The Obama administration deliberately downplayed the strength and sophistication of Al Qaeda in the run-up to the 2012 election to help his chances of winning re-election, an expert terrorism journalist has revealed.
Rukmini Callimachi, one of the leading terrorism reporters in the U.S., said at a conference on Friday the Obama administration controlled the media’s narrative about Al Qaeda in the run-up and during the 2012 election by minimizing the terrorist network.
“The overall narrative that I think was being pushed to the press, and if you look back at the editorials that were done when that trove came out, was an image of bin Laden isolated, he had lost control of this group,” Callimachi said, according to the Weekly Standard. She was referring to a hand-picked packet of 17 documents the Obama administration released in May 2012 about Al Qaeda.
Think back to when bin Laden was killed. It was 2011, it was right before a major campaign season. I don’t want to underplay the role that the killing of Osama bin Laden had. But I think that that was theorized into something much bigger.
The head of the organization has been killed, and now — these are literally quotes that I would get: the organization has been “decimated,” the organization is in “disarray,” the organization is “on the run.” At the same time that we were preparing to pull out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, I think that it was important to portray this as a problem that no longer existed.
The comments came in response to a question inquiring whether or not she believed the government was hiding information from the public.
What else did she say?
According to the Weekly Standard, Callimachi went on to tell a story about her time in West Africa, when she covered Al Qaeda-linked groups there. She said that in 2011, the Obama administration told her Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an organization in Mali, wasn’t connected to Al Qaeda and was merely a band of criminals.
However, she discovered on her own, by scouring through documents left by AQIM in Timbuktu, that the group was actually being “micromanaged” by top Al Qaeda commanders.
“Suddenly, my worldview, which had been informed by [Obama’s] officials…started to fall apart. Suddenly, I was seeing that this group that I was told really had no ties, with no connection…was in fact being micromanaged by al Qaeda central,” she explained.
Callimachi said she was proved correct this month after President Donald Trump’s administration released a treasure trove of documents, about 470,000, that were captured when Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011. Just several hundred were released under Obama’s leadership, despite constant requests to release the document cache in full.
The documents, which include very personal items of bin Laden’s like his journal and the movies he watched, have helped paint a more complete picture of the global terrorist and the organization he ran, including the fact that he was very active in its day-to-day operations.
From the writer’s perspective: Why Obama would do this
It’s simple. Obama wanted to bolster his chances of re-election. Election 2012 was a major foreign policy campaign for both Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Controlling the flow of information and narrative helped Obama seem as though he was not only right about foreign threats, but that he had succeeded in fulfilling promises made when he first ran for president.
In reality, the Middle East was a hotbed of terrorism — which eventually bore ISIS — and Russia became America’s biggest geo-political threat, just as Romney had predicted.