Does CIA Really Have Al-Qaeda 'On the Run'?

Director Leon Panetta says so

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CIA Director Leon Panetta says the CIA is "seriously disrupting al-Qaeda" in what has been "the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history." He also says, "we really do have them on the run." Meanwhile, a drone strike in Pakistan reportedly killed a senior commander of al-Qaeda. Still, Panetta's statement is a bold one. Is he right?

  • Panetta's Case  In an interview with the Washington Post, Panetta described an al-Qaeda with spotty leadership, limited resources and a greatly reduced capacity. "So profound is al-Qaeda's disarray that one of its lieutenants, in a recently intercepted message, pleaded with bin Laden to come to the group's rescue and provide some leadership, Panetta said." He boasted, "It's pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run."
  • We've Heard This Before  The New York Times' David Sanger counters, "At the end of the Bush administration, intelligence officials made similar claims. At the same time, some officials concede, an operation as complex as that in Khost demonstrates that Al Qaeda and the Taliban can still carry out sophisticated terror actions."
  • Obama Resists Liberals in War on Terror  Conservative blogger Allahpundit praises President Obama for his tough approach to national security. "Naturally, with drone strikes proving more effective than ever, Obama’s now under legal pressure from the ACLU to discontinue them, but I give him full credit for resisting the left thus far. Summarily executing these turds with missiles cuts entirely against [Attorney General] Eric Holder’s 'innocent until proven guilty' criminal-law ethos of counterterrorism, but in this case, three cheers for hypocrisy."
  • Are Those Drone Strikes Even Legal?  The Washington Post's Greg Sargent sighs, "What about that pesky question of a legal rationale for those drone strikes? The Obama administration says they’ll get around to sharing that with us one of these days. The fierce urgency of whenever…"
  • Is He Right? Who Knows  Spencer Ackerman points out that Panetta's claims are so vague and hard to verify that it's tough to know how seriously to take them. "And yet you can’t exactly not report them when he gives them to you. As such, it’s kind of like saying, 'Senior Official Says His People Are Doing a Great Job at Something Important.'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.