U.S. may be passing up chances to stop terrorist plots

Posted on May 11, 2010

Did a captured Taliban leader know about the Times Square plot and withhold this information from his interrogators?

On Sunday, Obama administration officials, including counterterrorism chief John Brennan, declared that the Taliban was behind the attack and that Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, had "extensive interactions" with Taliban leaders in Pakistan. Yet just a few months before Shahzad attempted to blow up a car bomb in the heart of Manhattan, U.S. and Pakistani officials captured the highest-ranking Taliban leader ever detained in the war on terror -- Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. This raises a critical question: Could Baradar have warned us about the Times Square attack?

Baradar was detained in Karachi, Pakistan, in late January -- the same city where several of Shahzad's associates were just detained. Shahzad left Pakistan on Feb. 3, just days after Baradar's capture, which means he was meeting with Taliban officials while Baradar was still at large. Why did Shahzad flee right after Baradar was taken into custody?

Baradar is second only to Mullah Omar in the Taliban hierarchy. Newsweek described him as "arguably the most important terrorist suspect captured since the detention of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in spring of 2003." But unlike KSM, Baradar has not been taken into American custody for interrogation by the CIA. Instead, he has been held and questioned by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

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