Monday, May 9, 2011

Source: U.S. needs permission to interview bin Laden wives

Abbottabad, Pakistan Pakistan will allow the United States to question or take into custody the apparent wives of Osama bin Laden only if their "country of origin has been asked for permission," a senior Pakistani intelligence source told CNN on Monday.
One of bin Laden's wives is from Yemen, the official said.
Pakistani officials have said bin Laden's family members will be repatriated to their home countries after initial interrogations are completed.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday delivered his first address to the lower house of Parliament since the killing of bin Laden, rejecting accusations that his government had failed to adequately pursue the world's most wanted terrorist.
While calling bin Laden's death "justice done," Gilani repeatedly assailed U.S. violation of Pakistani "sovereignty" in conducting the operation without Pakistan's knowledge or involvement.
"Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd," Gilani said, referring to suggestions by some U.S. officials that there may be some within the Pakistani government or military who were helping shield bin Laden or failing to look for him. "We emphatically reject such accusations. Speculative narratives in the public domain are meant to create despondency. We will not allow our detractors to succeed in offloading their own shortcomings and errors of omission and commission in a blame game that stigmatizes Pakistan."
Bin Laden was found in a compound in Abbottabad, a city with a heavy military presence a few hours drive from Islamabad -- rather than in the remote mountains and caves that Pakistani and U.S. officials often said were his hiding place.
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Gilani also insisted that Pakistan's response to the sudden arrival of U.S. forces in the nighttime operation deserves praise. "The Air Force was ordered to scramble. Ground units arrived at the scene quickly. Our response demonstrates that our armed forces reacted, as was expected of them." Still, he added, "there is no denying the U.S. technological ability to evade our radars."
"Any attack against Pakistan's strategic assets whether overt or covert will find a matching response," Gilani said. "Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force. No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland."
"Unilateralism runs the inherent risk of serious consequences," Gilani said, in a fiery speech frequently interrupted by applause from some lawmakers. "Suppose the operation had gone wrong."
Still, Gilani said, "Pakistan attaches high importance to its relations with the U.S. We have a strategic partnership which we believe serves our mutual interests. It is based on mutual respect and mutual trust." And recent discussions with the United States "have been good, productive and straightforward," he said.
Gilani also noted that an investigation is under way into bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad.
The speech came amid reports suggesting the possible leak of a CIA agent's name in Pakistan. Pakistani news outlets named a man they identified as the CIA station chief. But a senior Pakistani intelligence official said the name was inaccurate and he did not know where it came from. "If we were going to release the name, we would release the right one," the official said.
A U.S. official said there is "no current plan to bring home the current chief of station" in Pakistan.
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's chief of army staff, said Monday that he has requested that Gilani convene a joint session of Parliament for a "briefing on security issues as related to Abbottabad incident," according to a statement from the Pakistani military. Kayani requested "a consensus on important security issues including war on terror" and a response to be articulated through the Parliament as "the most effective way to let the world know the historic achievements of Pakistan against al Qaeda and its terror affiliates."
U.S. President Barack Obama said he thinks bin Laden likely had a group of supporters within Pakistan helping to keep the al Qaeda leader secure for years, despite the U.S.-led international manhunt that extended for nearly a decade with Islamabad's ostensible support.
In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday night, Obama said, "We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don't know who or what that support network was."
The president said U.S. officials "don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government (or) people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate."
"More importantly," he added, "the Pakistani government has to investigate."
In the interview, Obama also said sending U.S. troops on a dangerous mission to get bin Laden was worth the risks, even though it was not certain bin Laden was in the compound.
"Obviously, we're going into the sovereign territory of another country and landing helicopters and conducting a military operation," he said. "And so, if it turns out that it's a wealthy, you know, prince from Dubai who's in this compound and, you know, we've sent special forces in, we've got problems."
Top U.S. officials insist Pakistan remains a critical U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, but are demanding answers to troubling questions about bin Laden's presence in that country over the past six years.
Last week, CIA Director Leon Panetta -- nominated by Obama to succeed Robert Gates as defense secretary -- told House members during a closed-door briefing that Pakistan was "either involved or incompetent," according to two sources in attendance.
Pakistani armed forces chiefs issued a statement last week admitting "shortcomings in developing intelligence" on the terrorist leader's presence in the country.
Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said he has not seen any information to indicate Pakistani officials knew bin Laden was living in Abbottabad.
But if evidence is discovered that is "highly disturbing, we'll certainly press that," he said.
There have been no decisions on reducing the number of U.S. military personnel in Pakistan or halting key supply lines to the war in Afghanistan, despite tensions between the United States and Pakistan, the Pentagon said Monday.
"I couldn't tell you whether there have been discussions. I can tell you there have been no decisions about either of those," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said.
"We have routine discussions with the Pakistanis, so I would presume there are discussions along these lines, but I have been told there are no decisions about reducing our number of forces or changing our lines of communications through Pakistan," Lapan said.
There are some 300 American military personnel in Pakistan. Overland routes through Pakistan are important for supplying the war effort in Afghanistan.
Lapan refused to answer questions about the downed U.S. helicopter left behind when U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden, including whether the United States is asking Pakistan to return the pieces of what is considered a highly advanced and -- until now -- secret, stealthy design. "We're not talking about it," Lapan said.
The U.S. operation collected a trove of material from the compound -- including 10 hard drives, five computers and more than 100 storage devices, such as disks and thumb drives, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
Investigators are poring over the items for intelligence. In recent days, the materials taken from bin Laden's compound revealed details about a possible attack on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The material suggests that al Qaeda was particularly interested in striking Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
U.S. authorities have found that al Qaeda appeared especially interested in striking on significant dates like July 4, Christmas and the opening day of the United Nations.
As early as February 2010, al Qaeda members discussed a plan to derail trains in the United States by placing obstructions on tracks over bridges and valleys, an alert said, according to one law enforcement official.
Dozens of people in Abbottabad have been arrested because of their suspected connections to the compound where bin Laden was shot and killed, a Pakistani intelligence official said last week. Investigators want to know whether any of the people are al Qaeda members or sympathizers.

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