Bush blows cover of al-Qaeda insider
August 8, 2004 8:30 AM   Subscribe

"After his capture he admitted being an al Qaeda member and agreed to send e-mails to his contacts," a Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters. "He sent encoded e-mails and received encoded replies. He's a great hacker and even the U.S. agents said he was a computer whiz." In its haste to get a scary headline the weekend after the Democratic Convention, did the Bush Administration deliberately blow the cover of one of its best informants within al-Qaeda?
posted by lagado (34 comments total)
Story already mentioned here (sigh), buried near the bottom of a 150 comment thread.
posted by lagado at 8:38 AM on August 8, 2004

Because... most Americans, sadly, don't care, and don't know. If the administration says that there are WMD in Iraq, the people believe it. If they say Iraq and Al Qaeda are connected, the people believe it.
posted by banished at 8:50 AM on August 8, 2004

If the administration says there are WMD in Iraq, and every other allied government says there are WMD in Iraq, even the ones who are opposed to the war, and the UN says there are WMD in Iraq, then the people believe it... the sheep.
posted by techgnollogic at 9:02 AM on August 8, 2004

Here's yet another informant, Abdurahman Khadr screwed over by the CIA. No wonder the U.S. has trouble getting informants.
posted by bobo123 at 9:15 AM on August 8, 2004

Regardless of whether or not the warning is real, blowing the cover of one of your most important operatives is an inexcusable screw up, indicative of how this administration has handled everything. Unfortunately, Bush is so untrustworthy at this point, that there will always be doubt, at least on my part, in regards to any kind of terror threat / warning he makes.

Also, very glad to see this as an FPP. It didn't get anywhere near the press it deserves. That alone makes it interesting. We, in part, come here to see stories that are not given the exposure they are due. That this story has been buried relative to its importance is telling about the current state of affairs in the U.S.
posted by xammerboy at 9:19 AM on August 8, 2004

technologic, its sad because last i checked, a good number of people still believe all that shit.
posted by chunking express at 9:25 AM on August 8, 2004

What's great is that this will probably be used by the administration as an excuse to not give a reason for a terror alert.

They could have easily have left out his name and everything would have been fine.
posted by destro at 9:46 AM on August 8, 2004

Also from Cole: Khan Scandal: Has it Prevented the Capture of Bin Laden?

posted by homunculus at 10:51 AM on August 8, 2004

In its haste to get a scary headline the weekend after the Democratic Convention, did the Bush Administration deliberately blow the cover of one of its best informants within al-Qaeda?

Dear Leader speaks: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we," Bush said.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:18 AM on August 8, 2004

"So how...could the administration fucking do it again?"

Because they don't give a shit. They don't give a shit about terror, they don't give a shit about people's lives, they don't give a shit about America, really, they'd sell anyone out in an instant. They only care about politics and even short-term political gain trumps every other consideration.
posted by Reverend Mykeru at 11:33 AM on August 8, 2004

Fuck Khangate.

It'd be a waste of effort and attention. This is just another arrow in Kerry's quiver. He needs to outline an effort which would emphasize and improve intelligence's contribution to defending our nation.
posted by Busithoth at 11:39 AM on August 8, 2004

Not to derail, but techgnollogic, remember the weapons inspectors? Remember Saddam bulldozing al samoud missiles? The inspectors were doing their jobs. It was a long time ago, so you're forgiven for forgetting this time.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:51 PM on August 8, 2004

For almost three years, Bush's number one priority has been the War on Terror. Yet...
"We're still not safe," admitted Bush, who also found time to do some fishing with his twin daughters and father.

Glad to see the country is in the hands of a competent president with the right priorities.
posted by bashos_frog at 2:07 PM on August 8, 2004

Al Qaeda's Pre-Election Plot
posted by homunculus at 3:16 PM on August 8, 2004

So, once again, Bush has this War on Terror wrapped up so tight that he can toy with Osama while he secures the election? Is that the accusation? He has these murderous bastards dancing on his string, and we're supposed to take that to mean we should vote him out of office?
posted by techgnollogic at 4:26 PM on August 8, 2004

And Space Coyote, if We the Sheeple believed Saddam had WMD becuase Bush said so, and it was all a big ruse to get us into Iraq, then what were the inspectors still doing there? Was the UN convinced that inspectors were still necessary because Bush said so too?
posted by techgnollogic at 4:31 PM on August 8, 2004

while you pick apart and quibble over these irrelevancies, bush remains a homicidal, fanatic dimbulb and you remain a supporter of the homicidal, fanatic dimbulb. this makes it difficult to take you seriously.
posted by quonsar at 4:45 PM on August 8, 2004

now the terror alert system isn't only worthless, it's counterproductive. i can somewhat believe the idea (konolia has suggested it b4, i believe) that these terror alerts might somewhat dissuade terrorists from acting in the short term, but when an administration is so totally committed to keeping secrets of "national security" (e.g. "energy policy"), this blown cover of a seemingly valuable double agent makes absolutely no sense.

time and time again, this administration has proven its incompetence. unfortunately, as homunculus' link suggests, when it comes to playing with voters' emotions to win elections, it's rather dastardly and often quite competent. sadly, the administration's only real strength seems to be winning elections. that's what you get with the current electoral system, i suppose. perhaps a compelling argument for Ralph Nader (Brown, Badnarik, etc, etc).

fwiw, i believed Scott Ritter about Iraq's weapons. a lot of people did.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:40 PM on August 8, 2004

hmmm ... smoking gun, perhaps?
posted by madamjujujive at 8:25 PM on August 8, 2004

then what were the inspectors still doing there?

The job that, had they been allowed to finish, would perhaps have removed the prime argument for war, forcing the neocons to tell something resembling the truth about their actual reasons?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:34 PM on August 9, 2004

Just how vulnerable is America?
posted by homunculus at 4:57 PM on August 9, 2004

Has the NYT explained specifically who or where it got Khan's name from yet?

The job that, had they been allowed to finish

How do you "allow" inspectors to "finish" waiting for Saddam to disarm? The only person not "allowing" the inspectors to "finish" after 12 years of inspections was Saddam Hussein. I understand why you're frustrated and confused as to why Saddam didn't remove the prime argument for the war that toppled him from power, but the neocons didn't make him not do so (he apparently didn't think we had the will to take him out). Even if the UN was just too happy with it's Oil-for-Food "subsidy" and stubbornly refused to acknowledge that Saddam "really was" in compliance (which he wasn't, but let's just hypothesize), what does it have to do with the neocons? They couldn't get the UN to do anything (like go to war in Iraq) either.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:13 PM on August 9, 2004

Has the NYT explained specifically who or where it got Khan's name from yet?

Condi Rice says it was the Administration that gave out Khan's name as background material to journalists. Note: there's an implication this quote that backgrounders are confidential briefings, in fact they are not, only the spokesperson's identity is supposed to be kept confidential.

Iraq blah, blah, blah...

Now that you've finally gotten that off your chest maybe you could take some time out to actually discuss the topic of this thread, i.e. do you think the Bush Administration blew this guy's cover out of stupidity or malice?
posted by lagado at 10:32 PM on August 9, 2004

The lede paragraph of the Reuters article bye Simon Cameron-Moore and Peter Graff says: U.S. officials providing justification for anti-terrorism alerts revealed details about a Pakistani secret agent, and confirmed his name while he was working under cover in a sting operation, Pakistani sources say.

Why would they use the language "confirmed his name" if the US officials in question were the source of the information?

Later, the article states: The New York Times published a story on Monday saying U.S. officials had disclosed that a man arrested secretly in Pakistan was the source of the bulk of information leading to the security alerts.

Is the accusation against the Bush administration that disclosing that "a man arrested secretly in Pakistan" was sufficient to blow Khan's cover?

The newspaper named him as Khan, although it did not say how it had learned his name. U.S. officials subsequently confirmed the name to other news organizations on Monday morning.

So if the New York Times knows the mole's name, how is confirming that name the same as blowing the mole's cover? Until you know where the New York Times got the name from, it makes no difference when or how it was acknowledged to be correct.

The version of the NYT piece posted to UseNet at 1:21am, Monday August 2nd, uses Khan's full name, and states:

The figure, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, was described by a Pakistani intelligence official as a 25-year-old computer engineer, arrested July 13, who had used and helped to operate a secret Qaeda communications system where information was transferred via coded messages.

A senior United States official would not confirm or deny that Mr. Khan had been the Qaeda figure whose capture led to the information.

So why would Jehl and Rohde reference a Pakistani intelligence official for a detailed description of Khan, including his full name and age, and mention it before stating that a US official wouldn't confirm or deny anything about Khan if a US official was their source for Khan's name?
posted by techgnollogic at 11:10 PM on August 9, 2004

So Pakistanis are saying that the US confirmed the identity of a mole after the mole's cover was revealed by a Pakistani intelligence official to the New York Times? This is the scandal? No wonder it's getting no traction. It takes a rather odd reading of the Jehl/Rohde piece to blame anything on the Bush administration. Maybe they can provide some clarification.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:21 PM on August 9, 2004

Jesus, every ounce of information regarding Khan in the NYT piece from monday is explicitly attributed to the Pakistani intelligence official.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:38 PM on August 9, 2004

October/November Surprise?
posted by homunculus at 1:49 AM on August 10, 2004

Jesus, every ounce of information regarding Khan in the NYT piece from monday is explicitly attributed to the Pakistani intelligence official.

Well that's sounds reassuring but unfortunately it doesn't change the reality that Khan's name was given out by the Americans not the Pakistanis, as was confirmed by Condi Rice. To the chagrin of some within the Pakistani government the name was then confirmed by the Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid.

Both the Pakistanis and the British are pretty livid with the Americans over this which, apart from burning a valuable intelligence asset, has also led to the premature termination of a sting operation in London in which five al Qaeda suspects escaped capture and the rest have a high chance being released without having any charges laid against them.

This story is slowly gaining traction, the reason for the lack of interest up to now I believe is that there are no Americans directly affected (apart from CIA) only foreigners. This is likely to change as the full implications of this foolish action become better appreciated. Khan, after all, was also talking to al Qaeda operating on US soil as well as in London and Pakistan.

Bush Team on Defensive Over al-Qaeda Leak

DAWN: Cooperating suspect's name revealed
posted by lagado at 9:18 AM on August 10, 2004

When Jehl and Rohde confirm that the original source of the name was a US official, then we'll have something.

Your first link says:

"the New York Times published his name last Monday after receiving a "background" briefing by the White House"

but fails to mention the numerous attributions to a Pakistani intelligence official, and also fails to actually attribute the leak to the background briefing. The name appeared in the NYT after a background briefing. Presumably, the writer cannot say the leak originated in the briefing - only that it occured after it - because he was not there and does not know otherwise. The original Reuters story only said that US officials confirmed the name.

Even Rice says, "we did not publically disclose his name." She's not admitting leaking the name there. She can't be claiming that a background briefing to the press wasn't still "public," can she? The National Security Advisor wouldn't understand the difference? She told Blitzer that she still didn't know if he was cooperating with the Pakistanis... Could the name have been leaked because someone who knew the name did not know Khan was cooperating or to what extent? Seems unlikely that you'd know the guys name and not know his importance, given his supposed value. Six days after the name got out, Rice denied knowing whether he had been working with the Pakistanis. And the NYT story still says that the US official would "not confirm or deny that Mr. Khan had been the Qaeda figure whose capture led to the information."

Now we're getting rehashed versions of the story with no new information from the source of the story - Jehl and Rohde. It doesn't matter if a loyal Republican says the White House should have kept it's mouth shut if he doesn't have first-hand knowledge and is responding to half-cooked accusations.

There is nothing new here until Jehl and Rohde tell us more.
posted by techgnollogic at 9:55 AM on August 10, 2004

Good points, the ambiguities in the story do require further clarification.
posted by lagado at 5:14 PM on August 10, 2004

The mystery continues...
The first official described the initial publication of the news of Khan's arrest as "very disturbing."

"We have checked. No Pakistani official made this intelligence leak," he said.

Without naming any country, he said it was the responsibility of "coalition partners" to examine how a foreign journalist was able to have an access to the "classified information" about Khan's arrest.

The official refused to comment whether any U.S. official was responsible for the leak.
Intelligence leak jeopardized plan to capture al-Qaida suspects, Pakistani officials say
posted by lagado at 11:05 PM on August 10, 2004

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