Outings R U.S.?
July 15, 2005 2:12 AM   Subscribe

Are the London bombings a possible long-term result of an Administration undercover operative outing? And, why exactly was this deep mole agent blown by the US Administration in August of 2004, concurrent with raising the DHS Threat Level to Orange for NYC and Washington DC financial services? While the Plame blame game and investigation carries on, we now have another old news story about a rara avis Al Qaeda double-agent undercover operative outing that is suddenly rising from the ashes of dusty newsprint almost like a phoenix seeking it's own special prosecutor. -- Following the thread of the story is a bit of a tangle, so an attempt to unsnarl the imbroglio is provided inside....
posted by Dunvegan (67 comments total)
Remember the Al Qaeda operative Naeem Khan, and his infamous communications hub of a laptop, an arrest widely reported in the news during the first week of August, 2004? While on

Coincidentally, August 1st the Homeland Security Threat Level was raised to Code Orange
for the financial services sector in New York City, Northern New Jersey and Washington, DC.

I remember it well because a client of our security firm was one of the NYC stock exchanges, and there was some concern afoot.

ABC News just reported that the British authorities say they have evidence that the London attacks last week were an operation planned by Al Qaeda for the last two years.

Not reported by ABC was that after his arrest Khan started working for our side - sending emails to his other Al Qaeda buddies, working as our mole.

What is the Khan connection to the London bombings? Well, intelligence officials at the time said that the plans discovered on Khan's computer included attacks on London's transport system as well as Heathrow Airport.

Furthermore, according to Americablog, " ABC reports that names in Khan's computer matched a suspected cell of British citizens of Pakistani decent, many of who lived near the town of Luton, England - Luton is the same town where, not coincidentally, last week's London bombing terrorists began their day. According to ABC, authorities thought they had stopped the subway plot with the arrest of more than a dozen people last year associated with Khan. Obviously, they hadn't.

“This was an operation the Brits thought they caught and stopped in time, but they were wrong. The piece of the puzzle ABC missed is that this is an operation the Bush administration helped botch last year. It seems at the time it was notable, yet basically ignored in the reportage of the event, that Khan was a deep undercover mole who had been flipped to work for the West."

Security experts in 2004 were quoted as being "shocked" when administration officials outed Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan as an al Qaeda mole.

Jane's Defense security expert Tim Ripley pondered, "You have to ask: what are they doing compromising a deep mole within al Qaeda, when it's so difficult to get these guys in there in the first place? It goes against all the rules of counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, running agents and so forth. It's not exactly cloak and dagger undercover work if it's on the front pages every time there's a development, is it?"

At the time, Juan Cole noted that "The announcement of Khan's name forced the British to arrest 12 members of an al-Qaeda cell prematurely, before they had finished gathering the necessary evidence against them via Khan." At least one of those people was subsequently released due to lack of evidence.

Connecting the dots between the Khan story leak and the London bombing: Seems that some of the non-arrested cell members that were tipped by the news announcement of Khan's capture took the hint, fled, and escaped the ensuing dragnet.

According to some reports coming out of the current investigation of the London bombing, some of the actors involved in the London transport bombing may have ties to those escapees. This investigation (resonating the immortal words of Scott McClellan in not commenting on Karl Rove) is still developing.

However, if this blowback is in any part true about as having arisen from our blowing Khan, we just may have a serious problem with outing our own critical anti-terrorism undercover agents in Washington...and that's true even without referencing Plamegate.
posted by Dunvegan at 2:12 AM on July 15, 2005

Excellent post. Really excellent. Thanks.
posted by Rothko at 2:27 AM on July 15, 2005

Now the British are really going to love us Americans.
posted by grouse at 2:30 AM on July 15, 2005

Great post.
posted by dabitch at 2:49 AM on July 15, 2005

A little more reportage regarding the logic-defying Administration antics regarding the Khan Affair from the well worth-reading Americablog jurno entry:
    Now, why did it matter if Khan's name went public? That was important because Khan was remaining in touch with his Al Qaeda contacts AFTER his arrest - he was our mole - and the authorities were thus tracking INSIDE Al Qaeda. Once the American official made the info about Khan's arrest public, our mole inside the cell was blown, and the British police, caught off guard, had to make a high speed chase, literally, to catch Khan's contacts before they fled. THAT'S the raid that ABC is talking about. And it's that raid that - guess what? - didn't catch everybody who was plotting to blow up London last week. That's the raid that got botched. And I quote from the Associated Press, August 10, 2004: The disclosure to reporters of the arrest of an al-Qaida computer expert jeopardized Pakistani efforts to capture more members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, government and security officials said Tuesday. Two senior Pakistani officials said initial reports in "Western media" last week of the capture of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan had enabled other al-Qaida suspects to get away, but declined to say whether U.S. officials were to blame for the leak. "Let me say that this intelligence leak jeopardized our plan and some al-Qaida suspects ran away," one of the officials said on condition of anonymity.... But the Pakistani officials said that after Khan's arrest, other al-Qaida suspects had abruptly changed their hide-outs and moved to unknown places. 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. (NOTE: In this story, it quotes Condi Rice saying the Americans leaked the name - she later retracted that assertion.)
I wonder...so...just which "coalition partner" do you think that Pakistani official was refering to....
posted by Dunvegan at 2:50 AM on July 15, 2005

posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:13 AM on July 15, 2005

I love posts where you don't have to click on any links to get the gist.

No, really, I do. Thanks Dunvegan.
posted by Laotic at 3:22 AM on July 15, 2005

At the moment I can't spend the hour it will take to go through all of this and try to understand; but I will.

Seriously impressive post - how long did it take to pull it together?
posted by NinjaPirate at 3:37 AM on July 15, 2005

Are the London bombings a possible long-term result of an Administration undercover operative outing?

From the first link: "Prof. Cole speculates that the scenario could have been like this. “Bush gets the reports that Eisa al-Hindi had been casing the financial institutions, and there was an update as recently as January 2004 in the Al Qaeda file. So this could be a live operation. If Bush doesn’t announce it, and Al Qaeda did strike the institutions, then the fact that he knew of the plot beforehand would sink him if it came out (and it would) before the election. So he has to announce the plot. But if he announces it, people are going to suspect that he is wagging the dog and trying to shore up his popularity by playing the terrorism card. So he has to be able to give a credible account of how he got the information. So when the press is skeptical and critical, he decides to give up Khan so as to strengthen his case. In this scenario, he or someone in his immediate circle decides that a mere double agent inside Al Qaeda can be sacrificed if it helps Bush get re-elected in the short term. On the other hand, sheer stupidity cannot be underestimated as an explanatory device in Washington politics."

I vote for the latter. How about the speculation that the "real war on terror" (i.e., that being conducted by the intelligence agencies) is simply being fought as incompetently as the fake War on Terror for which we have no shortage of stunningly examples of stupidity. The only conspiracy is a the conspiracy of dunces running the show.
posted by three blind mice at 3:41 AM on July 15, 2005


is a the

*observes own stupidity, but blames hangover*
posted by three blind mice at 3:46 AM on July 15, 2005

    ...how long did it take to pull it together? posted by NinjaPirate
The Khan Affair has been seriously driving me nuts since August of 2004.

Blowing an Al Qaeda double-agent? It's just extraordinary and unspeakable.

So unspeakable it seems, that although it was reported that Khan was our mole at the time, it seemed like no one noticed that particular "Threat Level Orange-colored" smirking elephant lounging on the loveseat in the living room.

The thing was that Khan was a communications hub...and during the time he remained in the field he was a conduit for Al Qaeda, encrypting and decrypting messages.

This is incredibly important: we had Khan, and Khan had keys. The value of that cannot be underestimated.

It was the post by John at Americablog that took me back...his reportage is the framework whereby the above story hangs.

The rest is just collateral from a bit of dogged digging in my old "Homeland Security" news morgue from around that time, fueled by newly refreshed anguish.

We. Had. The. Conduit. And. The. Keys.

Why did someone in Executive knowingly blow that to smithereens?
posted by Dunvegan at 4:05 AM on July 15, 2005

Wow, I'm still going through the links, but I wanted to chime in and say that this is a great post.
posted by cyphill at 4:11 AM on July 15, 2005

posted by kliuless at 4:17 AM on July 15, 2005

There's a lot of "may be" and "possible" in this stuff, but I have to say this is a nice distillation. What a monumental cock-up if any of this is true. Audio/Text about this stuff.
posted by gsb at 4:18 AM on July 15, 2005

khan :D
posted by kliuless at 4:21 AM on July 15, 2005

You're right, gsb...we don't know why the decision to report Khan's arrest was made...maybe he was already blown...maybe he'd become a triple-agent and had been turned again by Al Qaeda.

But I'd like to see an enquiry. I don't need the redacted National Security particulars...just an independent investigator's take on the affair.
posted by Dunvegan at 4:24 AM on July 15, 2005

It's all a Rovian plot to draw attention away from another Rovian plot (Plame outing) which was also a Rovian plot to deflect the human eye from the Iraq war (itself composed of more Rovian plots than you could reasonably shake a stick at.)

Damn Neocons.
posted by dsquid at 4:59 AM on July 15, 2005

dsquid do you mean it's Rovian plots all the way down?

I guess I still prefer the stupidity and incompetence explanation. There is certainly no shortage of that in the Bush White House.
posted by three blind mice at 5:18 AM on July 15, 2005

Important question - who was the administration official who boasted to the press, "on background," about Khan? If it was Karl Rove, that would be a big, big deal.

The reporters who were there all know who the administration official was. What would it take to get them to tell us?
posted by barjo at 5:21 AM on July 15, 2005

They've had so very little success with arrests and prosecution (even with Guantanamo and planes transporting people all over the world, and renditions, etc) that they felt they had to trumpet this guy, no matter what?
posted by amberglow at 5:31 AM on July 15, 2005

Dunvegan writes "Blowing an Al Qaeda double-agent? It's just extraordinary and unspeakable."

It was a honey pot!

There's nothing like secrecy in government to create the best environment for a conspiracy theory. Can it be both stupidity and conspiracy in equal measures?
posted by asok at 5:57 AM on July 15, 2005

They've had so very little success with arrests and prosecution (even with Guantanamo and planes transporting people all over the world, and renditions, etc) that they felt they had to trumpet this guy, no matter what?

What are you talking about amberglow? These measures have stopped hundreds of terrorist attacks, and saved the lives of countless 'muricans, but due to national security concerns they just haven't been able to release any information to the public. This administration - unlike those sleazy Clintons - doesn't leak out information vital to national security.

posted by three blind mice at 6:06 AM on July 15, 2005

Nice one, guys. No law against it though, right?
(I sure feel safer with Bush in charge!)
posted by klangklangston at 6:32 AM on July 15, 2005

Here is a link to Juan Cole's post about Khan's outing, answering the question I had: who wrote the Times article that first outed Khan?

Answer: not Judith Miller.

The reporters claimed at the time that their source was a Pakistani official.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2005

Yowza! Nice job Dunvegan.
posted by Floydd at 7:06 AM on July 15, 2005

Well, even stupid is sometimes actionable if it is determined to be negligence.

True, Maggiemaggie, and the Pakistani officials said it wasn't them...the Pakistanis pointed a finger at another unnamed "coalition" country.
posted by Dunvegan at 7:11 AM on July 15, 2005

In mid-July 2004, The New Republic reported that the Bush administration was putting pressure on Pakistan to arrest high-value targets (HVTs) before the November election.
"The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Pakistani police captured Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a suspect in the 1998 embassy bombings, on Sunday, July 25, 2004. His capture was annouced a midnight Pakistan time on Thursday, July 29, about seven hours before Kerry gave his acceptance speech. Khan provided information that led to Ghailani's arrest.

The announcement may have reduced the value of intelligence that could be gained from Ghailani:
some current and former American officials fear that, by broadcasting his name around the world, the Pakistanis have reduced the value of the intelligence that interrogators can extract from him. "Now, anything that he was involved in is being shredded, burned, and thrown in a river," a senior counterterrorism official told the Los Angeles Times. "We have to assume anyone affiliated with this guy is on the run...when, usually, we can get great stuff as long as we can keep it quiet."
The Bush administration has trouble with guys named Khan. If they're not blowing their double agents for political gain, they're giving them a pass for running an illicit nuclear weapons bazaar during a WMD-focused War on Terror. KHAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!
posted by kirkaracha at 7:51 AM on July 15, 2005

Splendid post. This is really good work. Congratulations.
posted by warbaby at 7:52 AM on July 15, 2005

Agreed, excellent post, I'd have tried to freelance it to a newspaper; certainly looks like another case that needs its own special prosecutor.
posted by zeoslap at 8:25 AM on July 15, 2005

maggiemaggie: thanks for linking that Juan Cole piece. Here's what Cole is saying about it today. Cole makes the point, also made by John of Americablog, that much of this mess seems to come from election year politics, the desire to gain a political edge during the time of the Democratic National Convention. If so, how awful, and how Rovian.
posted by barjo at 8:29 AM on July 15, 2005

One thing that bothered me then and bothers me now: I don't believe our client, one of the stock exchanges, would have had much patience with moving to an Orange Threat Level posture (and all that this entails) without the Khan revelation.

If there is anything I dislike more than being played by my government, is the thought that a client, a fiducary that we were dedicated to defend and secure was being played by the government.
    Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge Regarding Recent Threat Reports August 1, 2004 Secretary Ridge: Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. President Bush has told you, and I have reiterated the promise, that when we have specific credible information, that we will share it. Now this afternoon, we do have new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda would like to attack. And as a result, today, the United States Government is raising the threat level to Code Orange for the financial services sector in New York City, Northern New Jersey and Washington, DC. Since September 11th, 2001, leaders of our commercial financial institutions have demonstrated exceptional leadership in improving its security. However, in light of new intelligence information, we have made the decision to raise the threat level for this sector, in these communities, to bring protective resources to an even higher level. This will allow us to increase protection in and around those buildings that require it, and also raise awareness for employees, and residents, and customers, and visitors. We know, and we know from experience, that increased physical protection and added vigilance from citizens can thwart a terrorist attack. And that is our goal.
posted by Dunvegan at 8:33 AM on July 15, 2005

Good post, although I think there is way too much trust being placed in the Pakistanis on this. Let's remember that the ISI was basically propping up the Taleban back in the day, shall we?
posted by clevershark at 8:52 AM on July 15, 2005

It's almost as if this administration doesn't actually want to catch or stop these oddly politically convenient terrorists and their attacks. If I were a "tinfoil hat" type, which I'm of course not, I might suspect that the neocons were actively and covertly supporting and protecting islamic terror cells via us and pakistani clandestine services to create just the right amount of terror and uncertainty in just the right places at just the right times to push their otherwise mandate-less authoritarian agenda and consolidation of power.

But of course, that can't be the case. Must just be a mathematically improbable string of amazing coincidences and utter and complete logistical failures heretofire unknown, coupled with a complete and utter lack of any sophisticated understanding of causal relationships and geopolitical ramifications from the most powerful and sophisticated governmental entity in humanity's history, right?
posted by stenseng at 9:08 AM on July 15, 2005

posted by realcountrymusic at 9:23 AM on July 15, 2005

I can't wait to read the history books about all this in twenty years and see how history regards the big picture of these clowns.

If they still let us have books.

Or if there's any sources willing to talk to the authors of those books without being made public.

And if there's oil to make electricity to read by.

That is, if any child not left behind is literate enough to write it.

Assuming I'm not hauled in for some Patriot Act violation for posting here.

Or drafted to go to war in Iran or Syria.

But, other than that, GO BUSH! Woo Hoo!
posted by JWright at 9:26 AM on July 15, 2005

Methinks there is a real tangled mess in the relationship between W, his Pa, and the Pak -- going back to the BCCI mess.

BCCI was intimately tangled up in Pak arms procurement (including nukes.)

W is suspected of taking a payoff from BCCI through the Harken offshore contract with Abu Dhabi for the attempted coverup of the BCCI / Noriega dealings. Which blew up in everybody's face and produced the Panama invasion.

Then there was the whole Charlie Wilson / Afghanistan thing (which also revolved around Texans working as foreign agents for a Pak intelligence operation to influence US policy with respect to the Pak nuke program.

And then there is the James Bath deal, which is connected to W's failure to take his flight physical and Bath was also an agent for the Bin Laden family doing airplane business via BCCI.

It's a real mess and very quickly leads into tinfoil hat territory, but there is a real core of activity that involves jihadis, Pakistan, Bush family connections, other Texans, nukes, etc.

Nobody has disentangled it, but there is a lot published by credible sources saying there's a fire somewhere behind all that smoke. There's also a lot of wingnuttery that obscures the issues as well.
posted by warbaby at 9:55 AM on July 15, 2005

Ridge reveals clashes on alerts, May 10, 2005:
The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.


"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ...There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?'"
Methinks there is a real tangled mess in the relationship between W, his Pa, and the Pak -- going back to the BCCI mess.

And who busted BCCI? John Kerry. Good thing we trusted Bush more on terrorism. (Did Kerry even mention BCCI during the campaign?)
posted by kirkaracha at 10:31 AM on July 15, 2005

If only all posts were like this! Ace, Dunvegan. I hope you have the time for more...
posted by nthdegx at 10:44 AM on July 15, 2005

Good god. I can't express how shockingly appalling I find all this.

Perhaps this has all been a couple decade's worth of Bush-family scrambling to cover-up something horrendous they've done, so as to avoid being locked up or executed for treasonous acts committed way back in the day.

Or maybe they are so desperate to secure power that they'll stop at nothing to do it, including putting other nations, or even US citizens, in danger.

Outing an AQ mole is a simply stunning act. It's beyond anything I'd ever imagined them capable of doing.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:48 AM on July 15, 2005

Did Kerry even mention BCCI during the campaign?

I always wondered that too. It is like the same people keep floating around over and over again - clashing into eachother.
posted by ao4047 at 10:53 AM on July 15, 2005

Let me take a flyer and suggest that if John Kerry didn't speak to his involvement in uncovering the BCCI debacle it may have been because the topic was perhaps in his mind 1.5 hours of complex narrative beyond the criteria of a sound bite.

Complex issues no longer play well to the electorate.

Example: You're either for sound bites, or against them.
Example: Long narratives hate America.
Example: Sound Bite Accomplished!

posted by Dunvegan at 11:08 AM on July 15, 2005

Nicely put together post.
posted by OmieWise at 11:51 AM on July 15, 2005

BCCI is an incredibly tangle ball of snakes. One of the books on it has a chapter heading that consists of quoting a whole bunch of people saying the same thing:
"You'll never understand BCCI if you continue to think of it as a bank."

It's like anybody who thinks of Rev. Moon's organization as a kooky religion will never understand it as a right-wing Japanese intelligence operation started by unreconstructed war criminals.
posted by warbaby at 12:09 PM on July 15, 2005


Yes, that's something that really bothers me - why in high heaven are the terror threat level alerts determined not by the DHS, whose very function is the terror threat, or even the CIA, the frontline of intelligence analysis, but instead is the domain of administration politicians?

The only legitimate haggling between the groups I can think of would be politicians opposing a well-grounded alert, for reasons of economic concern or whatnot.

If the analysts say there is no alert, but the politicians want one, and go ahead and raise the alert level anyway, then gross abuse, presumably for the purpose of electioneering of all the lowest things, seems to be about the only explanation. And that's a really nasty explanation.

But I'm outrage-exhausted.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:58 PM on July 15, 2005

Cole makes the point, also made by John of Americablog, that much of this mess seems to come from election year politics, the desire to gain a political edge during the time of the Democratic National Convention.

Duh. We're talking about a party that went to New York City for their own convention, a city that voted against the Republicans 3 to 1 or somesuch ratio, solely to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11 and derive further electoral advantage from tragedy. The only thing more shocking than the degree of cynical manipulation of the electorate's fears and prejudices is the vacuous denial of what has happened by the administration and their defenders.

As for history's treatment of these years, I suspect that in years to come confirmed Bush voters will be as scarce as those who admitted liking disco in the late eighties.
posted by norm at 1:04 PM on July 15, 2005

Dunvegan: Thanks for a spectacular post. I am truly in awe. Why lose this guy indeed? Barjo: I don't know what would come of it, but I too would love to find out who spoke to the press.
posted by metoo at 1:20 PM on July 15, 2005

warbaby writes "It's like anybody who thinks of Rev. Moon's organization as a kooky religion will never understand it as a right-wing Japanese intelligence operation started by unreconstructed war criminals."

Are you serious about this? Could you point me to a link that will lead me in this direction? Crackpot or not, it sounds like it would be a hell of a lot of fun to read about....

On topic: this is overwhelming, Dunvegan. I'm not going to be able to look at it carefully until this weekend, unfortunately.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:28 PM on July 15, 2005

Is there a MetaFilter equivalent of a Pulitzer? Like, we all buy Dunvegan a beer or something?

I'm not particularly shocked to hear that the White House isn't doing a good job of protecting anyone, or that they may have bungled or even deliberately tripped up an anti-terror operation. It fits quite perfectly with the neo-cons Straussian roots.
posted by Western Infidels at 1:44 PM on July 15, 2005

Dunvegan - amazing, thank you. Much to think about here.
posted by calico at 1:51 PM on July 15, 2005

guess I still prefer the stupidity and incompetence explanation. There is certainly no shortage of that in the Bush White House.

yeah, the real takeaway from all this isn't just pinning failure on the principals, but (for lack of a better word) educating the electorate just how shitty a job this administration has been doing in so many areas. How anyone can defend this sorry lot is simply beyond me.

They've still got 3 1/2 years at the levers of power, but 2006 needs to be the "accountability moment" that these snakes slipped by last year.

Wasn't the latest opinion poll from Ohio showing like 40% support to the Bush presidency? WTF?

I actually voted for the nice republican instead of that bitch Feinstein in 2000. I will NOT be repeating this in 2006, even though I dislike Feinstein much more now; the republicans could field one of my heros but I will still mark the bubble for Feinstein. Bushism delenda est. There's nothing "irrational" about this hatred, baby.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:10 PM on July 15, 2005

mr_roboto: here and here

/moon unit derail
posted by warbaby at 6:21 PM on July 15, 2005

Great post but one quick question from someone who hasn't got enough time on his hands at the moment to read all the links…

You mention Khan being captured and how al Qaeda suspects "tipped by the news announcement of Khan's capture took the hint, fled, and escaped the ensuing dragnet" – but you also say that "after his arrest Khan started working for our side."

I don't quite get it.

Was he arrested and then "captured" again later on?

Did you mean to say "outing" instead of "capture" in that sentence?

Is the basic timeline this...?

1. Captured and arrested.
2. Works as a mole.
3. Outed.

I'm guessing that's what you mean but that's not exactly how it reads.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:13 PM on July 15, 2005

uncanny hengeman writes "Is the basic timeline this...?"

well duh.
posted by clevershark at 8:21 PM on July 15, 2005


He was arrested, released, and al Queda let him back in? And let him right back into his old position?

Maybe I need to RTFA.

Or maybe al Queda is much dumber, or much more desperate for men, than I thought. Were I bin Laden, I'd use the dude as a BS feed to the CIA, and assume anything he was telling me was BS from the CIA.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 PM on July 15, 2005

What's your problem, clevershark?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:12 PM on July 15, 2005

It's pretty obvious that Khan was arrested but his arrest was kept a secret, and that after his arrest he maintained communications with Al-Qaeda with intelligence services listening in, until his arrest was announced (he was "outed"), at which point Al-Qaeda obviously stopped telling him what they were doing.

I thought that this was pretty clear and that you were just being sarcastic, uncanny hengeman. Then again I now see that five fresh fish also seems to have missed it.
posted by clevershark at 9:21 PM on July 15, 2005

    Is the basic timeline this...? 1. Captured and arrested. 2. Works as a mole. 3. Outed. -- posted by uncanny hengeman
Like clevershark suggests, yes...this should (according to the news reports) be a "gimme"...that Khan began his journey as a coalition double-agent by arrest, being turned by coalition intellegence, assigned a handler, put back into the field as a double-agent working for the West, was outed to the press and re-arrested during the first weeks of August 2004 was outed concurrent with the DHS fiduciary Orange Level alert, and (finally) was also reported in the press as being not only a captured Al Qaeda operative, but also a Western double-agent.

At least on the face of it, that was the timeline. That is all that is pubically visible.

But, there is reason to believe, as the entire affair was so utterly fantastic, that the only way we'll truly know what happened here is an independent prosecutor, with appropriate clearance, who settles this matter for us with a comprehensive investigation.
    1. Why were the stock markets and fiducaries in NYC, NJ, and Washington DC the specific group that were hit with the Orange Level alert...we know that Khan also had plans on that infamous laptop regarding the London Underground and Heathrow. Why were transportation systems not also upgraded at that time to Orange Level alert status? 2. Were there other targets on that laptop? Only fiduciaries in NYC, NJ, and DC were elevated to orange. 3. Even if Khan was flipped again by Al Qaeda, why didn't the Western spooks (in the worst case scenario) just pull him off the street into covert custody...meaning secretly...no press, and leave his laptop and "ghost legend" out there, followed with a barrage of subtle disinfo regarding his status and whereabouts? 4. Why didn't whoever blew Khan's cover at minimum coordinate his public arrest and press outing with the Brits, and give them time to wrap the dragnet they had created from his information? Weren't we all talking? Or was someone quite purposefully not listening? 5. Who was the topmost person in the Executive that gave the "go ahead" to release to the press the particulars of Khan's arrest? 6. Could Khan's outing trace a direct line to the Underground bombings in London?
The fact is as citizens we don't know and we can't directly know what happened.

But, if the British start to trace back the group that carried out the London bombings to people named during the Khan investigation, I hope the people of the UK demand answers from Downing Street, and refuse to accept stonewalling for an answer.

Because it is possible that if Khan's network and electronic forensic information connects with the London bombers, we're all still possibly at risk for further terrorist actions and fallout yet to be executed.

And...there's very likely a larger story than just this one double-agent arrest involved. Some of it traces all the way back to Pakistan.

One further point: Khan had ways to encrypt and decrypt messages on his computer.

And blowing him is tantamount to blowing the fact that the Allies had broken Enigma during WWII. The messages stopped.

That's why we have always historically arrested people that disclose to the enemy anything about any covert agent or cell...and try them on charges that travel a steep sine curve to outright treason.

Because covert operations are that critical to our security. And are at their most critical to protect during times of war.

So...about your question, hengeman: I apologize that I answer your question with more questions. I even end up answering my own questions with more questions.

The fact is that I cannot ever answer your question unequivocally.

But it is possible that a special prosecutor can.

(I'm spending a little more time on backgrounding this story during the weekend. Thank goodness, I'm not the only one interested in this affair. If anyone here is interested, I'll post the further findings.)
posted by Dunvegan at 9:21 PM on July 15, 2005

Postscript: Whoever did this outing of Khan actually may have had a "super-extra double-triple top-secret" very good strategic intelligence reason to do exactly what was done and do it exactly how it was done.

But again, all things considered, I'd like to see an independent prosecutor take a look and tell us on the record that they've found that there is "Nothing to see here...move along."
posted by Dunvegan at 9:36 PM on July 15, 2005

Like clevershark suggests, yes...this should (according to the news reports) be a "gimme"...

Firstly, I said I didn't have time to read all the links, and I politely asked for clarification.

So point 3 should be "outed and re-arrested." That's the bit that confused me. There were two separate arrests or captures, the first one being kept secret.

Thanks! Wasn't trying to be sarcastic.

(Congrats on the link to Sploid, Dunvegan.)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:46 PM on July 15, 2005

It's not clear who blew the cover on the operation, US or Pak? I seem to remember it originally came from Pak sources, but that's just my recollection. Maybe somebody already has the answer.

*annoyed how new stories drop off the net so fast*

Anybody got Nexus? A chronology of early reports of the outing would help.

If it was the Pak, it's no secret the ISI is riddled with jihadi sympathizers, maybe the outing was an AQ action... /speculation
posted by warbaby at 10:30 PM on July 15, 2005

Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, described by Pakistani intelligence officials as computer engineer, was arrested July 13, reportedly with help of CIA; Pakistanis say he used and helped operate secret Qaeda communications system where information was transferred via coded messages; senior American intelligence official says 'documentary evidence' found after his capture was most detailed he has ever seen; that evidence, called 'treasure trove' by senior American official, was reported urgently to Washington on July 30, elevating significance of other intelligence information gathered in recent weeks from Qaeda detainees in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as well as Pakistan;
It's sort of ambiguous in the abstract, but the Pak are talking about him and the Americans are talking about the intel.

Looks like Pak first and then confirmed by Americans. Jehl and Rhode can answer the question definitively. I think a Nexis search is also needed to confirm the chronolgy: was the NYT first or just first US publication?
posted by warbaby at 10:56 PM on July 15, 2005


> Last weekend US officials said someone held secretly by Pakistan was the source of the bulk of the information justifying the alert.

The New York Times obtained Khan's name independently, and US officials confirmed it when it appeared in the paper the next morning.

None of those reports mentioned that Khan had been under cover helping the authorities catch al Qaeda suspects, and that his value in that regard was destroyed by making his name public.

So the timeline seems to be:

1. USG: Terrah alert
2. USG: Yes, really! We have intelligence behind it. The Paks have this guy, you see.
3. Pak to NYT: Yeah, it's this Khan guy.
4. NYT: Pak holds Khan
5. USG: NYT was right

The saving moral grace here is that the USG was keeping the double-agentry super triple top eyes-only secret, so none of the Pak guys talking to the NYT knew about it.
posted by dhartung at 12:06 AM on July 16, 2005

I wonder if Paul Krugman would have made any changes
in the text or plot line of "The Arabian Candidate"If he knew about Khan.
posted by hortense at 1:06 AM on July 16, 2005

dhartung: I agree this looks like the chronology that best fits the facts as we know them. But it's still conjectural. There are lots of Pak denials that they did it. There isn't a confirmed source yet that says they did.

Even if the Pak did leak the identity, the old who, what, where, when, why remains unanswered.
posted by warbaby at 7:00 AM on July 16, 2005

Why the hell isn't someone in the news business being arrested for treason, then? Outing a valuable secret agent is an act that endangers the country. Surely that should result in some sort of punishment!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2005

Obviously no one in the Executive has any interest in pursuing action regarding any National Security / covert agent leaks coming from the New York Times.

I think we might need a special prosecutor, as per Plamegate, to get any movement on prosecution with the Khan leak, F3.
posted by Dunvegan at 1:19 PM on July 16, 2005

I think I'm gonna have to take it as proof that the current US Administration cares nothing about ensuring the safety of its citizens, and that everything it does is for the financial benefit of big business.

I mean, shit, outing a high-ranking al-Queda mole? How fucking stupid is that?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:51 AM on July 17, 2005

« Older Mosquito Menace   |   Nordic capers Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments