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Author Topic: U.S. Intelligence Leak and the London Bombings
David Ricardo
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Remember when we noted that the Bush Administration intentionally leaked the arrest of an al-Qaeda computer expert in Pakistan simply to play politics in the election season, and that such an abuse of classified intelligence would probably lead to serious setbacks in the War on Terror?

Well, the Brits can thank the Bush Administration's premature intelligence leak of Naeem Noor Khan's arrest by Pakistani intelligence for the failure to round up the entire Al-Qaeda British cell that later executed the London bombings:

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/LondonBlasts/story?id=940198&page=1

quote:
At least two men who have connections to last week's London bombings are alive and still at large.

The first is a man, who was seen on surveillance tapes at Luton station, located outside of London, as he bid farewell to the four bombers the morning of the attacks. The other is Magdy El Nashar, an Egyptian chemist, who attended and received training at North Carolina State University

[...]

Officials tell ABC News the London bombers have been connected to an al Qaeda plot planned two years ago in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

The laptop computer of Naeem Noor Khan, a captured al Qaeda leader, contained plans for a coordinated series of attacks on the London subway system, as well as on financial buildings in both New York and Washington.

"There's absolutely no doubt he was part of an al Qaeda operation aimed at not only the United States but Great Britain," explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry who is now a senior terrorism consultant for ABC News.

At the time, authorities thought they had foiled the London subway plot by arresting more than a dozen young Britons of Pakistani descent last August in Luton, a city known for its ties to terrorism.

"For some time, the locus of terrorism in Britain has been around the Luton area and in some of the northern cities," said Michael Clark, professor of defense at King's College in London.

Security officials tell ABC News they have discovered links between the eldest of the London bombers, Mohammed Sadique Khan, 30, and the original group in Luton. Officials also believe it was not a coincidence the subway bombers all met at the Luton train station last week.

[...]

The disclosure to reporters of the arrest of an al-Qaida computer expert allowed several wanted suspects from Osama bin Laden's terror network to escape, government and security officials said Tuesday. Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a 25-year-old Pakistani computer engineer, was nabbed in a July 13 raid in the eastern city of Lahore. He then led Pakistani authorities to a key al-Qaida figure and cooperated secretly by sending e-mails to terrorists so investigators could trace their locations.

His arrest was first reported in American newspapers on Aug. 2 after it was disclosed to reporters by U.S. officials in Washington. Later, the Pakistan government also confirmed his capture but gave no other details.

Two senior Pakistani officials said the reports in "Western media" enabled other al-Qaida suspects to get away.

"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.

http://www.juancole.com/2004/08/outing-of-muhammad-naeem-noor-khan.html

quote:
Here is what we now know. The Pakistani government arrested a 25-year-old computer expert in Lahore on July 13. The arrest was never given to the Pakistani press by the Pakistani government, and no notice appeared in any Pakistani or other newspaper. This absence can only be deliberate, since the Pakistanis could easily have held a press conference to trumpet their new captive. This decision to keep the arrest quiet appears to have been made because Khan had been "flipped," i.e., had become a double agent and continued to have email contact with al-Qaeda members in London, e.g., but now with the Pakistani military intelligence listening in.

There was no reason for any reporter anywhere to inquire about Khan, since nothing had come out in Pakistan about his case. Pakistani intelligence was passing on to British intelligence what it was finding out about the London cell. Khan was still communicating with it on Monday August 2.

In addition, Khan's computer had on it surveillance information about financial institutions in New York and Washington that dated back three years, before the September 11 attacks. The Pakistanis shared this information with both British and American intelligence.

In the week of July 26, the week of the Democratic National Convention, the Bush administration made a decision to announce a heightened security alert for those buildings in Washington, DC and New York City. Tom Ridge made the announcement on Sunday, Aug. 1, and there was then a background briefing for reporters.

[...]

The British, especially MI5 and Home Secretary David Blunkett, had not wanted his name made public, and were furious at all of the detailed information being given out to the public by the Bush administration or in consequence of its revelations.

In summary, Pakistani intelligence captures Khan (who was apparently working on the actual plans to bomb the London subway system as well as other plans to attack New York and Washington again). His laptop contains extremely detailed plans regarding the London subway system and financial institutions in New York and Washington). In addition, ABC News has learned that the London bombers had ties to Khan's al-Qaeda cell in Lahore, Pakistan.

Pakistani intelligence then "turns" Khan in order to steadily track down and capture more al-Qaeda terrorists -- by having Khan email al-Qaeda members and then using those email "footprints" to track down those terrorists, especially his contacts with the British-based Al-Qaeda cell. Pakistani intelligence cooperates with British intelligence to use Khan's emails to British-based Al-Qaeda terrorists to track down and capture those Al-Qaeda terrorists in Britain.

U.S. officials then prematurely disclosed the classified intelligence information that Khan was arrested by Pakistani intelligence before Pakistani intelligence could track down and capture all of Khan's contacts within al-Qaeda -- especially before Khan could identify all his contacts among the London bombers. U.S. officials time this intelligence leak to coincide with the Democratic Convention in Boston, so the Bush Administration could raise the terror alert level to scare the American public during the election season.

Pakistani officials observe that the U.S. intelligence leak crippled the ability to track down and capture all of Khan's contacts within al-Qaeda, especially with the British Al-Qaeda cell.

Meanwhile, British intelligence was furious with the Bush Administration for "outing" Khan as a double agent before they and Pakistani intelligence could nab the entire British-based Al-Qaeda cell.


Flash-forward to present day when the British-based Al-Qaeda cell that was in contact with Khan then executes the London bombings successfully -- even though they might have been rounded up long ago if Khan's capture by Pakistan intelligence had not been outed by U.S. officials at the time of the Democratic Convention as a blatant excuse to raise terror alert levels to scare the American public during election season.

More than 50 Britons die, and hundreds upon hundreds of Britons are also wounded.

British intelligence must be thinking the following thoughts now: with friends like the Bush Administration, who needs enemies?

[ July 15, 2005, 03:25 AM: Message edited by: David Ricardo ]

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philnotfil
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Germany and Italy are thinking the same thing, although, fortunately, they haven't had quite the consequences that England had.
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Adjudicator
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I am skeptical of these claims.

In the first place, what is a better claim, that the intelligence service found one terrorist and captured some of his cohorts, or that the intelligence service found and captured an entire cell?

Second, it requires us to assume that the Bush administration is stupid, and while this is a "given" for the anti-bushies, I think that there is ample evidence to indicate that this is not the case.

Third, you can't have it both ways. Remember all of the clamoring post 9/11 that the administration should have warned us of the possibility, should have acted sooner etc. etc.?

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musket
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quote:
Second, it requires us to assume that the Bush administration is stupid, and while this is a "given" for the anti-bushies, I think that there is ample evidence to indicate that this is not the case.
Care to give some examples of said evidence?
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The Drake
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David, your own source [juancole] describes much doubt about whether it is reasonable to assume that the Bush admin leaked anything.

quote:
In the week of July 26, the week of the Democratic National Convention, the Bush administration made a decision to announce a heightened security alert for those buildings in Washington, DC and New York City. Tom Ridge made the announcement on Sunday, Aug. 1, and there was then a background briefing for reporters.

The Ridge announcement raised the question of where the information on the surveillance of the buildings had come from. Late Sunday afternoon, August 1, the entire national press corps worked the phones furiously, checking with government officials about where Ridge had gotten his tip. The Boston Globe managed to get through to a CIA analyst, who knew the story of Khan's arrest but refused to give out the specific name.

Earlier on, Reuters had reported, and I had repeated, that the name of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan was given on background to the press by a Bush administration official. The assertion was confirmed by National Security Adviser Condaleeza Rice in an August 8 interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, in which she said that US officials gave the name out on background. Both Reuters and Rice appear to have been wrong in this allegation, and I regret having repeated it. The transcript of the briefing, when released, did not contain Khan's name.

quote:
David Rohde had co-reported the story for the August 2 edition of the NYT from Karachi, and if Waldman and Lipton are correct (and presumably as NYT reporters they would be in a position to know the inside story), it seems entirely possible that after Ridge's press conference, Rohde worked his contacts in the Pakistani government and managed to get the name. The wording of the August 2 article by Douglas Jehl and David Rohde was ambiguous as to where they got the name, sourcing both American and Pakistani officials.

Now, the "indictment" of Ridge goes like this:

"The point remains that had Ridge not made his announcement, the press would have had no occasion to go searching for the source of his information. The Bush administration decision to go public put a powerful spotlight on the Pakistani arrests of June and July."

Ridge made an announcement about an increased threat level. The press was pounding him for a justification. This was about the DNC, remember, when many were accusing Ridge of raising threat levels to affect the election.

Remarks and transcript of the announcement that set things in motion

quote:
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.

...

Question: Were the recent arrests in Pakistan a contributing, a key contributing factor to the information flows you're getting now?

Secretary Ridge: Well we will not comment on the specific sources, but let me just go back again and say the coalition that we have built, and the alliances we have built have been instrumental and very much a part in our intelligence gathering operations.

Now, based on this factual information, why should we believe that this was anything other than capable reporters digging up something best left buried?
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David Ricardo
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The Drake, the Pakistani government continues to allege that the United States leaked Khan's name:

http://www.dawn.com/2004/08/18/top4.htm

quote:
ISLAMABAD, Aug 17: Engineer Hayat Noor Khan, the father of detained Al Qaeda suspect Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi bench, seeking protection for his son and an order to stop his possible extradition.

Talking to Dawn at the Pakistan People's Party Secretariat here on Tuesday, Dr Babar Awan, advocate, said that he had filed the petition on behalf of Naeem's father under Articles 4, 9, 10, 25 and 199 of the Constitution read with Section 491-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The government claims to have arrested Naeem Noor Khan from Lahore on July 13 on charges of being a computer expert with links to top Al Qaeda leaders.

The government has also lodged a protest with the US government for leaking the name of Mr Khan to the media as he was said to be actively cooperating with Pakistani intelligence agencies to help catch Al Qaeda operatives.

ISLAMABAD, Aug 17: Engineer Hayat Noor Khan, the father of detained Al Qaeda suspect Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi bench, seeking protection for his son and an order to stop his possible extradition.

Talking to Dawn at the Pakistan People's Party Secretariat here on Tuesday, Dr Babar Awan, advocate, said that he had filed the petition on behalf of Naeem's father under Articles 4, 9, 10, 25 and 199 of the Constitution read with Section 491-A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The government claims to have arrested Naeem Noor Khan from Lahore on July 13 on charges of being a computer expert with links to top Al Qaeda leaders.

The government has also lodged a protest with the US government for leaking the name of Mr Khan to the media as he was said to be actively cooperating with Pakistani intelligence agencies to help catch Al Qaeda operatives.

When Ridge decided to go ahead with his politically motivated leak to scare the American public, he was basing it on information predating the September 11th attacks. In other words, Khan's computer only had surveillance information about financial institutions in New York and Washington that dated several years back before the September 11 attacks.

Before Ridge's background briefing, there was no reason for for any journalist to ask about Khan, because Pakistan had revealed nothing about his case. Meanwhile, Pakistan's ISI (intelligence service) was using Khan to communicate to British intelligence what it was finding out about the London Al-Qaeda cell. In fact, Khan was still actively corresponding with the Al-Qaeda cell in London on August 2nd, and Pakistani and British intelligence were using their new double agent to listen in on those Al-Qaeda email communications between Khan and the London cell.

If you believe the Pakistanis, the Bush Administration leaked Khan's name. Even if you don't believe the Pakistanis, the Bush Administration still outed Khan indirectly by cynically using pre-9/11 information about attacks in NY and Washington, D.C. to scare the American public -- even though it would lead to a media firestorm that quickly outed Khan's status as our premier double agent within al-Qaeda.

In short, either the Bush Administration our premier double agent in Al-Qaeda directly, or the Bush Administration was stupid enough to indirectly out our premier double agent in Al-Qaeda out of political hackery.

[ July 15, 2005, 11:23 AM: Message edited by: David Ricardo ]

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javelin
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Interesting how fuzzy things get, so quickly...

Even more interesting to me is that there are always those that insist that it hasn't gotten fuzzy at all...

[ July 15, 2005, 11:31 AM: Message edited by: javelin ]

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The Drake
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It doesn't seem like it is any more likely that the US would deliberately burn a good intelligence source than it would that Pakistan had done so.

"Ridge decided to go ahead with his politically motivated leak to scare the American public"

So, I must have missed where you made backed up this claim...

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