Eli Lake at the Washington Times has a disturbing story that could send shock waves through the US intelligence community. Apparently, officials are now conducting a review of the information Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi provided to the CIA, including whether senior level al-Qaida leaders were actually killed in drone strikes. The prospect of having been duped about the demise of a “list of senior al-Qaida and Taliban reported killed” would be a major setback in US efforts to dismantle the terror organization. Lake writes:
Al-Balawi was a key source on whether targets of the CIA-operated drone strike program were indeed killed as well as what U.S. spies thought was inside information on the effect of these targeted killings on al Qaeda’s leadership. Until now, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the drone strikes had eroded al Qaeda’s senior leadership.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials have stated in speeches, interviews and congressional testimony that U.S. attacks on al Qaeda leaders had severely damaged the group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
For their part, intelligence officials insist that most, if not all the individuals al-Balawi provided to them are dead, with one official going so far as to say, “If someone is suggesting that one of these bad guys is still alive, I challenge them to trot out Baitullah Mehsud and put him on TV.” Mehsud was a Taliban leader reported dead in a drone strike in August 2009. In his martyrdom video al-Balawi claimed his impending attack was revenge for Mehsud’s killing.