A raid by Navy SEALs in Yemen came in for criticism from Democrats in Congress has yielded information that may lead US authorities to locate and surveil hundreds of people. Despite media claims that little was accomplished in the raid in which Navy SEAL William Ryan Owens was killed, CNN reports that the action offers information on Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) operatives now in Europe. According to military sources, at least a terabyte of intelligence was collected from cell phones and computers that is being examined by the National Media Exploitation Center, which analyzes documents, cell phones, electronic media, video and audio seized on overseas missions.
Information about safe houses, bomb making, training, and targets was obtained during the radi in January. Gen. Joseph Votel called the mission "successful" from a military point of view. “The object was to go in and collect intelligence. We accomplished that, so from that perspective it was successful. I certainly understand how the family would look at this in a different light," Votel told CBS News. However, because civilians were killed in the firefight, an investigation has now commenced.
During his address to Congress on Tuesday, President Donald Trump paid tribute to the fallen SEAL. "Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies." Trump recognized Owen's widow, Carryn, who was in the gallery and standing next to Ivanka Trump. He led a standing ovation in memory of Owens while the widow openly wept.
AQAP is believed to be the most dangerous affiliate of the al Qaeda network. In Yemen, where civil war has raged between the government and Houthi rebels, AQAP has found a niche. In addition, it is held responsible for attacks in the West, including the deadly 2015 attack in Paris on the headquarters of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said after Trump's speech that it was entirely appropriate for Trump to pay tribute to Owens. But Blumenthal is still calling for an investigation into Trump's decision process for unleashing the SEAL team. The White House has claimed that the original idea for the mission was hatched during the Obama administration and had the full support of top officers in the military.
Owens' father has called for a review of the mission, too.
Before the speech, media and Congressional Democrats suggested that Trump was trying to place blame for Owens' death on senior officers when he said, "They lost Ryan,” Trump said — just hours before the tribute to Owens’ widow, the lawmakers charged.
“I think he made an unfortunate statement earlier where he kind of blamed it on the generals, kind of deflected responsibility, and I think, in his way, he was trying to make up for it,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Kaine said that it was “most unusual” for Trump to focus on the raid. “I had a lot of conflicting emotions about that because of the classified briefings I’ve been in, and because there was some family tension over the role of the president.” Kaine was Hillary Clinton's vice-presidential running mate in 2016.