Something brewing in Europe has spooked counterterrorism officials. On Oct. 3, the State Department issued a rare warning to Americans, urging them to show vigilance during their trips. Over the last week, European counterterrorism officials have escalated their precautions: The Eiffel Tower has been cleared twice in the last three weeks because of bomb alerts, and special anti-terrorism forces have been active on French streets. The threat, which covers France, Britain, and Germany, is reportedly of a "Mumbai-style" attack by al Qaeda. In November 2008, terrorists wreaked havoc on the Indian port city by launching coordinated attacks against hotels, restaurants, and tourist sites, killing 166 people. Could the same sort of horror be in store for Paris, Berlin, or London?
An unusual footnote in Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars sheds light on where responsibility for such an attack might originate. Indeed, it is the only footnote in the whole book.
Woodward's footnote qualifies a line reporting that, within 48 hours of the Mumbai attacks, then CIA Director Michael Hayden told Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani that CIA intelligence showed no direct link to the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, the country's main spy agency. "[T]hese are former people who are no longer employees of the Pakistani government," Hayden reportedly told Haqqani. However, the U.S. intelligence community would apparently revise this assessment because there, at the bottom of page 46 of Woodward's book, are the words: "The CIA later received reliable intelligence that the ISI was directly involved in the training for Mumbai."
The Pakistani military would admit a month later that it had connections to individuals involved in the attack. The head of ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, briefed Hayden at CIA headquarters, telling him that the planners of the Mumbai attacks, identified as "at least two retired Pakistani Army officers," were linked to the ISI, but the operation had not been authorized by the Pakistani military. It was rogue, Woodward writes, before quoting Pasha: "There may have been people associated with my organization who were associated with this. That's different from authority, direction and control."
The "rogue" quote in Woodward's book has been picked up by the Indian media because it fits with the narrative, popular among many in Pakistan's bigger neighbor, that the Pakistan military in general and the ISI in particular have ceased being national institutions subordinate to legal or governmental control. Saikat Datta, writing this week in Outlook India, described the Pakistani terrorist organizations responsible for the Mumbai attacks as "a parallel state run with quiet and ruthless efficiency by the ISI."
The Indians have a point -- and when they read Woodward's footnote, they will be even more convinced. With U.S. officials having originally assured New Delhi that the Mumbai attacks were not sanctioned by Islamabad, thereby averting Indian military retaliation, it is unclear whether they told their Indian counterparts of their revised view or left it for them to read in Woodward's book.