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

I'll drink to that
10:22 a.m. ET
Adam Berry/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators and representatives have partnered to introduce the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (S.1562) to simplify and lower taxes and regulations on the production of beer and other alcoholic beverages in America.

The bill would reduce excise taxes from $7 to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels of beers from the smallest breweries, and reduce it from $18 to $16 for the first 6 million barrels from bigger outfits. Other proposed changes include expanding the list of allowable ingredients in hard cider and making it easier for breweries to collaborate without paying extra taxes. Home hobby distillation, which is currently subject to a dubious legal situation, would also be decriminalized on a small scale should the bill pass.

Not surprisingly, the craft brewing industry is supportive of the legislation. This "could drive the industry to greater heights," said Wisconsin brewer Fish Hamilton. "Really, this is something that the cost is minimal, the benefit is substantial and, again, I think it is something that has long been needed." Bonnie Kristian

This just in
10:03 a.m. ET

A missing cargo ship carrying 33 crewmen is believed to have sunk during Hurricane Joaquin, NBC News reports. El Faro, which vanished Thursday in the Bermuda Triangle, had 28 Americans on board.

A 225-square-mile debris field was discovered over the weekend, including a life ring from El Faro, but no lifeboats have been found. The ship was expected to have been facing 20- to 30-foot waves; a distress call indicated that the ship had lost power and was taking on water. The 735-foot cargo ship was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida, when it lost contact during the height of the hurricane. Jeva Lange

This just in
9:54 a.m. ET
USAF/Getty Images

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Monday that Afghan forces had called for the deadly Saturday morning airstrikes that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital, ABC News reports.

The Kunduz hospital, reportedly the only advanced facility in the region, closed Sunday after the strikes killed at least 22 people and damaged the building. U.S. forces have repeatedly targeted Kunduz since the Taliban took control of the city last week.

"If errors were committed, we will acknowledge them," Gen. John Campbell said.

The U.S. military is investigating the incident, but the non-governmental organization called for an independent review and accused the U.S. of committing a war crime. Doctors Without Borders has also disputed the claim from Afghan officials that Taliban fighters were using the hospital as a base. Julie Kliegman

Clinton Emails
9:43 a.m. ET

As Hillary Clinton sees it, she's made history for releasing her emails. In a town hall meeting hosted by NBC's Today show Monday morning, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate not only defended her use of a private email server — she gave herself a pat on the back for her transparency throughout the ordeal.

"I have gone further than anybody that I'm aware of in American history," Clinton said, referring to her release of emails. "Now it's not a long history since we haven't had emails that long — as long as we've had them, I've gone longer and farther to be as transparent as possible. Nobody else has done that."

Clinton also once again emphasized the fact that her use of a private server was allowed, and that "every government official gets to decide what is personal and work-related." The only thing she's embarrassed about in this whole email snafu, she says, is that "the emails are so boring." Watch Clinton's full response below. Becca Stanek

too many jobs
9:29 a.m. ET

Twitter named co-founder Jack Dorsey as its CEO on Monday, a job he'll take on in addition to running Square, the mobile payment company he also co-founded. Dorsey, 38, has served as interim Twitter CEO since July, when Dick Costolo stepped down.

Dorsey founded Square after being ousted as Twitter CEO in 2008. After some hesitation, investors in both companies reportedly now support his permanent return to Twitter.

"Deion Sanders played in both the World Series and the Super Bowl," venture capitalist Keith Rabois told The New York Times in September. "I don't see any reason why Jack can't do that."

For what it's worth, Dorsey himself doesn't seem terribly concerned about his workload, either. Julie Kliegman

it's the end of the world as we know it
9:25 a.m. ET

The only thing preventing a possible nuclear reactor meltdown could be the password "1234," according to a new global study of power plant security systems, the Financial Times reports. Hacking into a power plant's computers could allow a malicious individual to tamper with cooling systems and back-ups to induce a nuclear meltdown. While the risk of damage is exponentially high in the case of a hack, new research has found that nuclear facilities have few measures in place to prevent a destructive cyber attack.

"Cyber security is still new to many in the nuclear industry," said Caroline Baylon, who authored the report. "They are really good at safety and, after 9/11, they've got[ten] really good at physical security. But they have barely grappled with cyber."

Baylon and her team at the nonprofit NGO think tank Chatham House studied 50 power plant cyber attacks and interviewed senior officials in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K., Ukraine, and the U.S. The findings are a bit terrifying:

Most facilities still do not take cyber security seriously enough in spite of such instances, Ms. Baylon said. Officials interviewed for the report, for example, described default vendor logins — the standard factory-set passwords such as "1234" — as being "everywhere" when it comes to the computer systems that regulate nuclear processes. [Financial Times]

Baylon added that many engineers and officials believe that because their computer systems aren't connected to the internet, they're immune to attacks — a mindset Baylon called "a culture of denial."

"Many people said it was simply not possible to cause a major incident like a release of ionizing radiation with a cyber attack... but that's not necessarily true," she said. Jeva Lange

Drink to this
8:56 a.m. ET

Researchers in Edinburgh are either trying to fight climate change and make the UK energy independent, or they're striving to give scotch drinkers a reason to tipple with altruistic abandon — or maybe a bit of both. The whisky you take home in a bottle is less than 10 percent of what distilleries put out, Prof. Martin Tangney tells Reuters. The rest is waste, and two of those byproducts, pot ale and barley, make great fuel. Tangney's company, Celtic Renewables, processes those byproducts into biobutanol, which the company says is like bioethanol only more powerful. Unlike the weaker bioethanol, biobutanol is almost as powerful as gasoline, Tangney says, and it can be used in gas engines with no modifications. The whisky fuel is being mass produced in Belgium and will soon be distilled in the UK, says Jim Drury, likely to be mixed with regular gas. For more information, watch the Reuters report below. Peter Weber

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