Just in case he had to make a quick getaway. Frankly, I take it as evidence of laziness. Couldn’t he have simply memorized the number for his ISI liaison?
Osama bin Laden had cash totaling 500 Euros and two telephone numbers sewn into his clothing when he was killed — sure signs that he was prepared to flee his compound at a moment’s notice — top U.S. intelligence officials told members of Congress at a classified briefing in the Capitol Tuesday. A White House spokesman said he would not comment on the matter…
CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers about the items found in bin Laden’s clothing in response to a question about why he wasn’t guarded by more security personnel at his relatively luxurious home in a military town north of Islamabad. The answer, according to one source: Bin Laden believed “his network was strong enough he’d get a heads-up” before any U.S. strike against him.
The evidence of cash — which amounts to about $740 in U.S. dollars — and phone numbers was divulged to support the administration’s belief that bin Laden was prepared to escape the compound if alerted to an impending attack, the source said.
If you’re not sure what Panetta meant by “a heads-up,” read this. Between the small amount of cash, the revelation that three of his four guards were unarmed, and the fact that arch-terrorist Umar Patek was arrested in Abbottabad by Pakistani security just four months earlier, the only conclusion I can come to is that Bin Laden knew ISI was looking out for him. If he hadn’t, he would have fled the town after Patek’s arrest for fear that the heat was on and that he’d soon be caught too. The fact that he stayed speaks volumes about his comfort level, and explains why the compound was so lightly guarded. Why would he need guards and huge wads of cash to make his escape? If the U.S. or NATO ever got close, he assumed ISI would find out and tip him off so he could run. Which is precisely what Panetta was worried about.
Here’s how significant Patek’s arrest might have been:
“The information we have is that Umar Patek … was in Pakistan with his Filipino wife trying to meet Osama Bin Laden,” Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told reporters Wednesday.
Chairul Akbar, an official at Indonesia’s Anti-Terrorism Agency, earlier told the Associated Press that Patek and his wife traveled to Pakistan using false names — Anis Alawi Jaafar and Fatima Zahra — on August 30, 2010, aiming to meet Osama Bin Laden to get his “support and protection.”
“He was instructed to go to Abbottabad to meet other militants,” Akbar said.
A U.S. official says there’s no evidence whatsoever that Patek was in town to meet Bin Laden, that the whole thing was a “pure coincidence.” If you believe that, you probably also believe that Osama setting up shop in an area crawling with Pakistani military was also a coincidence. A further coincidence: Unlike all the other houses nearby, Bin Laden’s compound seemingly never got a visit from Pakistani census takers. And another coincidence: Indian intelligence claims it deduced as early as 2007 and 2008 that Bin Laden was probably living in a cantonment near Islamabad and passed the info to the U.S., where it apparently went down the intel hole. ISI, though, somehow didn’t make the same deduction, even though they now claim to have had the compound “under sharp focus” since 2003. Why they would admit that when it would mean, at the very least, that their surveillance is horribly incompetent, I have no idea. But it turns out that even that’s a lie. Reuters notes that the compound didn’t exist in 2003; U.S. satellite photos showed an empty field in that location as late as 2004. Not only are the Pakistanis lying, they’re not even trying to make the lies convincing. More from the Journal:
“There’s no doubt he was protected by some in the ISI,” [a] European [intelligence] official said of bin Laden. The officials say they believe these ISI elements include some current and former intelligence and military operatives with long-standing ties to al Qaeda and other militant groups…
The U.S. primarily deals with the ISI division responsible for counterterrorism, a former senior intelligence official said. That means ISI officials who work with the U.S. would be separate from ISI officials working with militants.
One senior U.S. defense official described the ISI as “highly compartmentalized,” allowing networks of current and former operatives to act with relative autonomy and without the knowledge of their superiors.
U.S. officials say they have evidence that the Haqqani network, a militant group based in Pakistan’s mountainous North Waziristan region, receives material support from the ISI in executing attacks against U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out a deadly 2008 assault in Mumbai.
Pakistan’s going to launch “internal investigations” to get to the bottom of this very mysterious state of affairs that seems less mysterious by the moment. And just to put a cherry on top of the sundae, as of this afternoon they were refusing to let the U.S. interrogate Bin Laden’s wives and kids “until we have, in writing, from their country of origin, a letter saying yes we can grant access to the Americans.” Doing things by the book — that’s the Pakistani way. Via Mediaite, here’s Jon Stewart reflecting on the extent of Pakistani complicity on last night’s show. Bin Laden wasn’t “hiding” in Abbottabad, he explains. He was just chillin’.
Update: If we can’t talk to Bin Laden’s wife, can we at least get our awesome stealth helicopter back?