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May 18, 2012

White House Leaks Details of SEAL Mission, Underwear Bomber... For Political Spin

Reuters: Did White House "spin" tip a Covert Op?

White House efforts to soft-pedal the danger from a new "underwear bomb" plot emanating from Yemen may have inadvertently broken the news they needed most to contain.

At about 5:45 p.m. EDT on Monday, May 7, just before the evening newscasts, John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top White House adviser on counter-terrorism, held a small, private teleconference to brief former counter-terrorism advisers who have become frequent commentators on TV news shows.

According to five people familiar with the call, Brennan stressed that the plot was never a threat to the U.S. public or air safety because Washington had "inside control" over it.

This was immediately interpreted, correctly, as meaning there was a double-agent somewhere in the cell.

As was obvious from the White House's words.

The next day's headlines were filled with news of a U.S. spy planted inside Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who had acquired the latest, non-metallic model of the underwear bomb and handed it over to U.S. authorities.

At stake was an operation that could not have been more sensitive — the successful penetration by Western spies of AQAP, al Qaeda's most creative and lethal affiliate. As a result of leaks, the undercover operation had to be shut down.

The White House is incompetent. There was no reason to out a double agent -- even for the crassest, most cynical of political reasons.

They could simply have said, "We got him." That itself is reassuring -- that you caught a would-be terrorist. What extra benefit is there to reassuring the public, "And you weren't in any danger because we've got a DOUBLE AGENT, yo!"?

But for the sake of a completely illusory need to appease critics, they outed a critical double agent. One who could have continued providing intelligence for years to come.

But that's business as usual for these sad little men. They also told secrets about SEAL tactics, just to peacock around after the bin Ladin raid, as if they were the heroes.

A New York Times reporter was stopped by an officer who wanted to "rip his lungs out" over the detailed reporting he did on the bin Ladin raid.

But, he revealed at a counter terrorism expo this week, the info came directly and officially from the White House, not some garbage can digging operation. “I said to him, ‘Sir, that information came officially to us from the podium at the White House,’” Shanker said.

He added, “Your civilian leaders make choices about describing missions, perhaps for their own partisan political ends, perhaps to show the nation that their tax dollars are being spent well, but that’s the way it is.”

Shanker, an acclaimed Pentagon reporter and author, said he had a little advice for the unidentified officer: If you make general, “this is part of your new world.

Not for much longer.


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posted by Ace at 05:21 PM

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