Osama bin Laden

The Plot Thins
September 29, 2009

Among those who know me well, few can remember when I covered any subjects other than Al Qaeda and the global jihad. I wrote about Osama Bin Laden when he was "Usama bin Ladin." And so since September 14, all anybody's been asking me are questions about a young Afghan immigrant named Najibullah Zazi and his alleged involvement in the first Al Qaeda cell uncovered in America since the 9/11 attacks. Here are my answers to the four most common questions I've been getting.  1. Is this just another of the government's over-hyped terror plots?  U.S.

Obama vs. Osama
December 24, 2008

Has the president picked the right war?

The Killer Question
January 30, 2008

The last time I saw Benazir Bhutto was over dinner at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., three weeks before her October return to Pakistan. She was in enormously good spirits, almost effervescent. The years in the political wilderness looked like they were coming to an end. But, at one point, the conversation took a more serious turn as she began discussing the mysterious death of General Zia, the dictator who had hanged her father in 1979.Zia died in a plane accident in Pakistan nine years later.

Bin Laden's Threats Against Israel
December 30, 2007

Osama Bin Laden has announced, as you must have seen in all of the papers and in an AP dispatch, that he is putting Israel on his agenda for destruction, and Israel would be nuts not to take him seriously.  He devoted only a few minutes, however, to Israel out of 56-minute audiotape rant, emphasizing the struggle in Iraq against Sunni reprobates: "the most evil of the traitors are those who trade away their religion for the sake of their mortal life."  Osama, you see, trades in immortality.  Join his group, you are killed, you enter paradise and you screw for eternity.  What happens to the wom

Bin Laden On Unity

Osama Bin Laden has issued a statement about the need for unity among perfervid Muslims.  This is not one of his characteristic tropes.  Indeed, he doesn't really think of Shi'a as Muslims at all.  But serious observers think that Osama's words and voice impute desperation to his faithful fanatics and, of course, therefore, to serious observers of the war in Iraq.  Richard Clarke, a severe critic of the war from its earliest days and a slightly unreliable manager of U.S.

Getting Beyond 9/11?
September 12, 2007

I know this is the week we are supposed to be thinking about 9/11. I am, and I'll get to it. But as a linguist, I cannot help also mourning that Alex the parrot died last week. He lived at Brandeis University in the lab of psychologist Irene Pepperberg. Many linguists think of language as the result of a genetic mutation unique to humans, but Alex challenged that idea. He knew over a hundred words, and was even given to saying things like "I love you" at the appropriate times!

Radical Sheik
June 21, 2007

Abdul Rashid Ghazi comes across a little like Jerry Garcia. He wears oval-shaped, wire-rimmed glasses, has a grey, fist-length beard, and sports curly hair that flips wildly around his ears and neckline. He even has the former Grateful Dead frontman's easy smile and chill demeanor. University educated, he talks in idiomatic English, and, during one recent conversation, we even swapped stories about hanging out on the beaches in Thailand. This is a bit surprising, considering that Ghazi and his brother, Maulana Abdul Aziz, are leading an Islamic revolution in Pakistan.

Low Clearance
October 10, 2005

In January 2006, a court in Northern Virginia will hear a case in which, for the first time, the federal government has charged two private citizens with leaking state secrets. CBS News first reported the highly classified investigation that led to this prosecution on the eve of the Republican National Convention. On August 27, 2004, Lesley Stahl told her viewers that, in a "full-fledged espionage investigation," the FBI would soon "roll up" a "suspected mole" who had funneled Pentagon policy deliberations concerning Iran to Israel.

The Operator
September 22, 2003

On May 28, George Tenet delivered for the Bush administration. Nearly two months had passed since the fall of Baghdad. U.S. forces had turned up no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, raising the specter of gross misjudgment on the part of the U.S. intelligence community and allegations of presidential dishonesty. But, that day, the CIA announced that two trailers found in northern Iraq the previous month were actually mobile biological-agent production facilities.

Need to Know
September 23, 2002

If the Bush administration's preparations for war with Saddam Hussein were proceeding appropriately, the president would probably be curling up right now with something called a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) for Iraq. An NIE is a document pooling all the information on a particular country that U.S. intelligence services have collected from overheard phone calls, satellite photos, decrypted e-mails, defectors, paid informants, foreign intelligence services, diplomat tipsters, newspaper articles, and official speeches.