“‘The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.’
‘Exactly what happened next is unclear. But within minutes of Katz's e-mail to the White House, government-registered computers began downloading the video from SITE's server, according to a log of file transfers. The records show dozens of downloads over the next three hours from computers with addresses registered to defense and intelligence agencies.
By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News's Web site referred to SITE and included page markers identical to those used by the group. ‘This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document,’ Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.
Al-Qaeda supporters, now alerted to the intrusion into their secret network, put up new obstacles that prevented SITE from gaining the kind of access it had obtained in the past, according to Katz.’
"The White House on Tuesday denied it was the source of a leak to the press last month of an Al Qaeda video that had been acquired by a private intelligence organization and forwarded to Bush administration officials.
...Asked by reporters if the White House was the source of the leak, spokeswoman Dana Perino said, 'We were not.'
'The White House is very concerned to learn about it,' Perino said, adding that any time a 'citizen comes forward to provide information, we want to encourage that type of communication, know their sources will be protected.
'When we receive information from an individual or a company we refer it to the intelligence community and that's what happened here.'
She referred further questions to the Director of National Intelligence."
“Last night on the David Letterman Show, former White House press secretary Tony Snow responded to Bush’s low approval ratings. ‘It’s not as good as it could be,’ he acknowledged. In an effort to change topics, he then compared Congress’s approval rating to the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. ‘Bin Laden is outpolling Congress,’ Snow declared.
If only the White House could show as much concern for bin Laden as it does for Congress’ ratings. Bin Laden has been on the loose for 2,215 days since 9/11. Because Bush’s attention has drifted, bin Laden is ‘stronger than ever.’ And now, Tony Snow is using bin Laden’s regained strength as a political tool.”
“…off the record, some intelligence officials admitted that SITE had been of great help in obtaining al Qaeda secrets.
Terrorism expert and author Bruce Hoffman, who has worked as an advisor to the Bush White House in Iraq, tells CBS News that SITE and other private intelligence companies have become a valuable tool for the government.
‘The government has its own intelligence sources, its been monitoring these things, and one would hope it's comparing and contrasting, using this as supplements, using this to round out’ government intelligence, Hoffman said.
Hoffman points out that one of the complaints of the 9/11 Commission was that the government didn't have a wide enough variety of intelligence sources, and firms like SITE help to fill that gap, fixing what was called a ‘lack of imagination’.
Accurate, timely intelligence is America's most valuable weapon against the terrorist threat, which the White House classified Tuesday as ‘persistent and evolving’.
[CBS News White House correspondent Peter] Maer reports that the administration's newly-revised National Strategy for Homeland Security warns that al Qaeda will likely continue to ‘enhance its ability to attack America through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups.’ It predicts al Qaeda will likely intensify efforts to send operatives to the U.S.
The report says the U.S. faces ‘a persistent and evolving terrorist threat, primarily from violent Islamic terrorist groups and cells.’ It points to al Qaeda as ‘the most serious and dangerous manifestation of this threat.’
Katz's company sells intelligence to a range of clients, including other private firms and military and intelligence agencies in the U.S. and other countries. Media organizations can also pay SITE for access to terrorist videos and audio's obtained, and analysis of the material.”
“This story is disturbing on several levels: first, for the lack of security within the U.S. government (which makes other governments wary of sharing confidential information) and second, for the apparent lack of capacity within the U.S. intelligence community. With all the billions we spend on surveiling al Qaeda, is it really the case that a small, non-governmental organization can get its hands on a major al Qaeda video before the government can? It’s hard to know for sure because the government is never going to come clean about what it does and does not know, but the high-level officials quoted in these news articles certainly did not dispute the notion that SITE can find out things the government can’t.
This seems further to confirm the general impression of ineptitude on the part of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. (See Tim Weiner’s meticulously researched book, Legacy of Ashes, for details of this sorry story’s stretching back to the 1940’s.) There is, however, a silver lining to this news. It is good to know that the private sector is filling in where government lags behind.
That is precisely what we should be doing—taking advantage of our strengths as a society to compensate for the weaknesses of our government. There are a lot of smart, entrepreneurial people in America; and while most of them devote their energies to the ‘business of America’—i.e., business—some can be very effective freelance terrorist-fighters. In the past, I have suggested mobilizing an army of geeks to fight al Qaeda online; that is precisely what the SITE folks are doing, and more power to them.
In fact, as I write in my latest book, War Made New, the Information Age increasingly is taking power away from large, hierarchical, centralized organizations like the U.S. government and giving more power to small, nimble, decentralized, networked entities like al Qaeda. But SITE and its ilk can be just as nimble and networked as al Qaeda. They can be effective in ways that the lumbering U.S. government cannot. Instead of treating them as unwelcome competition, the government would be well advised to encourage our NGO’s to battle their NGO’s.”
“The White House has come up with a new euphemism for leaks....Perino was quick to insist that the White House was not the source of the leak. The Bush administration, like its predecessors, abhors leaks except for self-serving disclosures. Now the White House is in the uncomfortable position of worrying that release of the SITE data will have a chilling effect on other commercial outfits or individuals who want to provide private tips to federal law enforcement or intelligence agencies.
Presidential Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend told reporters, ‘any time an individual or a commercial entity cooperates with us and asks to be protected and doesn't get the protection that they either sought or deserved, that's a cause for concern.’ Spokeswoman Perino said the administration wants people to be ‘alert and aware’ and to provide information to the government. She promised their sources will be protected.
Perino described the leak of the bin Laden video material as ‘an isolated incident.’”
Documents released in an insider trading trial yesterday reveal that “the National Security Agency and other government agencies retaliated against Qwest because the Denver telco refused to go along with a phone spying program.” In the documents, former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio is quoted as saying “the request was both inappropriate and illegal, and repeatedly refusing to go along with it.” Nacchio’s lawyer said the CEO “refused to turn over customer telephone records because he didn’t think the NSA program had legal standing.”
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