Osama bin Laden: The Live-Tweeting of His Death

There’s been a rise of “citizen journalists” whether from the bombed neighborhoods in Syria to the tornado ravaged mid-west towns in the U.S.

If you’re in the Tampa Bay region this Tuesday, you have an opportunity to hear from a “citizen journalist” who tweeted live about the raid on the Pakistani compound of Osama bin Laden.

At the time, Sohaib Athar was an IT consultant from Abbottabad, Pakistan. He didn’t know the Black Hawk helicopters he was hearing belonged to U.S. military forces. But, on May 2, 2011, he heard sounds – first helicopters and then an explosion – and started tweeting. It was only later that he learned that he was tweeting about raid that led to the death of the al-Qaeda leader.

There is some question whether Athar is a true “citizen journalist” because he just tweeted about hearing helicopters and an explosion, but Steve Myers, managing editor for Poynter.org, wrote a piece explaining his use of the term:

Here are the journalistic activities that Athar, aka @ReallyVirtual, demonstrated in his tweets during and after the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

He observed something unusual and told others about it. For example:

  • Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).”
  • A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S”

He answered questions from others seeking information. A Twitter user asked Athar, “@ReallyVirtual Hello sir, any update on the blasts? What has really happened?”

Athar answered: “@m0hcin all silent after the blast, but a friend heard it 6 km away too… the helicopter is gone too.”

Athar is the featured guest for “Tweeting Osama’s Death: From Citizen to Journalist” at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 6, at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida. Myers will moderate the discussion with Athar.

To learn more about Athar’s tweets, you can read Myers’ article posted on May 3, 2011 and his defense of the “citizen journalist” term on May 5, 2011.

The event is free and open to the public thanks to the sponsorship of the Eckerd College Organization of Students and the Poynter Institute.


CENTCOM Investigation of Deadly Pakistan Border Incident

U.S. Central Command on Monday released an unclassified version of the investigation report into the deadly Nov. 25-26 incident near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

CENTCOM commander Marine Corps Gen. James R. Mattis directed the International Security Assistance Force to take a series of corrective actions after receiving the final report.

As a result of the investigation and report, Mattis directed ISAF Commander Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen to implement the following actions as soon as possible:

  • Improve mutual trust among those working in the border areas.
  • Clarify authorities, responsibilities and standard operating procedures for command, control and communication in near-border operations and develop formal training exercises and drills.
  • Implement a program of full disclosure of all border area facilities and installations on both sides of the border, with systematic updates based on a common database and map.
  • Before conducting any operation, direct all future coalition units and formations contemplating near-border area operations to confirm all installations near the border and the planned objective.
  • To prevent friendly fire incidents, develop and share with the Pakistan military the common use of force-escalation measures such as show of force and other standard procedures.
  • Consider harmonizing ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom rules of engagement to promote clarity and transparency.

The focus is to ease mistrust and miscommunication among those working in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area which led to the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers.

“The strongest take-away from this incident,” Mattis said in a statement, “is the fundamental fact that we must improve border coordination, and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border.”

You can read the full Armed Forces Press Service article on the investigation report HERE.

CENTCOM Commander Names Pakistan Incident Investigator

Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark

Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis has appointed Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark from the Air Force Special Operations Command headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla., to investigate the Nov. 26 deaths of Pakistani soldiers during an engagement near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Clark has been asked to produce his  initial report on the incident by Dec. 23 and may ask for administrative support and help from other experts.

“This is a Centcom-led investigation with full NATO cooperation and you will include NATO representation in your investigation team,” Mattis said in an appointment letter sent to Clark Monday according to a report by Cheryl Pellerin of the American Forces Press Service.

The investigation will focus on the facts of the incident, determine which U.S., ISAF, Afghan and Pakistan units were involved and if they crossed the border and under what conditions.

Additionally, Clark is to recommend improvements for near-border operations.

CENTCOM’s Rear Adm. Jeff Harley on Pakistan, Partnerships

Rear Adm. Jeff Harley. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Biographies website.

U.S Central Command at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base is responsible for some of the most sensitive and volatile regions on the globe such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. And Rear Admiral Jeff Harley is in charge of security cooperation for all 17 countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility.

In a recent interview, Adm. Harley talked with me about his job as Vice Director, Strategy, Plans and Policy (J5) – which is principally about building relationships with other military leaders that can be counted on when diplomacy is failing.

REAR ADM. JEFF HARLEY: It’s about building that special trust that’s required to be able to maintain that type of diplomatic opportunity. It’s more than just military power.

BOBBIE O’BRIEN: Building that kind of cooperation beyond military but in the personal relationships – was that best demonstrated most recently in Egypt?

HARLEY: I think one would never really know, but I think there’s certainly been a lot of discussion to that end and in many other countries as well. But, I would say in my heart of hearts that military to military relationship did have a significant influence on the military leadership in Egypt.

We should look at the Arab Spring not just as a crisis. We should look at it as a world of opportunity – a world of opportunity to expand our relationships with the different countries while also reinforcing our values, our national values.

O’BRIEN: There are some concerns obviously with Adm. (Mike) Mullen leaving and his concerns specifically about Pakistan.

HARLEY: I think many people forget how many Pakistani soldiers are lost in the fight against counter terrorism. More soldiers have been killed in Pakistan fighting terrorists than NATO has lost in Afghanistan. They are in the fight against terrorism with us and they do support our efforts in Afghanistan and in a number of other tangible ways. It is a difficult relationship. It is a very complex relationship, but we continue to build a military trust that is enabling our success in Afghanistan today.

O’BRIEN: Rate where that trust is now in the position you’re in now compared to where it was before Osama bin Laden that was before Adm. Mullen’s comments.

HARLEY: I do think that the special trust that we have with Pakistan has been eroded by some of these events and we are working to continue to build that trust. Gen. (James) Mattis in particular has a strong military to military relationship with his counterpart. And we work very closely through our Office of Defense representative in Pakistan to continue the military to military ties that are so critical to being able to help assist in the war against terror in the sanctuary areas of Pakistan.

O’BRIEN: You have mentioned more than once in this interview about “we will be that enduring partner, we will be there.” Is that possibly the biggest concern that you hear from the partners in region? Worry that the U.S. would come in and then leave?

HARLEY: I think that is a concern of our regional partners and it’s one of our enduring themes at U.S. Central Command is that we are a partner and that we are a partner that can be counted on for the long-term. And being a partner doesn’t necessarily mean having bases and facilities in a country, it means being able to establish contacts, maintain those relationships, trade military officers at respective schools. It can be as simple as maintaining a maritime presence which we have for decades and decades.

It’s going to be an exciting future in the Middle East, but it will be that future because of the good foundation of relationships that we’ve created through security cooperation.

Adm. Mike Mullen Speaks Out as He Bids Farewell to Forces

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen is sworn in as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and takes the oath of office from Marine Gen. Peter Pace during an Armed Forces Hail and Farewell ceremony at Ft. Myer, Va., Oct. 1. (Defense Department photo/Cherie A. Thurlby)

This is the final day of service for Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Adm. Mullen also spoke with National Public Radio as he headed into retirement. In his interview with Steve Inskeep, Mullen reinforced his earlier assertion that Pakistan is backing a terrorist network – the Haqqanis.

“On the Pakistani side of the border. And I am losing American soldiers. The Haqqanis are killing American soldiers. And from that perspective, I think it’s got to be addressed, which is the reason I spoke to it.”

A full copy of Adm. Mullen’s NPR transcript is available HERE.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen receives a tour of Forward Operating Base Assassin in Iraq by Col.Terry Ferrell, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Oct. 5, 2007. Mullen is on his first tour of the central command area of operations to visit with the leadership and service members assigned to the region. DOD photo by U.S. Navy .

Below is Adm. Mike Mullen’s parting message to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.

To the men, women and families of the armed forces of the United States:

It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as your Chairman for the last four years. Everywhere Deborah and I went to see you and your families we walked away humbled by the magnitude of the responsibility you have volunteered to carry and strengthened by the willingness and dignity with which you carry it.

From my first day on the job, I pledged to ensure you had the right strategy, leadership and resources to accomplish your missions. I believe we worked hard to get that right. But you are the ones who turned back the tide of violence in Iraq, made huge strides towards a more secure Afghanistan and defended our Nation’s interests around the globe. Even with all the demands we’ve placed on you, you still look for ways to do even more to help those in need.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the burdens placed on you and your families. Your sacrifices will be forever fixed in my heart, and I am eternally grateful for your service.

Following the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Today, I could use those very words to describe our thoughts of you. We are deeply honored to have served for and with you. May God bless you and your families always.

The Department of Defense has set up a web page bidding “Farewell to Navy Adm. Mike Mullen. It includes a chart showing his travel as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 2011 alone, Mullen traveled to 22 countries and was gone 57 days.

How Do You Define True Patriotism?

Image courtesy of PatriotIcon.org

By Tracie Ciambotti

It has been an interesting week as the varied reactions to the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death emerge.   Crowds gathered in the streets to celebrate a national victory; the killing of a terrorist whose evil plots took many American lives.  There are several new debates brewing across the nation.  Is it moral to celebrate anyone’s death?  Will this have any impact on Al Qaeda?  If so, what kind?  Is it time to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home?  Why should we continue to give billions of dollars to Pakistan?  Are we financially supporting a country who is supplying the very weapons used to kill our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan? 

These are very good questions and need to be debated.  This is the spirit of America: to debate the issues and find solutions.

Image courtesy of PatriotIcon.org

Patriotism has soared as it did after 9/11, uniting a nation that has been divided in many ways for a very long time. Images were splattered on news channels of citizens draped in the American Flag, chanting “USA!”  I posted the Facebook badge Everlasting American Flag on the Military Families Ministry’s Facebook page.  I wonder, though, how long this surge of patriotism will last and why it takes events like 9/11 or the killing of Osama Bin Laden to bring together the people of the “United” States. 

Our founding fathers shared a vision of freedom, liberty, and equality, and they worked together to create and sign our Constitution.  Have we as a “united” nation lost sight of the very principles that this country was founded on?  Why does it take a major event to get our flags waving? 
Are we so obsessed with personal gain that we have forgotten the cost of the very freedom that allows us to realize our dreams?  

Facebook Everlasting Flag Icon.

As the mother of a soldier who is preparing for deployment to Afghanistan, I am well aware of the price tag that is attached to my freedom.  While I am relieved that no one else will die at the hands of Osama Bin Laden, his death does not change my life as the mother of a soldier heading to war.  It may actually make my son’s job harder—more dangerous—as others may be inspired to rise up and carry on the cause of Bin Laden. 

Although it feels good to see the elevation in patriotism and to celebrate the victory of a ten-year effort against terrorism, I am saddened that this overwhelming response is related to a dead terrorist when it should be evident every day for other reasons. 

Do service members dying for our freedom, wounded warriors confined to wheel chairs, and daily sacrifices made by military families—all for the defense of what our flag represents—not warrant the same media attention and outpouring from a grateful nation?  Is American patriotism not symbolized by loyalty to the American flag?  If so, why doesn’t every flag in this nation wave in honor and gratitude every time someone sacrifices to defend it?

Tracie Ciambotti is the Co-founder of Military Families Ministry (MFM) and mother of an Army sergeant. Her previous blog contributions:

When War Gets Personal

An Army Mom Connects Military Families and Churches

Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch: Bin Laden Is No More

It was a normal Sunday night in the Dorr household, the children were asleep, and after having spent quality time together, I headed to watch television in bed whilst Brian turned on his Xbox. I wasn’t watching for more than a few minutes when the announcement that President Obama was going to speak, unexpectedly, came through.

Earlier in the day, MacDill Air Force Base had gone to DEFCON BRAVO, and we were all wondering why. That question was answered with the exciting news that Osama Bin Laden was killed. Facebook erupted with statuses of elation, and I ran out to the living room to tell Brian (playing Xbox Live with his twin Richie).

Brian was ecstatic, after 10 years that terrorist was finally captured, and killed.  Brian and his brother enlisted after 9/11, because of 9/11  like so many other service members. 

Is it wrong to be happy someone is dead? I find this case to be an exception, this is a man who has to blood of thousands of Americans on his hands, I think it is okay this time.

Will this war be over? No, of course not, after all he was not the only terrorist out there, new leaders have emerged, and followers still fight (fighting dirty I might add). I pray that our deployed troops face no retaliation.

Keeping this as honest as I can, I will say I was annoyed at the posts indicating “Obama did what G.W. couldn’t!” Very untrue, without Bush having set all of this in motion, it would never have happened, and last time I checked Obama isn’t out there doing the gritty footwork that is our intel and military. Seems like the most erroneous statement, however, I look past it.

Other Facebook status’ claimed that the military deserve a raise, (this coming off the coattails of the recent government shutdown fear) . My comment on this is, it is sad that any military member could possibly qualify for WIC (federal food subsidies for low income pregnant Women, Infants and Children).

All “soap-boxing” aside, it’s true, Bin Laden exists no longer. Justice has been served. I think this has thrown lighter fluid on embers that were our nation and sparked a patriotic fire, it was what Americans needed to hear. God Bless America!

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