- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When word broke last week that a terrorist underwear bomb plot had been foiled, it seemed to be an impressive American victory. The initial Associated Press report revealed a CIA informant penetrated high levels of al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, made off with their most sophisticated new bomb and provided information leading to a successful drone strike on a leading militant. On the heels of the anniversary of the Osama bin Laden takedown, it seemed to further burnish the Obama administration’s national security credentials.

Many commentators, particularly former intelligence officials, found the amount of information in the leaked story troubling. Whoever gave the goods to the press had access to a degree of detail implying it must have come from a high-level insider. Suspicion grew that the leak was specifically intended to promote the Obama administration’s reputation. Former CIA bin Laden hunter Michael Scheur said that “this does seem to be a tawdry political thing.”

The story got worse. It seems that whoever leaked the story hyped the American contribution to what seems to have been a primarily British-Saudi operation. The MI6 connection was revealed in additional disclosures that effectively compromised and collapsed a major British intelligence operation. Such unauthorized and illegal revelations of top-secret information not only betray sources and methods, but hamper future cooperation between coalition intelligence agencies. A British official meeting with a member of the White House National Security Staff cannot know if he is shaking hands with the very person who will later run to the press with a hot scoop.

On Sunday, Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said that the entire affair was conducted in an unorthodox and suspicious way. “General procedure would have the chairman and the vice chairman of each of the intelligence committees briefed during the attack or prior to it,” she said on Fox News Sunday. “This was not the case. There was no briefing.” The senator said that “the leak did endanger sources and methods, and the leak I think has to be prosecuted. … The investigation is being done, hopefully concluded and criminal charges will go to the Department of Justice.”

The House Intelligence Committee is conducting its own review before launching a full investigation. Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, believes that the leak was “some chest thumping in a political narrative,” and alleged it could have been coordinated at the top. “We do know that the CIA was trying to stop the story,” he said. “And we know that there was a scheduled White House - or at least planned press conference on the particular event, and those two desperate positions leads one to believe that … someone was at odds about how much they should or shouldn’t talk about it.” He added, “This is not anything that should be used for a headline.”

The key data points are there for all to see. All that remains now is to connect the dots.

The Washington Times

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