Former CIA director Goss: Bin Laden capture years in the making

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Sooner or later, it had to happen.

Former CIA Director Porter Goss said on Monday from his Sanibel home that Osama bin Laden’s capture and killing was the culmination of work that began even before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks rocked the nation.

“The truth is, this started in the last century before many people knew much of anything about al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden,” Goss said, referring to the work that began with the Clinton administration to identify bin Laden’s whereabouts after lower-profile terror attacks in the 1990s.

Goss, 72, the head of the CIA from 2004 to 2006 and a one-time U.S. representative for Southwest Florida, credited the Obama administration with the persistence to see through with bin Laden’s capture. But he said the development could have happened years ago if not for setbacks caused by near-constant debates about the means by which the American intelligence community gathers information.

“What might have happened sooner actually took a little longer,” Goss said on Monday. “Obviously, some of our interrogation dried up over the hullabaloo over whether we could use a certain type of questioning, or whether we had to read enemy combatants their Miranda rights. That debate ended up causing proponents on either side of that to leak information to the media, (information) which was not always responsibly handled.”

Goss said bin Laden’s capture and killing actually bolsters the United States’ use of the base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to hold enemy combatants. According to developing reports on Monday, U.S. intelligence on bin Laden’s whereabouts began forming four years ago with the identification of one of bin Laden’s couriers — a piece of information reportedly obtained from a Guantanamo detainee.

As for bin Laden’s death, Goss said he only regrets that the head of the world’s most notorious terrorist organization was not captured alive.

“The one thing I would have loved to have is a couple of days with bin Laden in what I would call ‘intense conversation,’” Goss said. “When Osama went down a lot of information went down with him. ... That would have been my preference. I certainly point no fingers and cast no blame. It wasn’t an option, as it turned out.”

Taking bin Laden alive also would have complicated repercussions for where to hold him and how to bring him to justice, Goss conceded.

“That one bullet simplified a lot of things,” he said.

But one thing remains almost impossibly complicated—The U.S.-Pakistan relationship, which has been increasingly strained amid U.S.-operated unmanned drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas. Bin Laden’s location and killing in Pakistan — just an hour’s drive from the capital of Islamabad — seems to only further complicate a delicate relationship, Goss said.

“In Muslim countries, especially (in regions populated by) the Sunnis, where there’s a lot of fundamentalism, those countries are not cheering for us,” said Goss. “It will be mighty tough for their political leadership. We have to be mindful of that — we may not be the greatest fans of their political leadership, but it’s a lot better than what it could be.”

Connect with higher education reporter Leslie Williams Hale at naplesnews.com/staff/leslie_hale

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