Yemen underwear-bomb plot: I was right

A few days ago, when writing about the revelation of a Al Qaeda plot to blow up a commercial flight with a new and improved underwear bomb and our penetration of said plot, I speculated as to why we were hearing about what should have been a top-secret operation:

With the economy in the crapper and the public mood so bad that even a convicted felon gives Obama a run for his money in a Democratic primary, Obama needs all the good news he can get.

You can bet on it: The One and his team couldn’t wait to brag about this. And all it cost was letting AQAP know just how much we had penetrated them.

I’m sorry to say I was right:

Detailed leaks of operational information about the foiled underwear bomb plot are causing growing anger in the US intelligence community, with former agents blaming the Obama administration for undermining national security and compromising the British services, MI6 and MI5.

The Guardian has learned from Saudi sources that the agent was not a Saudi national as was widely reported, but a Yemeni. He was born in Saudi Arabia, in the port city of Jeddah, and then studied and worked in the UK, where he acquired a British passport.

Mike Scheur, the former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit, said the leaking about the nuts and bolts of British involvement was despicable and would make a repeat of the operation difficult. “MI6 should be as angry as hell. This is something that the prime minister should raise with the president, if he has the balls. This is really tragic,” Scheur said.

He added: “Any information disclosed is too much information. This does seem to be a tawdry political thing.”

He noted that the leak came on the heels of a series of disclosures over the last 10 days, beginning with a report that the CIA wanted to expand its drone attacks in Yemen, Barack Obama making a surprise trip to Afghanistan around the time of the Bin Laden anniversary and “then this inexplicable leak”.

The agent was apparently a Yemeni studying in Britain who was recruited by MI6 and spent over a year in Yemen covincing Al Qaeda that he was ready and willing to be a suicide bomber. When he got his hands on the bomb, he was spririted out of the country. Now Al Qaeda can be certain who the mole was; this guy is going to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, wondering when the revenge hit will strike.

And it’s bad enough that we blew our own secrets, but we compromised British and Saudi intelligence, too. As the article goes on to point out, the British may well think twice and then think again before sharing with us. The danger, of course, is not just a loss of trust between intelligence services that have a long tradition of close cooperation, but that, for failure to share information, we might miss a terrorist plot in the making and wind up with a lot of corpses and a lot of grieving families wondering how it could have happened.

All because either Obama himself or someone on his team wanted to make him look tough for his reelection campaign.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is not happy and he’s asking questions:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) blamed administration “chest-thumbing” for the leak of information over an intelligence operation which thwarted a plot to bomb an America-bound airliner.

“I think there was a little premature chest-thumbing,” said Rogers on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “I’ve ordered a preliminary review. And I’ll tell you something, this has been a damaging leak. We shouldn’t underestimate what really happened here.”

(…)

Rogers was asked by host Bob Schieffer if he believed information about the operation was leaked to the press by administration officials “to take credit for it.”

“I said chest-thumping, but it clearly raises some serious questions that we are going to have to ask,” responded Rogers. “We do know that the CIA was trying to stop the story and we know that there was a scheduled White House or at least planned press conference on the particular event. Those two disparate positions lead one to believe that someone was at odds over how much they should or shouldn’t talk about it.

“It’s clear that the information was leaked. That information as presented at some point to the CIA,” added Rogers. “The CIA at that point tried to put the story back in the can for security reasons. People’s lives were at stake during this operation. And that’s where it gets a little murky, which is why I ordered the review. “

To top it all off, while the administration was apparently anxious to blab to all and sundry about the operation, they neglected to tell the ranking members of the Intelligence Committee, even though they’re required to do by statute. Probably shouldn’t be surprised, though; it’s not as if they’ve shown any respect for Congress’ oversight function in the past.

I’m tempted to quote again Bill Clinton on the amateurs in the White House, but that would be too flip. These amateurs aren’t just earnest bumblers; they’re doing real harm.

And it’s worrying.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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