FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
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

2:18 p.m. ET

We all have our hobbies, and Sen. Tim Kaine's hobby is harmonicas. He loves harmonicas. A lot. He carries multiple harmonicas in his briefcase. He once held a "Harmonica With Tim" promotional contest where the winner got dinner and a harmonica lesson with him. He randomly shows up at bluegrass jamborees with his harmonicas to jam. You don't get between Kaine and his harmonica.

Hillary Clinton's mountain music-loving running mate first learned to play the harmonica in seventh grade, and his skills now command the respect of fellow Virginians all across the state:

"One Sunday I'm there in the circle playing banjo and suddenly TV cameras show up," said Alan Graf, a lawyer and a musician, who often plays at the Floyd Country Store. "Tim Kaine walks in, and he sits down and someone goes, 'That's Senator Tim Kaine,' and I go, 'Oh great,' so much for a relaxed session with cameras beaming at you."

Mr. Graf was "leading" the song that Mr. Kaine joined in on, which in bluegrass means he can dictate who gets to take a solo during a break.

"And we're playing, and I notice Tim's looking at me," he said. "And I figured it was time for a solo. So I gave him the nod," he said with a pause, laughing. "Like Hillary."

[…] "But he took it, he took it, man," Mr. Graf said. "He just jumped on it. He was ready to go, and he took a pretty mean harp solo." [The New York Times]

Don't ask Kaine to put the harmonica down, though — he strictly doesn't dance. Read more about his hand reed hobby over at The New York Times, and watch him jam (in the blue jacket), below. Jeva Lange

1:49 p.m. ET

Another day, another Donald Trump presser. But on Wednesday, things got a little out of control even by Trump's meandering, hyperbolic standards. Here are some of the wildest moments. Jeva Lange

1. Trump says he would renegotiate the Geneva Conventions.

2. Trump tells Russia to find Clinton's missing emails, promises reward.

3. Trump completely goes off about Anthony Weiner.

4. Trump snaps at NBC's Katy Tur to "be quiet."

5. Trump asks entire room of reporters if they know what "the n-word is."

6. Trump whines "I have noooothing to dooo with Russssiaaaa" after getting asked about it again.

7. Trump says "France is no longer France."

8. Trump casually calls Obama the "most ignorant president in our history."

9. Trump claims Hillary Clinton's vice presidential pick Tim Kaine was terrible at running New Jersey... although Kaine is the former governor of Virginia.

10. Trump has to be corrected on the name of the man who shot Ronald Reagan.

11. Trump suggests he'd recognize Crimea as belonging to Russia.

11. Trump's own vice presidential pick releases a statement after the presser distancing himself from Trump's bizarre Russia rant.

11:56 a.m. ET

Donald Trump blasted President Obama for being the "most ignorant president in our history" in an off-the-rails press conference in Doral, Florida, on Wednesday:

Sure, Trump isn't one to hold back on a good hyperbole, but even this seems a little… much. Jeva Lange

11:30 a.m. ET

Donald Trump rejected claims that he is friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, going so far as to say that the DNC email hack wasn't actually done by the Russians — despite that being the FBI's leading theory. It was "probably China," Trump suggested, "or it could be somebody sitting in his bed."

Trump was met by a number of questions from the press in Florida about his relationship with Putin, who he said last year he "got to know ... very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates." But on Wednesday, Trump said, "I never met Putin. I don't know who Putin is ... I don't know anything about him other than that he'll respect me."

Again pressed about the DNC email hack, Trump said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing."

"I have nothing to do with Russia!" Trump moaned when someone asked him about it again. Watch the surreal moment, below. Jeva Lange

10:49 a.m. ET
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

Russia is saying "your loss" to the International Olympic Committee by hosting its own tournament in Moscow for athletes banned from competing in track and field at this summer's Rio Olympics. "About 135 track and field athletes are going to compete. They include Olympic champions and medal-holders as well as less renowned athletes forbidden to compete in Rio," Yuri Borzakovsky, the head coach of the Russian athletics squad, told Russia's TASS news agency.

Athletes will include "Sergei Shubenkov, incumbent world champion in the 110-meter race; high jumpers Maria Kuchina, Olympic Champion Ivan Ukhov, and Daniil Tsyplakov; javelin throwers Dmitry Tarabin and Vera Rebrik; [and] triple jumper Yekaterina Koneva," TASS reported.

Russia's track and field competitors were banned after a state-sponsored doping scandal came to light. Calls for a complete ban on Russian athletes were eventually rejected despite evidence Russian officials tampered with urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Jeva Lange

9:58 a.m. ET
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Prosecutors have dropped all remaining charges against three police officers over the death of Freddie Gray, bringing an end to the case. No officers were convicted over Gray's death; the three other officers charged were all acquitted earlier this year.

"The facts are the same in all the cases," a defense lawyer following the trials, Warren A. Brown, told The New York Times earlier this year. "If you keep going to the store with 89 cents, and they keep telling you you need a dollar, why are you going to keep going back?"

Gray's death in Baltimore in April 2015 became central to the Black Lives Matter movement after he fell into a coma due to spinal cord injuries he sustained while being transported in a police van. He died just days after his arrest, which concerned possession of a switchblade. Jeva Lange

9:52 a.m. ET
Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden suggested Tuesday night that it would be immoral for fans of Bernie Sanders to vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton.

"What do you say when one of the Bernie delegates comes to you and says, 'Listen, I'm just not going for Hillary; I'm standing by my principles'?" asked ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. "I say — I look at you and I say — 'I know you're gonna vote for Hillary,'" Biden answered. "'I just know. Because if you're as moral and centered as you say you are, I know you can't vote for Trump. I know.'"

Though Biden cast the 2016 election as a two-horse race, third party candidates Jill Stein (of the Green Party) and Gary Johnson (of the Libertarian Party) are both making a bid for disaffected Sanders voters. Stein is actively campaigning outside the Democratic National Convention in Philly, and a June poll found about two in 10 Bernie fans said they'd vote for Johnson if their candidate lost the nomination. Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads