Why did Pentagon shift bin Laden raid docs to CIA?

posted at 10:41 am on July 8, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Was this a move to protect the identities of the SEAL team that raided the compound in Abbottabad in May 2011?  Or was it a new strategy to defeat FOIA requests by the Obama administration?  The Associated Press had pursued documents from the military mission that killed Osama bin Laden, from which the administration had leaked plenty, from the Vice President down.  After more than two years of getting the stonewall treatment from the Pentagon, a new IG report explains that the Pentagon doesn’t have the documents any longer:

Records about the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout were ordered purged from Pentagon computers and sent to the CIA — a place where they could be more easily shielded from ever being made public.

A draft report by the Pentagon’s inspector general briefly described the secret move, which was directed by the top U.S. special operations commander, Adm. William McRaven.

The transfer did not set off alarms within the Obama administration even though it appears to have sidestepped rules governing federal records and circumvented the Freedom of Information Act.

The IG concluded that the move was intended to shield the SEALs from public identification.  However, it also creates a new strategy to evade FOIA requests, as the AP points out:

But secretly moving the records allowed the Pentagon to tell The Associated Press that it couldn’t find any documents inside the Defense Department that AP had requested more than two years ago, and could represent a new strategy for the U.S. government to shield even its most sensitive activities from public scrutiny.

“Welcome to the shell game in place of open government,” said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private research institute at George Washington University. “Guess which shell the records are under. If you guess the right shell, we might show them to you. It’s ridiculous.”

McRaven’s directive sent the only copies of the military’s records about its daring raid to the CIA, which has special authority to prevent the release of “operational files” in ways that can’t effectively be challenged in federal court. The Defense Department can prevent the release of its own military files, too, citing risks to national security. But that can be contested in court, and a judge can compel the Pentagon to turn over non-sensitive portions of records.

A court would likely approve redacting the names of SEALs before release, too, as those wouldn’t be newsworthy enough for the risk of exposure — so privacy is unlikely to be the real reason for the shell game in this case. Courts also provide plenty of leeway for protection of truly sensitive information regarding national security, which would mean even more redactions before the documents got into the hands of the AP.  That’s exactly what the FOIA legal process is designed to protect while providing as much transparency as reasonably possible to government operations.

Why, then, pull this stunt, especially without seeking the necessary approval of the National Archives and Records Administration?  This was a successful operation, remember, and one repeatedly cited for political purposes during the 2012 election.  The White House made this a topic of national debate almost from the time the SEALs evacuated the compound, arguing that it showed Barack Obama to be tough on terrorism.

The most obvious conclusion is that there’s something in the file that doesn’t make the operation, the Pentagon, the CIA, and/or the administration look good, but, er … the mission was a success, and a rather spectacular one at that. How bad could it be? Or is this just a bad habit from the most untransparent administration evah? I’m genuinely puzzled.

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Why, then, pull this stunt, especially without seeking the necessary approval of the National Archives and Records Administration? This was a successful operation, remember, and one repeatedly cited for political purposes during the 2012 election.

At this point, can we even be certain this raid actually took out bin Laden? Don’t get me wrong. I think he’s dead. But who the hell really knows how he died? I refuse for one second to take the word of anyone associated with this regime. Especially considering we’ve never been given any tangible proof of what allegedly went down.

Doughboy on July 8, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Can’t we just watch the movie and find out everything about the op?

faraway on July 8, 2013 at 10:46 AM

How bad could it be?

I don’t know, how about Tough Guy soiling his skivvies at the thought of actually having to give the order to take out Bin Laden, and then running away while yelling over his shoulder “This is above my pay grade!”

Plain and simple, the official docs would show that Dog Eater regularly refused to give such an order, and if the American people found out just how many times it happened there would be hell to pay.

Bishop on July 8, 2013 at 10:47 AM

The most obvious conclusion is that there’s something in the file that doesn’t make the operation, the Pentagon, the CIA, and/or the administration look good, but, er … the mission was a success, and a rather spectacular one at that. How bad could it be?

Perhaps there is proof that the rat-eared coward DID NOT HALO in with SEAL Team Six and personally take the kill shot that “got” OBL. Because based on the strutting and bragging during the campaign that is exactly what the bastard claimed.

Happy Nomad on July 8, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Plain and simple, the official docs would show that Dog Eater regularly refused to give such an order, and if the American people found out just how many times it happened there would be hell to pay.

Bishop on July 8, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Yeah, if anybody in this administration could be credited with “getting” OBL it would be Jarrett, Clinton, or the shaved Yeti bullying the coward into action and not the “commander-in-chief” himself.

Happy Nomad on July 8, 2013 at 10:51 AM

It was an imposter Osama…the real one had been dead for years…

albill on July 8, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Someone other than Dear Leader gave the final order..?

d1carter on July 8, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Okay, Bin Laden dying on a dialysis machine in a cave is starting to sound more likely. What is with this guy?

Cindy Munford on July 8, 2013 at 10:56 AM

The Obama Campaign’s default response to everything is to lie and cover up. They leaked the info that made BO look good and they hide everything that’s more nuanced. It’s just how these creeps operate.

forest on July 8, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Is there no FOIA access at the CIA? A real media outlet would take this to court. Of course, we’ll all be dead by the time it gets settled.

Cindy Munford on July 8, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Let’s have a little fun…

1.) Maybe the first helicopter was shot down…

2.) Maybe Osama blew himself up – and was not shot by the teams…..

3.) Maybe Osama was not buried at sea – like we were told…..

Ahh – that felt kind of good…. now I’m done

jake-the-goose on July 8, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Why hide the documents?
maybe some Americans died in the raid,
maybe binLaden did commit suicide
maybe binLaden was already dead for years
maybe the downed helo was a planned give-away
Jeez, who knows with this administration.

srdem65 on July 8, 2013 at 11:04 AM

It has to be something potentially damaging, and they’re moving it to CIA so it’s harder for investigators and the public to get access to it.

Just watch, if it’s that damning and anyone starts to get close, they’ll move it to the NSA. Which is like throwing it into a black hole, never to be seen or heard of again.

Meople on July 8, 2013 at 11:04 AM

I’m genuinely puzzled.

I’m not.

Cleombrotus on July 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM

I wouldn’t be surprised if Valerie put him in for the silver star for this raid.

docflash on July 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM

In the old days, when there was a degree of sanity in government…transferring docs such as these to CIA would be perfectly normal, if the docs had a certain percentage of Agency information included…not a preponderance, but enough to make it somewhat cumbersome to delete necessary CIA passages, references and sources and methods.

But, the ODNI was s’posed to eliminate all this…one final authority, across the entire intel spectrum…NSA, CIA, the Pentagon, SpecWar…all of it.

So…what the heck do we need a DNI for anyway??

Today?

Go ahead and speculate…I am…can no longer trust the very government I spent a lifetime serving.

Pray, friends, pray.

[If we are till allowed to do so.]

coldwarrior on July 8, 2013 at 11:09 AM

To make release of the documents essentially impossible and to cover their butts.

rplat on July 8, 2013 at 11:09 AM

The transfer did not set off alarms within the Obama administration

Why would it set off alarms? It was probably directed by the Obama administration.

The most obvious conclusion is that there’s something in the file that doesn’t make the operation, the Pentagon, the CIA, and/or the administration look good, but, er … the mission was a success, and a rather spectacular one at that. How bad could it be?

The most likely reason is that Obama took a very long time to sign off on the mission, and the dithering makes him look bad.

If it was at all like the issue with pirates earlier, Obama had to be almost pushed into taking action, even though he was quick to take credit afterwords.

There Goes the Neighborhood on July 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

afterwords.

There Goes the Neighborhood on July 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

That’s some … creative … spelling.

There Goes the Neighborhood on July 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Everything the Obama administration touches is scummy, slimy…

Wasn’t Obama’s first act as President to hide all his college documents?

albill on July 8, 2013 at 11:15 AM

I read that a group of Navy Seals are gonna release a book about the raid right before the 2014 election….. Probably why this is being essentially buried…

sandee on July 8, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Before a job, the military should have control to avoid congressional oversight (“preparing the battlefield”) then, right before the job, send it to CIA to avoid prying eyes after the fact. Nice template.

toliver on July 8, 2013 at 11:20 AM

That photo still cracks me up. The military dude in the big chair surrounded by equipment, Biden pulled up to the table, and Dog Eater sitting off to the side on a little folding chair like a confused boy hanging out with Dad and his poker buddies.

Bishop on July 8, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Did any of the Seal Team that participated in the Bin Laden raid die in that helicopter crash in Afghanistan shortly after the raid?

Cindy Munford on July 8, 2013 at 11:21 AM

My money is on something that shows beyond doubt that Obama did not give the order to go after OBL. I suspect that someone else had to give the final go order so Dear Leader couldn’t be blamed if it went sour.

Johnnyreb on July 8, 2013 at 11:21 AM

The most obvious conclusion is that there’s something in the file that doesn’t make the operation, the Pentagon, the CIA, and/or the administration look good, but, er … the mission was a success, and a rather spectacular one at that. How bad could it be? Or is this just a bad habit from the most untransparent administration evah? I’m genuinely puzzled.

That Valerie Jarrett vetoed the raid three times.

rbj on July 8, 2013 at 11:25 AM

The words Tora Bora come to mind. Then, it would REALLY be Bush’s fault. You know, just sayin.

james hooker on July 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM

We deserve to know what they are hiding?

Amazingoly on July 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Bishop on July 8, 2013 at 11:21 AM

“Daddy, is this where he calls your bluff?”

[The first and last time the little b*stard would be invited to tag along....]

coldwarrior on July 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Maybe Snowden can get a job with the CIA and leak that one for us, too!

Deano1952 on July 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM

I’m guessing they just shot some random paki(they all look like obl) and called it a day. Mission accomplished!

abobo on July 8, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Normally this would be done immediately under a normal administration. But choom boy waited until he squeezed all the political mileage out of it.

Red Creek on July 8, 2013 at 11:31 AM

The most obvious conclusion is that there’s something in the file that doesn’t make the operation, the Pentagon, the CIA, and/or the administration look good, but, er … the mission was a success, and a rather spectacular one at that. How bad could it be? Or is this just a bad habit from the most untransparent administration evah? I’m genuinely puzzled.

That Valerie Jarrett vetoed the raid three times.

rbj on July 8, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Yep, and the go-ahead for the raid came from Hillary and Panetta, and the REB was not aware of it until the helicopters were over the compound. Jarrett must have been in a white-hot rage.

slickwillie2001 on July 8, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Johnnyreb on July 8, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Maybe but who would that hurt since he can’t run again? Would it hurt the remainder of his presidency? I guess but he seems to be doing pretty well without this information. I don’t understand this at all.

Cindy Munford on July 8, 2013 at 11:37 AM

The Obama administration should get an award for “Most Lies and Cover-Ups Evah”.

The Rogue Tomato on July 8, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Most transparent administration, evah!

GarandFan on July 8, 2013 at 11:53 AM

“Welcome to the shell game in place of open government”

SOP for the Current ChiTown Cabal.

The Associated Press had pursued documents from the military mission that killed Osama bin Laden, from which the administration had leaked plenty, from the Vice President down.

And, is anyone surprised?

Emperor Øligula was so “proud” of the intrepid warriors (whom he secretly despises because Ø is not a real man), while at the same time giving up the Pakistani doctor who risked the lives of himself and all of his family. HE is still imprisoned because he assisted US, er Hussein Obama. The entire world has been paying attention. NO ONE will, or SHOULD trust us again!
And let’s talk about “leaks”, shall we? They are only disseminated when it is convenient for, and adoring of, Dear Leader. Recall Barry’s self-serving Hollywood movie in which his peeps assisted?
What a sad, sorry state of affairs.

“Can’t anyone here play this game?”
- Casey Stengel, Manager NY Mets

No, Casey, they can’t!
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on July 8, 2013 at 11:56 AM

because they will show the operation was underway before obama was told and could stop it.

dmacleo on July 8, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Maybe but who would that hurt since he can’t run again? Would it hurt the remainder of his presidency? I guess but he seems to be doing pretty well without this information. I don’t understand this at all.

Cindy Munford on July 8, 2013 at 11:37 AM

It will destroy his “Legacy”. About the only positive thing that was accomplished on his watch is the death of OBL. If it comes out that he was not personally involved in the decision, remember he used the word “I” several dozen times in bragging about OBL’s death, it will completely sour his supposedly one good accomplishment in office.

Remember, this man has the thinnest skin of a President ever, and he loses his temper to a National audience when things don’t go his way.

Johnnyreb on July 8, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Someone other than Dear Leader gave the final order..?

d1carter on July 8, 2013 at 10:54 AM

That would be correct. Hillary and Panetta went around Jarret to get it done.

dogsoldier on July 8, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Because he was taken alive, then interogated, then eliminated.
And that wouldn’t be a good thing for certain people to know.
Shred the file and call it a day.

justltl on July 8, 2013 at 12:30 PM

My money is on something that shows beyond doubt that Obama did not give the order to go after OBL. I suspect that someone else had to give the final go order so Dear Leader couldn’t be blamed if it went sour because Dear Leader was sucking his thumb and babbling incoherently over in the corner as he rocked back and forth.

Johnnyreb on July 8, 2013 at 11:21 AM

,you mean.

Cleombrotus on July 8, 2013 at 12:47 PM

A court would likely approve redacting the names of SEALs before release, too,

McCraven could get in some real hot water over this. As for the names of the operators, those wouldn’t be in that report. We didn’t have our names all put in the after action report when it was written up. IMHO, only the units name would be put in that document, which was my buddies unit. Only if some of them were up for an award would individual names be used.

As you point out, even if the names were in it, they would be redacted. That leaves me to believe that there is something in the documents they don’t want released other than the ‘names’.

Patriot Vet on July 8, 2013 at 1:16 PM

It’s one thing to use FOIA track down corruption, but I don’t want mere public curiosity to take precidence over avoiding putting targets on the backs of our covert service people and their families.

jamesgreenidge on July 8, 2013 at 2:09 PM

We are still at war, and people want to know how the last major victory was achieved?

That’s the problem with FOIA against classified holdings of the DOD… What the New York Times or the Washington Post know and print, the jihadi down the block knows too.

Sorry, but I’ll wait a bit for information about how much the “rat eared Dear Leader” did or did not do…

unclesmrgol on July 8, 2013 at 2:40 PM

The most obvious conclusion is that there’s something in the file that doesn’t make the operation, the Pentagon, the CIA, and/or the administration look good, but, er … the mission was a success, and a rather spectacular one at that

An equally or more likely explanation is that no court is capable of evaluating what is sensitive. The general public has no ability to do so.

burt on July 8, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Or was it a new strategy to defeat FOIA requests by the Obama administration?

The administration is making FOIA requests?

Akzed on July 8, 2013 at 4:55 PM

An equally or more likely explanation is that no court is capable of evaluating what is sensitive. The general public has no ability to do so. burt on July 8, 2013 at 4:30 PM

“It’s too special for you, so shut up and go away.”

No photo of the corpse.

Corpse supposedly buried at sea.

Half of SEAL Team 6 killed a month later.

What could they be trying to hide?

Akzed on July 8, 2013 at 4:57 PM

Don’t know if it is true here BUT in some cases it is just old info and needs to be cleared out and reporters are just trying to make a story out of it because they just don’t know how to ask the correct questions and to who they should ask it. I see it all the time in the news and most of the time they just get a pass on it. The real story to ask about Bin Laden is the Pakistan report just released through Al Jareera.

In 1969 I was assigned to a missile maintenance facility north of Detroit Michigan. The missiles had two kinds of warhead, non-nuclear and the “other kind”. A young reporter for the Free Press ran a front page piece. “ Nuclear Tipped Missiles Surround Detroit”. The paper came out and no one cared. Seems that the reporter was the only one that did not know that the warheads were out there, just that no one new which missiles had them.

jpcpt03 on July 8, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Here’s what I’d do:

1.Take bin Laden alive.
2.Sweep his wife into the corner of the room, not because she might have been wearing a bomb, but to keep her from seeing that bid Laden was taken alive. Shoot her in the leg just for the hell of it or as a way of further distracting her.
3.Hustle bin Laden off in the helicopter.
4.Take him on a nice ride out to the Carl Vinson.
5.Interogate the bastard good and hard until you’re satisfed that there’s not an un-interogated neuron left in his head.
6.Shoot him in the noggin.
7.Feed the nice fish.
8.Publish a book and a couple of movies, emphasizing that he was killed in the initial snatch, so that the Arab street doesn’t ululate itself into a frenzy.
9.Drink beer and celebrate.

justltl on July 8, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Osama is at Gitmo learning to breathe through a sponge????

patch on July 8, 2013 at 11:15 PM