[ by Charles Cameron — all too important, all too easily overlooked, Daveed G-R nails it ]
I thought Daveed Gartenstein-Ross made an exemplary point in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee session on the State of Al Qaeda, its Affiliates, and Associated Groups: View From Outside Experts, when in the second of four points in his Conclusion: Al-Qaeda and U.S. Policy (five in his testimony as delivered orally) he said:
This testimony has outlined two competing views of al-Qaeda, and it’s worth noting that public discussion of the jihadist group is impeded by the fact that open-source analysts lack basic information about the al-Qaeda network that can be found in such primary source documents as those recovered after the raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad. The seventeen Abbottabad documents that the U.S. government released in 2012 represent less than 1% of the total cache of information, and they don’t even contain a single complete correspondence. To improve public sphere discussion about al-Qaeda, declassification of those documents should be hastened.
A number of analysts have been saying the same thing for a while in blog posts and tweets, though in the present budget-cutting atmosphere they have been ignored and the program to continue declassification and analysis shelved — but Daveed brought the issue, pointedly and courageously I thought, to the House Committee itself.
If anything can turn things in a positive direction as far as that cache of documents is concerned, Daveed’s direct testimony will. As he put it:
Better harnessing the talents of open-source analysts has the potential to sharpen U.S. counterterrorism policies and alert policymakers to possible pitfalls.