The White House would like you to please ignore what I’m about to discuss. They’d prefer you fawn over President Obama’s evolving position on gay marriage or protest against the one-percent. But don’t pay any attention to that noise about the White House completely screwing up one of our most important intelligence operations of the past few years.
Nothing to see here folks, move along.
Don’t buy it.
Don’t go along yet again with the mainstream media deflecting attention from something important just because it makes their administration look like toddlers playing a grown up game. They leaked sensitive classified information and severely damaged an operation along with multiple liaison service relationships. Someone needs to be held accountable.
Here are the basics... The Associated Press (AP) got word of the underwear bomber plot that was unfolding out of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni based Al Qaeda affiliate that the majority of intelligence authorities consider to be the most dangerous spin-off from bin Laden’s network. The AP learned of the supposedly foiled plot because someone couldn’t keep their mouth shut.
I think that mouth is somewhere in the White House.
There were very few people with knowledge of this operation. And fewer still who either don’t understand the importance of operational security or don’t care. And among that small group are likely a very few that have political motivation to talk in a misguided effort to gain polling points.
The AP was asked to not go to press with the details that their source had provided. They agreed to do this, but then couldn’t help themselves, because naturally they are in the business of revealing secrets.
So the initial story comes out; the CIA foiled an attempt by AQAP to put a terrorist on a US bound airliner wearing a new improved version of the 2009 Christmas Day explosive underwear.
But then, out comes word from the White House that “…never fear good Americans, at no point was the public in any danger.” According to our fearless administration, the President had been kept informed of the plot since April.
In case you’re missing the subtlety of this revelation, the White House essentially told AQAP that we had a recruited asset in their midst who kept us informed of the plot as it developed. This of course would be what I’m referring to when I say that they screwed the pooch with a complete lack of operational security.
Without going into the specifics, because I’m sure others are clamoring to get to media outlets to talk anonymously about the operation, the CIA was working in concert with some of our liaison services overseas (intelligence services working for our allies and with whom we maintain close working relationships) to recruit an asset and insert them into AQAP in order to provide invaluable operational information on the people, operations, logistics, plans and intentions of Al Qaeda’s most dangerous entity. Now, aside from that being a mighty long sentence, it should hint at the complexity, sensitivity and difficulty of the operation.
The media, and administration, would like you to think that the raison d’etre (look it up) for the operation was to have the person they refer to as the double agent get his hands on the new underwear bomb and run as fast as he could to the FBI so they could analyze it.
What a load of crap.
Up until the point where the White House started crowing about a foiled plot and leaking information, this was still an ongoing sensitive operation.
It was ongoing in a couple ways; first, there was still a potential opportunity to reinsert the asset under various scenarios. I’ll leave it at that.
More germane to how this situation unfolded, even if he couldn’t get back into AQAP after ultimately failing his mission, there was still all the actionable intelligence that we had acquired during his time within AQAP. Locations of individuals, safe houses, operational plans, finances, communication systems… all the insight that the recruited asset had reported on while inside AQAP leading up to his being sent off by the group, underwear in hand.
Guess what happens to all that actionable intelligence once the White House essentially tells the world that “…they’ve been on top of this plot/operation for many weeks.”
AQAP personnel go underground, safe houses get shut down, accounts get closed, communications systems are thrown away… all because people in positions of responsibility can’t keep their mouths shut.
And what about the liaison services that brought us in on the operation and trusted us to do the right thing? We rely very heavily on them… it’s not like we blend all that well in Yemen. Good luck having continued success on the war on terror without our Middle Eastern liaison partners.
Remember the day after Usama bin Laden was killed? It looked like a rugby scrum with various administration officials racing to the podium to give their half -baked versions of how the raid went down.
The public still doesn’t understand how much intelligence, tactics and insight was given away by officials who didn’t have the discipline or common sense to cork it. Remember how then Defense Secretary Bob Gates voiced his disgust with the lack of operational security after the raid?
There’s now chatter up on Capitol Hill of a possible investigation into any leaks regarding the AQAP underwear bomber operation.
I think it’s pretty obvious that one or more people with access to information on the operation have been talking, and frankly continue to talk. We, and AQAP, will be treated to more details of this sensitive operation and our operational methodologies in the next few days.
Now, here’s your investigation… find out who in the White House was on the cleared list to read in on this very sensitive operation. Trust me, it’s a short list. Do the same up on Capitol Hill for good measure.
Then let’s polygraph them. Someone needs to be held accountable.
Mike Baker is the Co-Founder of Diligence LLC, a leading global intelligence, security and risk management firm. Prior to starting Diligence, Mike spent over a decade and half with the CIA as a covert field operations officer. He is a regular contributor in the national and international media on intelligence, security, counterterrorism and political issues. He appears regularly on Fox News, as well as other major media outlets.