Sunday, August 08, 2004

While the story is one mired in detail and so may not get a whole lot of traction with the general public, the concern over the administration's handling of intelligence is mounting. In order to emphasize the severity of the recent warning, the name of the source of the information that led to Secretary Ridge's press conference was released by U.S. officials. The individual involved was apparently a former al Qaeda member who had turned informant and was being run by the Pakistan intelligence agency.

The release of the name of the informant and the detailed description of the threat has angered both Biritsh and Pakistani intelligence. In one particular case, the British had to move up the apprehension of 12 suspects in England. They were not ready to apprehend the individuals, but they were afraid the case would be blown thanks to the U.S. statements. British Homse Secretary David Blunkett recently lashed out at the Bush administration because their actions could (and did) compromist ongoing investigations. MI5 is now concerned it may not be able to build a strong enough case against inididuals who were to be extradited to the U.S. Pakistan's Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat also criticised the release becuase it compromises their ability to infiltrate some of the groups in Pakistan that operate with or have contacts with al Qaeda. Juan Cole has a detailed rundown of the situation.

The question remains, of course, was the name of the individual and a detailed description of the threat necessary to ensure public safety? There was criticism of Secretary Ridge's announcement, that he was playing politics. The evidence for many of these criticisms came from the inclusion of a few lines which credited Bush's leadership for the development of information like this.
"But we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror, the reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan."
It seems however, this information was pretty much due to the hard work of the Pakistani intelligence agencies in turning this individual. While it may be fair to include some credit to the Administration that you work for, Ridge's comments go beyond the normal bureaucratic thanks and seem tailor-made to end up in either a political ad or as a sound-bite for the Republican media arms.

While their are still some elements that need to be clarified, the statements from both Paksitan and England pretty well back the idea that the release of the agent's name truly hurt the global anti-terrorism effort. They don't come out and say it, but the statements are a pretty clear indictment of the administrations use of the information. It would be easier to believe that this was an honest mistake and not an attempt to score political points if the leaking of information wasn't such a well-used tactic for this administration (see: Plame investigation, Sandy Berger).

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