The sheer amount of leaked classified information about the operations and methods used by the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden is shocking and “abhorrent,” retired CIA officer Frederick Rustman told Newsmax.TV.
Rustman expressed shock over recent reports that the Obama administration may have shared classified information with a movie company making a film about the bin Laden mission.
“Frankly, I find it abhorrent, he said. “The number one job of a case officer or intelligence officer is to protect sources and methods. When we don’t do that we jeopardize all future operations. I read an article in the New Yorker recently which outlined the operation from start to finish. It did everything but name names.
“I can’t believe that people would do that for political purposes. I think it’s horrible,” Rustman said. “When I joined the agency quite a long time ago Richard Helms was the director. Under Mr. Helms there was no public relations department, no public affairs department. Whenever the press would call for a comment from the agency, the agency would say no comment. It’s a secret organization, they do secret work. It’s covert. Everything we say to the press goes out to our enemies. It’s a very, very bad thing to do.”
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The SEALs who took out bin Laden probably weren’t operating under direct orders to kill the al-Qaida leader but had an understanding that it was best not to bring him back alive, Rustmann also told Newsmax.TV.
Rustmann, the founder of the private intelligence agency CTC International Group, said the situation might have been different if the operation occurred four years earlier.
“Well, I think there was a wink and a nod that yes we will shoot to kill,” he said. “I think four years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. Four years ago we probably would have wanted to capture him, to bring him back to Guantanamo, to interrogate him using enhanced or other interrogation techniques and get intelligence that would really bring down al-Qaida.
“Today, in this atmosphere, I think that would have been a very bad thing to do. First of all we would have been trying him in New York. Secondly, it would have brought all kinds of enthusiasms from other al-Qaida members to spring him out; he would use it as a grandstand for his views. I think he is better off dead.”
Rustmann retired from the CIA's Clandestine Service in 1990 as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service after more than 24 years with the agency. He served in posts in eight different countries in in Asia, Europe and Africa during the Cold War.
Nonetheless, he said that tried and true methods keep the bin Laden operation secret. He said sources were thoroughly vetted and polygraphed and the intelligence officers did painstaking work collecting information through interrogations and observations over months and perhaps years.
“So what they did was develop a name, they developed an accent, where is he probably from,” he said. “From there we learned who the courier was, we learned where he was living, we set up an observation post, we observed, we did a lot of really boring, boring intelligence work until we found that’s where bin Laden probably was.”
However, the threat from al-Qaida and other terrorists did not end with the killing of bin Laden. He said the United States has a two-prong strategy to fight attacks. The tip of the spear is the intelligence side, the FBI and the CIA, that work to prevent attacks and law enforcement whose goal is to arrest suspects and get them off the streets.
“The threats are out there,” Rustmann said. “They’re out there from homegrown terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and they’re out there from al-Qaida, the whole dynamic, the whole spectrum. … It’s not going to get any easier. They can pick the time, they can pick the place and we have to be there 100 percent of the time to thwart this stuff and it’s not going to happen.
“We’re going to get hit again; we’re going to get hit again hard. They are thinking up all kinds of crazy ways to do this, biological, chemical warfare, nuclear warfare that would be the worst. But they’re out there and they’re going to come after us.”
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