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US "Intelligence" Screws Up Again?

Reuters is reporting that US Intelligence officals have destroyed the effectiveness of potentially the most important undercover agent they have in al Qaeda.

"Reuters learned from Pakistani intelligence sources on Friday that computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, arrested secretly in July, was working under cover to help the authorities track down al Qaeda militants in Britain and the United States when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers. "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."
The value of having such a well-placed mole has been described as "unimaginable". But then he was blown.
"Last Sunday, U.S. officials told reporters that 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 U.S. officials confirmed it when it appeared in the paper the next morning ...

"The whole thing smacks of either incompetence or worse," said Tim Ripley, a security expert who writes for Jane's Defense publications. "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? ... Running agents within a terrorist organization is the Holy Grail of intelligence agencies. And to have it blown is a major setback which negates months and years of work, which may be difficult to recover."

The release of Khan's name led to hasty efforts on behalf of British police to arrest suspects who were being tracked.
"Britain hastily rounded up terrorism suspects, some of whom are believed to have been in contact with Khan while he was under cover. Washington has portrayed those arrests as a major success, saying one of the suspects, named Abu Musa al-Hindi or Abu Eissa al-Hindi, was a senior al Qaeda figure. But British police have acknowledged the raids were carried out in a rush. Suspects were dragged out of shops in daylight and caught in a high speed car chase, instead of the usual procedure of catching them at home in the early morning while they can offer less resistance. "
Clearly this seems like yet another "intelligence" screw up in Washington. However, the original source seems to be Pakistani Intelligence, a bunch of crooks like few others even in the crooked world of espionage. So who knows, really?

August 7, 2004 in America Inc | Permalink

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