The foiled bomb plot: great news, but…

Posted by: Phineas on May 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

**Posted by Phineas

On the one hand, this is great news: We infiltrated Al Qaeda’s Arabian subsidiary [AQAP] and kept a lot of people from being killed, while at the same time delivering flaming justice to one of the masterminds of the attack on the USS Cole:

The CIA takedown of an Al Qaeda plot to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner involved an international sting operation with a double agent tricking terrorists into handing over a prized possession: a new bomb purportedly designed to slip through airport security.

U.S. officials Tuesday described an operation in which Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, working closely with the CIA, used an informant to pose as a would-be suicide bomber. His job was to persuade Al Qaeda bomb makers in Yemen to give him the bomb.

After weeks operating undercover in Yemen, the double agent arranged to deliver the device and a trove of vital intelligence to U.S. and other authorities waiting in another country, officials said. He is now safely out of Yemen.

Experts are analyzing the device at the FBI’s bomb laboratory at Quantico, Va., to determine whether it could evade current security systems. Officials said it appears to have a more advanced triggering device than that of the so-called underwear bomb that fizzled instead of exploding aboard a packed passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

U.S. officials said President Obama was informed of the bomb in early April and was assured that it did not pose a threat to the public. Officials emphasized that the terrorists had not chosen a target or purchased air tickets, and that the plot to blow up an airliner never reached the operational stage.

And, according to the Washington Post:

The most recent strike killed an alleged operations planner wanted in connection with the attack on the USS Cole warship in Yemen in 2000. U.S. officials said that Fahd al-Quso was probably involved in directing the plot but that the drone strike was ordered because of his larger role in AQAP.

So, latest underwear bomb plot foiled, double-agent safe, we got our hands on Al Qaeda’s latest toys, and a terrorist murderer brave jihadi got the payback he so richly deserved. What’s not to like, right?

Well, there’s what’s on that other hand…

Don’t get me wrong; this is great news, and the CIA and Saudi intelligence service deserve pats on the back. But…

Why are we hearing about this at all??

One of the greatest secrets you can have in intelligence work –especially when dealing with a deadly enemy– is that you’ve compromised their security. That you’ve cracked their codes, found their safe houses, planted a bug in their meetings, slipped a mole deep inside… so many things. You want them kept secret because you can exploit the advantage again and again, disrupting and demoralizing your enemy because they can’t figure out how you’re always one step ahead. These are secrets you go to your grave with, because, once blown, they’re useless.

So, I ask again: Why are we being told this? The LA Times article provides a hint:

U.S. intelligence officials had planned to keep the bomb sting secret, a senior official said, but the Associated Press learned of the operation last week. The AP delayed posting the story at the request of the Obama administration, but then broke the news Monday.

“When the AP got it and started talking about it, it caused all kinds of problems with the operation,” said a U.S. official who would not be quoted by name discussing the classified operation. “The investigation never went to its full conclusion.”

AP spokesman Paul Colford said the news agency held off publishing until U.S. officials told the AP that security concerns were allayed.

“We were told on Monday that the operation was complete and that the White House was planning to announce it Tuesday,” he said.

So we have two different stories. In one, the AP learns about the operation and, with security compromised, the government felt it might as well tell, since the information was going to come out, anyway. It’s a common story.

In the other, AP waited, found out the administration was going to open up on Tuesday, and so decided to get its story out, first.

Call me a cynic, but the second seems much more plausible. Remember that this is the same administration that, after killing bin Laden, didn’t want to be seen “spiking the ball.” Now, a year later and with a difficult reelection campaign underway, the president and his minions are running around doing the “Gutsy Call” end-zone dance like a NFL rookie scoring his first touchdown. With the economy in the crapper and the public mood so bad that even a convicted felon gives Obama a run for his money in a Democratic primary, Obama needs all the good news he can get.

You can bet on it: The One and his team couldn’t wait to brag about this. And all it cost was letting AQAP know just how much we had penetrated them.

Final thought: What was the “opportunity cost” of this latest bit of chest-thumping? Are there any more of these newest bombs out there? Other plots in the offing? How much are we now not going to learn of because AQAP will surely change their security measures?

Sometimes, silence really is golden.

PS: And lest we forget, they’re still trying to kill us.

LINKS: More from Hot Air.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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4 Responses to “The foiled bomb plot: great news, but…”


  1. Wendy says:

    Good article. Last night when I went home I said to my husband – I know it is great that this was thwarted – but I want your opinion – do you think we should know there was a double agent or informant – because I don’t. He said he thought the comment should have simply been – an arrest has been made and leave it at that. There are things we don’t need to know.

    Unfortunately – like you (cynical), we also commented that there was probably some grandstanding going on. Mr. Obama needs people to think he is really on task and wants this to be in the media.

    The prior night my husband and I were talking about spies. I mentioned that I could never be a spy or have one of my children be a spy – very dangerous business.

    There can only be a few reasons by the government felt it necessary to release this information – but don’t worry – the “informant” has been safely removed from Yemen! Boy – I bet he/she is no longer in danger!

    We simply don’t need to know everything – no matter how enticing it is to take the victory lap!

  2. Drew the Infidel says:

    @Wendy–Good points. There is such a thing as “need to know” and the entire world did not need a security briefing on this or any other revelation this administration has made. The take from bin Laden’s compound should never have been made public. It only tipped our hand to the terrorists. The details of the British cracking the Nazi Ultra encryption leading up to the Normandy invasion in WWII was not made known until the mid ’70’s. It’s called STFU.

  3. CZ says:

    What revealed the ‘splodey pants to the CIA was the label in the back.

    Size 36

    Fruit of the Boom.

  4. Carlos says:

    One has to be completely stupid to think the administration did not plant the story – it was just too good a companion to the bin Laden constant spiking.

    And, of course, there are always going to be those in today’s LSM that are more than willing to put agents’ lives on the line to run a story that is at the same time not appropriate for publication on about ten levels, and treasonous to boot.

    But who in this administration would be concerned about either of those points? There’s an election going on out there, and they simply have to keep everyone’s eyes off the elephant in the room.