Foreign affairs
March 19, 2014
(Getty/Mario Tama)

When Osama bin Laden was discovered to be hiding in a three-story house in the garrison town of Abbottabad, Pakistan — as opposed to the Waziri cave of popular imagination — it was immediately suspected that members of the Pakistani military had been aware of his whereabouts, and had perhaps even helped him evade the U.S.'s wrath. In a new article in The New York Times Magazine, Carlotta Gall, who spent more than a decade reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Times, presents a pretty powerful case that the military — in particular its powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence — was indeed involved in safehousing bin Laden.

In trying to prove that the ISI knew of Bin Laden’s whereabouts and protected him, I struggled for more than two years to piece together something other than circumstantial evidence and suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge. Only one man, a former ISI chief and retired general, Ziauddin Butt, told me that he thought [former President Pervez] Musharraf had arranged to hide bin Laden in Abbottabad. But he had no proof and, under pressure, claimed in the Pakistani press that he’d been misunderstood. Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: bin Laden. I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when I learned this, and I remember gasping, though quietly so as not to draw attention. (Two former senior American officials later told me that the information was consistent with their own conclusions.) This was what Afghans knew, and Taliban fighters had told me, but finally someone on the inside was admitting it. The desk was wholly deniable by virtually everyone at the ISI — such is how supersecret intelligence units operate — but the top military bosses knew about it, I was told. [The New York Times Magazine]

Perhaps it's not what we could call a slam dunk, but there is much more than that, so check out the full article, which is excerpted from Gall's forthcoming book The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014. Ryu Spaeth

This just in
10:41 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday called on the Justice Department to conduct a full "pattern and practice" review of the city's police department to probe whether officers routinely violate citizens' civil rights.

"At the end of this process, I will hold those accountable if changes are not made," Rawlings-Blake said, adding that the department would have body cameras on officers "before the year ends."

The announcement came one day after new Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Baltimore. The DOJ was already investigating the death of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black man who died in police custody and whose death sparked widespread protests that at times turned violent. Jon Terbush

Baltimore
10:19 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Two surveillance planes were flown over Baltimore last weekend, and the ACLU isn't happy about it.

The Washington Post reports that the planes used infrared technology to track movement, and they were aided by the FBI, according to anonymous officials. Now, the ACLU is demanding information about the flights' legal authority, since the technology often adds "the movements of people under no suspicion of criminal activity into a government dragnet," according to the Post. 

"A lot of these technologies sweep very, very broadly, and, at a minimum, the public should have a right to know what's going on," Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, told the Post.

Officials told the Post that the ACLU will file information requests about the planes with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the FAA on Wednesday. The FBI has not commented on the flights. Meghan DeMaria

Nobody suspects the Masonic Fraternal Police Department
10:16 a.m. ET

California police have arrested three people claiming to represent a modern incarnation of the Knights Templar, one of whom, Brandon Kiel, works alongside state Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris.

So how does one get caught impersonating a pseudo-biblical police force?

The three suspects — Kiel, David Henry, and Tonette Hayes — allegedly sent letters to police departments around southern California identifying themselves as the Masonic Fraternal Police Department. They even had a real website for the fictional group claiming jurisdiction in 33 states "including Mexico City" and differentiating the MFPD from other police departments with the simple explanation, "We were here first!"

Yet when the real police met with the fake police, the latter couldn't offer coherent information about their organization, leading the former to conclude it "was not a legitimate police agency," according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department. Subsequent raids turned up weapons, badges, and uniforms for the phony cops.

"I always see them with their uniforms, so I thought they were part of any department," a neighbor for one of the suspects told the local CBS affiliate. "I didn't know it was a fake one." Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
9:21 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jeb Bush says the strife in Baltimore proves the war on poverty "failed" to expand opportunity in America's most disadvantaged communities. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed published Wednesday, the presumptive 2016 candidate writes that Democrats are wrongly responding to the unrest with calls to increase government spending and reform the criminal justice system.

Trouble is, from the War on Poverty to the persistence of liberal big city mayors, the same government programs have been in place for over a half-century — and they have failed. We have spent trillions of dollars in the War on Poverty, and poverty not only persists, it is as intractable as ever. This represents a broken promise. And it feeds the anger of Baltimore. [Chicago Tribune]

More effective solutions to Baltimore's underlying ills, Bush adds, should involve overhauling the education system to make it more accountable, and "acknowledg[ing] that an effective anti-poverty program is a strong family, led by two parents."

"Our goal should be to build up families," Bush writes.

Last week, Bush offered similar remarks about the potential for education reform to break "dependency" on failed big government policies. Jon Terbush

Rest in peace
9:13 a.m. ET
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In a moving Facebook post, Sheryl Sandberg pays tribute to her late husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, who died from head injuries after collapsing on a treadmill. 

Sandberg describes meeting Goldberg when she moved to Los Angeles. "He showed me the internet for the first time," Sandberg writes. She adds that while the couple "did not get nearly enough time together," she is incredibly grateful for the time they shared:

We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine... He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved — and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world.

Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn't sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way — and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit. [Facebook]

Sandberg concludes that while the days following Goldberg's death have been "the darkest and saddest moments" of her life, "11 years of being Dave Goldberg's wife, and 10 years of being a parent with him is perhaps more luck and more happiness than I could have ever imagined."

Read Sandberg's full post over at Facebook. Meghan DeMaria

Green thumbs down
9:13 a.m. ET
Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Talk about totally failing to get a vote of confidence. Garden State residents, who have voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections, would rather see Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, or Scott Walker in the White House over their own Governor Christie, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

In fact, only 1 in 4 residents say Christie has a decent shot at winning the GOP nomination in 2016.

Why all the ill will? It's likely that New Jerseyans feel their concerns have been overshadowed by Christie's Oval-Office-shaped aspirations. And, of course, the Bridgegate scandal hasn't helped shift souring attitudes. But when it comes down to it, a majority — 67 percent — of voters say Christie just doesn't have the right temperament to lead the country.

"The message from New Jersey voters seems to be as simple as ABC — anybody but Christie," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. Lauren Hansen

bon appetit
9:09 a.m. ET
Courtesy Genie

If the 15 to 30 minutes you wait for food delivery feels like an eternity, Israeli company White Innovation may have the solution to your impatience, Reuters reports.

Meet the Genie, described by its creators as a real-life "replicator" — the popular Star Trek machine that could create meals on command. The Genie operates via a mobile app, on which its user can cue up one of a variety of snacks, meals, or desserts. Pop the corresponding pod into the coffee-maker-size device, and 30 seconds later, breakfast/lunch/dinner is served. The pods hold freeze-dried, all-natural ingredients that stay good for one to two years, giving the Genie's creators hope that in addition to a fun fad for gastronomes, the device could eventually prove useful for troop deployments or in developing countries.

Watch a video of the machine in action, over at Reuters. Sarah Eberspacher

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