PARIS -- Is "killed by a drone strike" the new "alive and well"? If you pay close enough attention, it makes you wonder what's really going on.
Here's how this charade usually goes: One or more major news organizations runs a story about some Middle Eastern terrorist being killed in a drone strike, usually in Pakistan. The reports, typically generated by some murky Pakistani intelligence source -- are neither confirmed nor denied by U.S. intelligence. The boilerplate response is instead something like, "We can only confirm they were in the area." It's kind of like asking, "Did you sleep with my wife?" and getting back, "I cannot confirm or deny except to say that we were in the same bed."
This week, senior al-Qaeda leader Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti was reported to have been killed by a drone in northern Pakistan. American intelligence officials have yet to confirm or deny, but that hasn't stopped this from becoming worldwide news and accepted as fact. After all, in the event that the story isn't actually true, will anyone remember the retraction -- or even demand one? Al-Kuwaiti sure won't. He'll probably be grateful to finally get some peace and quiet.
Throughout history, people have paid big bucks for the privilege of dropping off the face of the earth, often unsuccessfully. Little did they know that all they had to do was turn to terrorism and end up on America's radar as a major target.
There is no question that these stories are becoming part of an interesting, if not suspicious, pattern.
In September 2010, U.S.S. Cole bombing suspect Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso was reported to have been killed by a drone. U.S. intelligence wouldn't confirm or deny the report of his death beyond saying that he was in the drone-flooded area of Northern Pakistan. You'd think it would be their job to find these things out. He met his second "death" by drone on May 6, 2012. Any chances of a third? Is this man a cat?
In October 2010, an Osama bin Laden "ambassador," Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, was reported to have "killed" by a drone. But again, U.S. intelligence wouldn't confirm or deny anything beyond saying that he was hanging out in northern Pakistan. It was later reported that he was killed yet again by a drone on August 22, 2011.
There must be a stellar vacation-package deal for members of Middle Eastern terrorist groups to vacation in northern Pakistan if they're willing to risk all the drones and repeated deaths.
High-ranking al-Qaeda member Saeed al-Shehri is yet another terrorist who has been "killed" at least twice to date in separate air raids: once as reported by ABC News in December 2009, and yet again this past September, as reported by the Associated Press.
So do these guys really end up dead at some point? Or does the mere announcement of their questionable deaths serve to conveniently remove them from the radar? In at least one other case, it turns out that a supposedly "dead" terrorist is still at large enough to still be included on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list.
Mohammed Ali Hamadi is the Hezbollah terrorist responsible for the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 during which Navy diver Robert Stethem was tortured, killed and tossed out onto the tarmac. Hamadi still remains on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list despite having been reported killed by a drone in northern Pakistan in 2010.
Does the FBI really care to apprehend this fugitive? Because there have been sightings of him recently reported here in the North of France. And why isn't the agency's sophisticated high-tech composite photograph included on the FBI website? Or better yet, his latest-available photo from 2008, which is markedly different from those the FBI has posted?
A private investigation suggests that Hamadi was operating a vehicle import/export business between Belgium and Lebanon until his "death." His cell phone number from that period is available, should the FBI wish to actually investigate.
What's preventing the FBI from doing its job? Certainly not the extradition treaty between the U.S. and France, which allows for extradition upon executive approval. And apparently, being an FBI Most Wanted fugitive doesn't mean inclusion in the Interpol database. How about fixing that?
And if the FBI no longer cares that Hamadi remains at large, then why keep him on the Most Wanted list? Pick a lane.
When U.S. intelligence isn't busy fake-killing terrorists, it may want to try apprehending them and bringing them to justice. Just a thought.