US spy chief orders inquiry into leaks over Qaeda plot

Agence France-Presse

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

The internal review across 16 intelligence agencies came as US lawmakers denounced the leaks and warned the disclosures could jeopardize sensitive espionage work.

WASHINGTON DC, United States (AFP) – US spy chief James Clapper has ordered an inquiry into leaks to media outlets that exposed how the CIA foiled an Al-Qaeda plot using a spy who infiltrated the terror group, officials said Wednesday, May 9.

The internal review across 16 intelligence agencies came as US lawmakers denounced the leaks and warned the disclosures could jeopardize sensitive espionage work.

“It’s an inquiry into whether or not there were any unauthorized disclosures of classified information,” the senior intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The review ordered by Clapper, who has expressed outrage in the past over the spilling of secrets to reporters, will not cover officials at the White House or the National Security Council who fall outside his authority.

The Central Intelligence Agency welcomed the inquiry.

“The entire intelligence community should be concerned about recent unauthorized disclosures, and CIA will participate fully in the DNI’s (director of national intelligence’s) internal review,” agency spokesman Todd Ebitz said.

Key details of the disrupted bomb plot were reported by US media only hours after a drone strike on a key Al-Qaeda figure on Sunday, May 6, and as FBI experts examined an explosive meant to bring down a US-bound airliner.

“I don’t think those leaks should have happened. There was an operation in progress and I think the leak is regarded as very serious,” Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Tuesday.

The Democrat promised a congressional investigation of the episode, a view shared by her Republican counterparts.

“If something bad happens because it was leaked too early, that’s a catastrophe and it’s also a crime,” Republican Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN.

The White House came under fire last year after accounts of the daring raid by Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden quickly appeared in newspapers, despite a customary cloak of secrecy over the special operations forces.

Amid a heated presidential election campaign, Rogers and fellow Republican lawmakers suggested the latest leaks may have been politically motivated to burnish President Barack Obama’s image.

Republicans already have accused the White House of triumphalism for high-profile media events this month marking the death of bin Laden one year ago, in which the president and his deputies gave television interviews recounting the day the Al-Qaeda chief was killed.

Obama’s re-election campaign also aired an advertisement lauding the president for making the call to mount the raid, while questioning whether his Republican rival Mitt Romney would have done the same.

News that the United States and foreign intelligence agencies had thwarted a plot by Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen first came from the Associated Press on Monday, after administration officials persuaded the wire service to delay the report for several days.

Other American media, including ABC News and the New York Times, reported on Tuesday that the plot had been foiled by a spy who volunteered for the would-be suicide mission and managed to bring out the explosive, handing it over to US intelligence services.

The spy, reportedly a “mole” or “double agent,” spent weeks with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and garnered sensitive information that was passed on to the Americans, allowing the CIA to launch a drone strike on Sunday against a senior Al-Qaeda operative in Yemen, according to reports.

The air raid killed Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

A senior US official told the New York Times that the bomb for the would-be Al-Qaeda attack was sewn into “custom fit” underwear that would have been difficult to detect even in a pat-down at an airport.

The leaks this week will further undermine the confidence of spy agencies working with the United States, said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.

Foreign allies already were wary of sharing secrets with the United States after the fallout from the WikiLeaks saga, in which the website published reams of classified US diplomatic cables and documents.

The leaks “will discourage cooperation with us. We can’t keep secrets,” Riedel said. – Dan De Luce, Agence France-Presse

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!