Murphy's Law: Liars Are Executed in Afghanistan


March 5, 2009:  An Afghan court has convicted a man of deliberately giving the wrong information to American intelligence officers, about where some Taliban were staying. Last year the defendant, Mohammad Nader, apparently provided the location of a house where some of his enemies were living. Dozens of civilians died. Mohammad Nader has been sentenced to death.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, smart bombs and good intelligence made for a powerful combination. If you knew a building where the enemy was staying for the night, or just hiding out in, a smart bomb or missile would kill the enemy, usually without harming any civilians. But all this depended on accurate and timely information. Some informants, even ones you had been working with for a while, would sometimes settle an old score, or continue some old family feud, by just giving the Americans the location of the informers enemies, not the American's enemies. If the Americans complained, you would just shrug your shoulders and apologize.

To combat this problem, some detective work was required, and you needed a functioning court system in the area. Apparently a very strong case was made against Mohammad Nader, proving that his "bad" information was no accident, but a ploy to get some of his enemies killed. Such convictions are important in making it more difficult for Afghans to do this sort of thing. Previously, it was something else U.S. intelligence operators had to worry about. But if was often not possible to gather a lot of background information on the informant, you often had to take a chance. And if you had a guy who gave you good stuff several times in a row, you always had to worry that he might use the next tip to settle some personal score. Now, with the prospect of an investigation, and the possibility of conviction for murder, informants are encouraged to keep it professional, and not personal.


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