weak links

Should the CIA Threaten to Expose Al Qaeda’s Gay Terrorists To Force Their Cooperation?

What’s more scandalous: That a homosexual member of Al Qaeda was sought out as an informant for the CIA? Or that the CIA actively sought out a homosexual terrorist because they could use his sexuality as leverage to force him to cooperate?

One of the reasons critics of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell find the policy so deplorable is that a gay soldier’s sexuality can be used as leverage against them. Sometimes it happens domestically; fears remain that captured gay soldiers could find themselves in similar tortuous situations. Supporters of DADT, meanwhile, also cite these reasons as why the policy is needed — because gay soldiers might be trusted with sensitive information, keeping their sexuality a secret is imperative should it ever be used against them. (Moreover, supporters of the outright ban of any gay servicemembers claim homo soldiers are weaker, and thus cannot be trusted at all with such sensitive information, blah blah.)

All of which brings us to The Gay Terrorist, as the Observer dubs Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, or “Shakir el Iraqi,” an Iraqi. To the CIA, Shakir was an Al Qaeda operative whom it believed it could control under the threat of leaking his sexuality to his fellow neer-do-wells, which would almost assuredly lead to his death.

Described as “tall as a mushroom, fat and gay,” Shakir entered the Pentagon’s radar as a 25-year-old VIP greeter for Malaysian Airlines. They knew he was involved in terrorist training camps, and in 2000, in Kuala Lumpur, he escorted Yemeni-born terrorist Khalid al-Mihdhar to what turned out to be a summit for planning the 9/11 attack. CIA agents never informed the FBI about their findings, the Observer says, because of their high school clique mentality, and fears the FBI would screw up their covert ops. That the FBI could have intervened with this intelligence is up for debate; Mihdhar, of course, was among those on board American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. The CIA told the FBI about Shakir and Mihdhar in August 2001. By then, their trails had been lost.

As it stands, Shakir hasn’t been seen since 2001, and nobody has a photo of him. It leaves open the possibility that he is alive and well, living in the Middle East, helping to plan, or at least aid in, new terrorist operations.

The 9/11 Commission never explained why the CIA “mishandled” (depending on who you ask) the intelligence. It also never explained how widespread the CIA’s tactic of using terrorists’ sexuality to coerce them into spying for the U.S. is. In the end, attempts to flip Shakir didn’t work, though that doesn’t mean zeroing in a Al Qaeda members’ homosexuality, as a means to force cooperation, is a lost cause. But is it a just one?

You’ll find many who say, in the war on terrorism, or whatever you want to call it, that anything goes. Okay, maybe waterboarding is too much, but is threatening to expose one’s sexuality crossing some ethical line? And, of course: Are there even ethical lines in terrorism?

Knowing Shakir’s sexuality was a liability for him inside Al Qaeda, it is just to latch on to his sexuality as a weakness in order to force him to turn?

(NB: We can’t shake this thought: What if the CIA did manage to turn Shakir, and with his help were able to foil Al Qaeda’s 9/11 plot? Then Shakir would be what, the gay terrorist hero?)