Congressional lawmakers called Sunday for a criminal investigation over the leak revealing that the so-called “underwear bomber” who boarded a U.S.-bound jet last month was actually a Saudi Arabian intelligence agent who had volunteered for the mission, warning that the leak could seriously damage American credibility.
After the Associated Press reported the story last week, American and foreign officials admitted that the agent had infiltrated al Qaeda in Yemen and had posed as a suicide bomber before handing the bomb and other inside intelligence over to the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi intelligence.
While applauding the mission’s success, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, expressed outrage that details of the operation were made public even before top lawmakers knew, saying the leak could discourage foreign intelligence agencies from working with the U.S. on crucial anti-terrorism efforts.
“The leak really did endanger sources and methods, and the leak, I think, has to be prosecuted,” Mrs. Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
And Mr. King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said he’s troubled that the AP obtained the story even though fewer people knew about the mission than when Osama bin Laden was killed one year ago.
“It put people’s lives at risk, and it also sends a signal to countries willing to work with us that we can’t keep a secret,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “It really is criminal to leak out this kind of classified, sensitive information.”
The FBI is currently analyzing the bomb to determine whether it would have gone undetected at an airport, but Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, said he thinks existing protocols would have uncovered the bomb.
“The odds are pretty good our systems would have detected this device before the individual carrying it would have got on the plane,” he told CNN.
Mrs. Feinstein said the takeaway for Americans is to cooperate with the Transportation Security Administration’s efforts, despite complaints that new full-body scanners violate privacy.
“I think it’s very important that TSA keeps up its efforts, that we Americans who travel a lot understand what’s at stake,” she said. “When you see the number of people on these large planes, you’re aware of the fact that this is very necessary to do and especially right now.”
Lawmakers also urged President Obama to remain committed to the war in Afghanistan in the wake of the news that an Afghan peace negotiator appointed by President Hamid Karzai was assassinated Sunday.
The key question is whether Mr. Obama will follow the advice of his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, to leave 68,000 troops in the country next year, Mr. Lieberman said.
“[The Taliban] are not interested in genuine peace talks,” Mr. Lieberman said, adding, “I sure hope the president as commander-in-chief supports Gen. Allen’s opinions, because I think it’s the right one - as these attacks made clear.”