blogenlust
8.07.2004

MSNBC - Pakistan: U.S. blew undercover operation


I have never understood the argument that the Bush Administration is the be all, end all of counter-terrorism Administrations. I don't buy that the war in Iraq is an effective counter-terrorism measure, and I certainly don't buy that we are doing everything we can to take out al Qaeda. For instance, read this article from MSNBC, which states that the U.S. blew an undercover sting operation for Pakistan, who infiltrated an al Qaeda cell:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The al-Qaida suspect named by U.S. officials as the source of information that led to this week’s terrorist alerts was working undercover, Pakistani intelligence sources said Friday, putting an end to the sting operation and forcing Pakistan to hide the man in a secret location. Under pressure to justify the alerts in three Northeastern cities, U.S. officials confirmed a report by The New York Times that the man, Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, was the source of the intelligence that led to the decision. A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters on Friday that Khan, who was arrested in Lahore secretly last month, had been actively cooperating with intelligence agents to help catch al-Qaida operatives when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers. Monday evening, after Khan’s name appeared, Pakistani officials moved him to a secret location. [...] In addition to ending the Pakistani sting, the premature disclosure of Khan’s identity may have affected a major British operation in which 12 suspects were arrested in raids this week, one of whom U.S. officials said was a senior al-Qaida figure. One of the men was released Friday. British police told Reuters on Friday that they had been forced to carry out the raids more hastily than planned, a day after Khan’s name appeared in the Times. Such raids are usually carried out late at night or in the early morning, when suspects might be at home and less likely to resist. But showing clear signs of haste, British police pounced in daylight. Some suspects were taken in shops; others were caught in a high-speed car chase.
How might this have happened, you may ask? Juan Cole offers his opinion:
Why in the world would Bush administration officials out a double agent working for Pakistan and the US against al-Qaeda? In a way, the motivation does not matter. If the Reuters story is true, this slip is a major screw-up that casts the gravest doubts on the competency of the administration to fight a war on terror. Either the motive was political calculation, or it was sheer stupidity. They don't deserve to be in power either way. [...] So one scenario goes like this. Bush gets the reports that Eisa al-Hindi had been casing the financial institutions, and there was an update as recently as January 2004 in the al-Qaeda file. So this could be a live operation. If Bush doesn't announce it, and al-Qaeda did strike the institutions, then the fact that he knew of the plot beforehand would sink him if it came out (and it would) before the election. So he has to announce the plot. But if he announces it, people are going to suspect that he is wagging the dog and trying to shore up his popularity by playing the terrorism card. So he has to be able to give a credible account of how he got the information. So when the press is skeptical and critical, he decides to give up Khan so as to strengthen his case. In this scenario, he or someone in his immediate circle decides that a mere double agent inside al-Qaeda can be sacrificed if it helps Bush get reelected in the short term. On the other hand, sheer stupidity cannot be underestimated as an explanatory device in Washington politics.
This sounds like a serious allegation.