The Washington Post and The New York Times both run stories on the origin of the "intelligence bonanza" which partly explains the raising of nthe threat level in New York, New Jersey and D.C. The two stories vary a bit in detail, but it does seem to be the case that the arrest of a 25 year old computer geek (al Qaeda IT guy?) a few weeks ago has
led to a "treasure trove" of information, including getting a "virtual playbook of the tradecraft al Qaeda surveillance teams use."
Interestingly (and probably correctly) the arrest of this fellow was not made public at the time of his arrest (July 13).
Ah, yet another example of just how ineffectual this administrations prosecution of the WoT is.
John F. Kerry
I heard some squawking on the radio this morning about the NYT and WaPo articles giving away too much about our collection sources. I doubt it. After three weeks, AQ probably realized that something had happened to their geek. AQ is adept at organizing their cells and compartmentalizing their information. Once they realized that their IT guy had been compromised, theyd stop using that web site and reroute their communications. His loss was kept quiet for quite a while, which Im sure allowed for the exploitation of this and other information while it was still current.
Announcing a major, specific threat could cause alarm and panic in the affected areas. This can be minimized by releasing some (Im sure not all) of the intelligence details that resulted in it. The idea is to give the American population and the AQ bad guys the feeling that were all over them. I think that theyve done well. The markets didnt collapse and theres no stream of refugees out of Newark. Well, no more than usual.
It was the break the Feds had been praying for, but, unfortunately, also a chance to further bewilder the American public, who have been made fearful, cynical or just plain dizzy by trips up and down the threat ladder. In an effort to sort out what to believe, NEWSWEEK spoke with most of the senior intelligence officials involved in assessing what they call the "pre-election" plot. Constrained by secrecy and a desire to put a positive spin on the story, these officials were not entirely forthcoming, but they did reveal enough to gauge the seriousness of the Qaeda plot. The more difficult question is whether the public revelations not only unduly frightened the American people but, in the long run, made them less safe. U.S. officials firmly deny it, but a knowledgeable British source argues that, by going public, Bush administration officials compromised an ongoing surveillance operation that ultimately could have uncovered more about Al Qaeda operations around the world.