A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.
The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group’s operations.
But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.
About a dozen current and former military and intelligence officials were interviewed for this article, all of whom requested anonymity because the planned 2005 mission remained classified.
At first glance this leak appears to be intelligence and military officials, no longer in fear of their civilian bosses, exacting revenge for thwarted opportunities. But as I read the story more closely it appears that perhaps the Bush Administration may have orchestrated this leak in order to put pressure on Pakistan. Among the clues pointing in that direction is how all the blame is given to "Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary," with Bush and Cheney portrayed as totally in the dark about the whole affair. How likely does that seem to you? One thing we have learned about this Administration is how likely they are to throw former colleagues under the bus and that it is difficult to overestimate their ability to be duplicitous and deceitful.