Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building (cc photo by clif1066)
Something missed through all the fervent condemnation of the DoJ secretly obtaining AP phone records, is why the government was so furiously hell-bent on finding out where the leak came from? A really interesting article in the LA Times clears up that question. It looks like the leak compromised one of the government’s most prized assets – an al-Qaeda mole, recruited by British Intelligence:
His access led to the U.S. drone strike that killed a senior Al Qaeda leader, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Quso, on May 6, 2012. U.S. officials say Quso helped direct the terrorist attack that killed 17 sailors aboard the U.S. guided-missile destroyer Cole in a Yemeni harbor in October 2000.
The informant also convinced members of the Yemeni group that he wanted to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on the first anniversary of the U.S. attack that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. They outfitted him with the latest version of an underwear bomb designed to pass metal detectors and other airport safeguards, officials say.
The informant left Yemen and delivered the device to his handlers, and it ultimately went to the FBI’s laboratory in Quantico, Va. Intelligence officials hoped to send him back to Yemen to help track more bomb makers and planners, but the leak made that impossible, and sent Al Qaeda scrambling to cover its tracks, officials said.
While the AP is adamant that they only published the article after government officials gave them the go-ahead, the government was reportedly “incensed” by the leak, and launched an investigation even before the story ran.
I feel like we’re beginning to understand the government’s motivations behind all this. I was already confused as to why people were so up in arms about a relatively meager subpoena of phone records, but with this new information – if verified to be true – I can’t help but think that the DoJ and Obama administration (if involved) were totally justified in their actions.
**Some updated thoughts**
Here’s a short twitter debate I had with Glenn Greenwald a few moments ago, regarding this question:
We don’t so much disagree that the government acted wrongly here – I never said that in my article. It’s more that Glenn sees the governments secret subpoena as a serious infraction, and I’m inclined to agree with him, but if indeed the Times story is proven to be true, this is more a case of negligence than anything else. They were justified in obtaining the records, but they did so in an unjustifiable manner.