, really, we have solid evidence, just not in this document.

I don't expect any more from any government, given the sensitive nature of the intelligence, but let's not delude ourselves that this document is, in any way, proof.
posted by jpoulos at 10:34 AM on October 4, 2001


lizs, i think you missed the "As well they shouldn't." part of my post. I'm fine with them not releasing certain bits of sensitive info. Hell, i didn't really need all of the stuff in the report to sway my opinion.
posted by jbelshaw at 10:51 AM on October 4, 2001


Claims by the U.S. government don't hold much weight these days. I'm more impressed by the fact that they've managed to convince Pakistan of bin Laden's guilt than I am by the so-called proof itself.

This document is a nice summary of the circumstantial evidence against bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but it isn't anything like proof of their involvement in the attacks two weeks ago.

I'm a little frustrated with this report. It does look increasingly likely that bin Laden was involved - but how can I know whether he really was involved, or whether I'm simply succumbing to the propaganda? There's really nothing here we didn't know two weeks ago, except this repetitive droning assertion that Really, There Is Proof. Seriously. We mean it this time. Never mind all that bullshit we spewed in the past.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:57 AM on October 4, 2001


With Blair's brilliant and inspiring speech, Britain is definitely playing the bad cop here, while the US goes about playing nice to assemble its coalition.

This isn't proof or evidence; it reads like an indictment, or perhaps opening arguments. "We will show that ..." That's reasonable.

Now, if the issue at stake were the utter destruction of the Afghan people, that would be one thing, and we should demand better evidence that this was an action supported by the Taliban and Afghan civilians by proxy (the Hiroshima argument).

But what's at stake is bringing bin Laden to justice. The question of bringing him to a trial is not the place for presenting incontrovertible evidence; the trial itself is. The indictment is not the proof; the indictment is the argument for bringing the person into the system of justice. At that time we should certainly demand that proof be presented that is worthy of examination and refutation if need be. But this is not the time for that.

The guy hasn't even been arrested yet, so to speak. Even the most ardent civil libertarians don't argue that you need to prove the man's guilt prior to arrest.
posted by dhartung at 11:04 AM on October 4, 2001


Actually, when France agreed with us I began to worry. I thought it was the position of France to do exactly opposite what the US does.
posted by revbrian at 11:07 AM on October 4, 2001


yep, this works for me too. lets go get him.
Can I call shotgun?
posted by bshort at 11:25 AM on October 4, 2001


Its one thing not to release classified documents and a completely different thing to accuse the public of being too dense to understand them. Nothing wrong with independent examination.

i'm not insinuating that the public is dense. i'm saying that assessment requires specialized training. I have a degree in public policy and political science. I speak Arabic, studied Middle Eastern history, International Security and underlying theory and wrote my senior paper on terrorist behavior in normative systems and a supporting paper on the historical roots of violence in religious fundamentalist movements. I don't think this makes me an expert, but I hear so many assessments by intelligent people, that, if they had seen the information I did when studying these things, would sound ludicrous. If I only had the information they have, however, (meaning what you see in the mainstream Western media) i would probably reach similar or same conclusions.

Everyone's suddenly a foreign policy expert. You would never see this in other fields that require specialization. It would seem ridiculous to for someone with no medical training to approach a cardiologist on the street and offer advice about a new heart surgery technique just because they saw something about it on the news. They may an opinion on it, but most people understand that without medical training they're not exactly equipped to debate the finer technical points of heart surgery. Yet this is what people have been doing for the last few weeks with intelligence experts and foreign policy specialists. people don't understand the level of specialization needed to do these jobs. it seems very easy to an outsider. every foreign policy decision is black and white and there's always a right or wrong choice. people don't understand that many foreign policy decisions are like choosing between breakfast cereals - there is no right or wrong way to approach and any action you take, including inaction, will have negative and positive consequences. i can understand why so many people don't want that responsibility and why we have a shortage of qualified intelligence personnel (even aside from the fact that those jobs don't pay well.)
posted by lizs at 11:29 AM on October 4, 2001


One more time, folks: It doesn't matter whether explicit evidence has been revealed which conclusively links bin Laden to the WTC attack. What has been proved by this document conclusively is that bin Laden and Al Qaeda are enemies of the US who are capable and willing to attack us.

Whether that would be sufficient proof for a court is irrelevant. It is sufficient proof to justify a war. This is not a criminal investigation; it's a war.

Al Qaeda has attacked us in the past. They will do so again in future, unless we do something to prevent them from doing so.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:32 AM on October 4, 2001


If it is good enough for Pakistan, it is good enough for me.
posted by scottfree at 11:39 AM on October 4, 2001


Everyone's suddenly a foreign policy expert. You would never see this in other fields that require specialization.
Lizs, i think you overestimate the need for formal education in these specific matters. Just because you devoted a portion of your life to submitting papers on it does not make the rest of mankind unable to understand this type of situation. We live in a world of rhetoric. We eat this stuff like breakfast oats. The level of evidence hinted at in the British document would hardly need pioneering think-tank scrutiny to be understood. It's all gonna be pretty absorbable fare for intelligent people living in full submergence of an information society to digest. Cardiology, on the other hand, is not.

Oh yeah people - all the stuff about proof - it's not proof. And it's not meant to be. How the document is received (with regards to validity of statements) is a matter of perceptions based largely on a definite mixture of pre-conceived ideas, logic and (dare i say it) emotional affiliations; It can only boil down to the level of trust individuals have in the process. Serious British governmental assurances to the international community that there is evidence of a very specific nature linking the culprits to the events will be taken by many as a highly trustworthy statement. An accurate illustration of the level of convincement that their classified data holds - that they wouldn't express it in such an explicit tone if not, and be acting how they are, if not. Any notion that they would risk their reputation for integrity in such a recklessly blasé fashion will only be considered as a majorly significant variable by those in possession of a sceptical temperament to such a degree that they border on conspiracy theory mindset. Remember, it's highly likely that the facts behind these statements will be made known -- both to world governments, and the media -- as soon as it's acceptable to do so.
posted by Kino at 11:45 AM on October 4, 2001


Whoops, forgot to actually link to Blair's brilliant and inspiring speech, outlining not only this evidence but the specific aims and limitations on our war strategy. It doesn't conflict with Bush's speech to Congress, so much as flesh it out in much more detail, and some nicely stated formulae. Appropriate notes in favor of avoiding discrimination against Muslims at home, and the ultimate aim of providing for the Afghan people, with clear words about how we're choosing to build our coalition and what we're going to do with it.
posted by dhartung at 11:51 AM on October 4, 2001


This is not a criminal investigation; it's a war.

Do you have sufficient proof of that? No, seriously: you've been saying that "it's a war" for most of the past three weeks, and I've still not seen compelling evidence that a state of war exists. Nor, it seems, has Tony Blair: he's scrupulously avoided using the word in both his conference speech and his parliamentary statement.
posted by holgate at 12:10 PM on October 4, 2001


Bush's speech to the State Department today was enjoyable too (Real Player rqd.)
posted by Kino at 12:21 PM on October 4, 2001


Holgate, they don't generally deploy carrier battle groups in a criminal investigation.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:29 PM on October 4, 2001


. Just because you devoted a portion of your life to submitting papers on it does not make the rest of mankind unable to understand this type of situation. I'm not talking about rhetoric, Kino. I'm talking about being able to factor in decision-making variables that the general public is not exposed to and that you would have extremely specialized knowledge to even be aware of. Esoteric minutia that only someone with a professional stake would even find interesting.

The information in the document they released was absorbable, as you put it, because government officials dumb it down for the public (which i thought was an open secret); not because the public is so accustomed to processing information that they can handle and understand anything. if the public were so capable of, or more accurately, willing to digest complexity, you'd see far fewer *unequivocal* statements about the "rightness" and "wrongness" of various foreign policy decisions over the last few years on this board. Even if people didn't ultimately agree with certain decisions, they would at least understand why they were made and what the anticipated repercussions were (at the time) and only from the viewpoint of an extreme consequentialist would it be possible to paint them absolutely black or white. instead, i see massive policy decisions reduced to the personality of X or Y politician and motives deducted from the (often unintended) consequences of the policy rather than the factors that were actually shaping decisions at the time or godforbid, the original intent.

just because it looks easy on a superficial level doesn't mean it is. ask anyone who's ever complained about "management" only to find themselves running a company and realizing that they really couldn't have "done that idiot's job for him."
posted by lizs at 2:15 PM on October 4, 2001


The information in the document they released was absorbable, as you put it, because government officials dumb it down for the public (which i thought was an open secret); not because the public is so accustomed to processing information that they can handle and understand anything.

I'm not being funny like (or meaning to be picky), but it isn't clear to me how you can profess to being better than 'the general public' at factoring in esoteric minutia when you wrongly conclude that i was talking about the document that has been released when i used the word 'absorbable'. It's their ability (or lack of, as you would have it) to form an understanding of the evidence it indicates the intelligence services are in possession of that is the issue - I don't think it'd take an analyst with years of training to take in what analysts with years of training have found out.
posted by Kino at 3:56 PM on October 4, 2001


Can't argue with logic:

Osama has blown stuff up before.
Osama says 'George Bush very bad monkey'.
Therefore, Osama is directly responsible for the WTC thingy.

Sorry, the middle bits are sensitive.

QED.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:38 PM on October 4, 2001


Holgate, they don't generally deploy carrier battle groups in a criminal investigation.

Steven, it's not a war until there's an exchange of fire. I see no war. Show me this "war" of which you speak. I see a gathering of armed forces (many of which were long-scheduled to be in Oman, anyway) but there is no war. For the moment, it's just the early stages of gunboat diplomacy. While that's certainly no criminal investigation (not that I ever made the claim) it's also sure as damnit not a war. And that is the reason why the word "war" has not passed Tony Blair's lips this past week, because he's doing Bush's diplomatic footwork while the gunboats gather.
posted by holgate at 5:38 PM on October 4, 2001


Let me clarify that: when there is a declaration of war, there is war. When there is an invasion of one sovereign state by another, there is a state of war. But in the current circumstances, there ain't no war till the guns start blazing, and any attempt to put the US on a war footing is sure as hell little more than political expediency.
posted by holgate at 5:42 PM on October 4, 2001


And with apologies for three in a row, the current situation has more in common with the deployment of 20,000 US troops to arrest Manuel Noriega, which I don't believe was ever described as a war.
posted by holgate at 5:52 PM on October 4, 2001


Holgate, the US was at war for several months in 1942 before it launched its first major offensive operation. (That turns out to have been the landing of First Marine division on Guadalcanal in August of 1942.)

As to the "exchange of fire", that happened on 9/11. As to "invasion", that isn't required for war. (The UK and Netherlands had a very vicious war in the 17th century which was fought completely at sea.) And where was the invasion in the Cold War? This war will be very much like the Cold War; it's going to last for years and only occasionally flare into serious combat.

And there was effectively a declaration of war passed by Congress a few days after the attack, attached to a supplemental spending bill.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:48 PM on October 4, 2001


All the people who are saying, "Hell yeah, that's good enough for me, let's nuke the bastard" are really scary. Even if it's partly a joke. The process of administering justice fairly and with deliberation is even more sacred right now than it has been in a long time, and while this document is a step in the right direction, it's certainly not conclusive of anything in and of itself. It's damned sure not the same thing as a trial.
posted by Hildago at 7:36 PM on October 4, 2001


This document does suggest that the Taliban will be replaced.
posted by Zool at 8:28 PM on October 4, 2001


Hildago, you're right: it's not even remotely like a trial. War hardly ever is.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:51 PM on October 4, 2001


War hardly ever is.

Oh, please. "Effectively" is a polite way of saying "not actually". A punch does not make a fight. And the Cold War was not a war. I know that it would be nice to relax within the moral certitude that comes from conflict, and the chance to lavish ourselves with the technical details of military hardware, but we're not there yet. Again, Blair has said in Pakistan that he sees the possiblity of the Taliban collapsing without explicit external force. We shall see. But spare us from war talk until there's a bloody war.

I did like what Paddy Ashdown said in the Lords: that you may eventually see air strikes on abandoned buildings and other operations designed for their "CNN effect": that covert action doesn't provide enough satisfaction for a public that wants to see things go boom and guided missiles with video-game stylings. Given that he comes from a career in the special forces, I have a certain suspicion he's right.
posted by holgate at 7:30 AM on October 5, 2001


With Blair's brilliant and inspiring speech ... couldn't agree more, but for sheer mischief you must take a look at Matthew Parris on the subject.

It's a bum note in the general chorus of praise for our Tone but to his credit, he is a lucid Cassandra in what is starting to feel like a one-party state.
posted by grahamwell at 8:40 AM on October 5, 2001


I'm sorry, Holgate, but the legal record is clear. In every important way, what Congress did was to pass a declaration of war. The only difference between it and a formal one was words on a piece of paper. "Effectively" means that as far as the US courts are concerned, war was declared. (The precedent on that is clear.) That's good enough for me as a US citizen. My nation is at war. (Whether you are at war is between you and your government.)

By the way, the first elements of the 10th Mountain Division are deploying in Uzbekistan, and two carrier battle groups are moving into the Indian Ocean to join the two which are already there. B1 bombers are being deployed in Oman. This looks almost exactly like the kind of deployments which took place during the six months of buildup which led to the Gulf War.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:05 AM on October 5, 2001


Holdate sez: it's not a war until there's an exchange of fire. I see no war. Show me this "war" of which you speak.

It's a war.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:56 AM on October 7, 2001


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