Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Strange Leaks

One of the stranger things about the Sept. 7th Osama video (that I barely commented on at the time) was the fact that it appeared on the American media before it was released to the Arabic media. Now the WaPo reveals the story:

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.


Truly a strange tale. There is a school of thought that the administration uses Osama for propaganda purposes, which is true. But this was a truly stupid move. The few political points scored are far outweighed by the cost of burning a source.

Another strange issue here is the private intelligence service finding the video before the government did. It doesn't surprise me, but it does trouble me. Full disclosure: I spend a fair amount of time reading Arabic sights (trying to improve my language skills), and have on several occasions found information that I felt was important enough to pass on to the relevant authorities. What I am continually amazed by is how clueless those authorities are. Obviously, I don't know everything going on within our intelligence agencies, but the fact that those I've had contact with seem truly surprised to receive information that is easily accessible on the internet is a sign of incompetence that boggles my mind.

Also, how do I get one of those government contracts?

No comments: