The bomber appears to have been invited to an operational planning meeting on al Qaeda, a former senior U.S. intelligence official said. “It looks like an al Qaeda double agent,” the former official said. “It’s very sophisticated for a terrorist group that’s supposedly on the run.” – CIA Blast Blamed On Double Agent
It certainly was.
Maybe the National Security Staff, the merged National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, will make a difference. One can only hope.
All of this leads to one reason why Danger Room’s Nathan Hodge takes out David Ignatius today. No doubt inspired by the Post‘s preference of offering their intelligence through fiction writers, instead of through cold doses of reality, though they do that too, just not with top billing. Hodge:
What government agency doesn’t need a good public affairs officer? It’s a rough world out there, with lots of critics. You never know when someone might try to cut your budget or demand a Congressional investigation.
So much the better if your PAO has a twice-weekly column at the Washington Post, and does the flacking for free. I’m speaking here of David Ignatius, Post columnist and author of spy novels. …
[...] On December 13, Ignatius wrote a eulogy for Gen. Saad Kheir, the former head of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department. In the course of one 750-word column… (Kheir is described as a “brilliant but emotionally wounded” spookmasterJordan’s masterful spy agency, huh?)… It now turns out that the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA officers and a Jordanian intelligence officer in Afghanistan was a double agent, recruited by the GID and brought to Afghanistan to penetrate al Qaeda. He carried out the terror group’s mission instead. …
The trouble with access journalism, especially when you’ve got an intelligence “opinionator,” as Hodge labels Ignatius, is that a novelist and screenwriter is often too wrapped up in his own characters and his next spy yarn to see what’s playing out underneath his Hollywood gaze.
On “Morning Joe” today, Mr. Ignatius couldn’t resist breaking away from the real life disaster of our CIA being taken by a Jordanian double agent in order to once again pimp “Body of Lies,” which is a fun ride, but hardly representative of the disaster that just played out. Joe Scarborough introducing Ignatius as if he was the second coming of Robert Ludlum, which in and of itself renders him not credible in the news department. After all, being privy to the powerful doesn’t mean you know squat about what’s actually going on, as Danger Room’s Nathan Hodge reveals today.
Save the spy yarn tales of David Ignatius for after supper, at least as far as detailed facts are concerned, and instead turn to Richard Engel, talking about the Jordanian double agent al-Balawi yesterday:
… Last week, according to the Western officials, al-Balawi reportedly called his handler to say he needed to meet with the CIA’s team based in Khost, Afghanistan, because he said he had urgent information he needed to relay about Zawahiri.
His handler was a senior intelligence official, identified in Jordanian press accounts as Sharif Ali bin Zeid.
But bin Zeid was not just a Jordanian intelligence officer; he was also a member of the Jordanian royal family and was a first cousin of the king and grandnephew of the first king Abdullah.
Bin Zeid’s prominent role offers rare insight into the close partnership between American and Jordanian intelligence officials and how crucial their relationship has become to the overall counterterrorism strategy.
This horrific CIA intelligence failure, turned tremendous tragedy, impacts our effectiveness in this dangerous region because of the dedicated intelligence experts murdered by al-Balawi, and jettisoned me back to when Ahmad Shah Massoud was murdered by assassins masquerading as TV interviewers just before 9/11.
The Jordanian double agent case is far more terrifying than the underpants bomber, just not as sexy, because partisan politics doesn’t play a part. Which it should be pointed out is still unfolding, as the State Department still has much for which to answer regarding the initial Visa VIPER cable. See Spencer Ackerman on State’s “very thin information,” which may not be in line with Visa VIPER requirements, and Josh Rogin from yesterday:
“Based on what we know now, the State Department fully complied with the requirements set forth in the interagency process as to what should be done when information about a potential threat is known,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday.
But a close look at the rules for compiling Visas Viper cables shows that the information supplied about Mutallab might not have met the existing requirements, leaving out some crucial pieces of information.
What is certain is that an al Qaeda double agent played us on this one, using our staunchest ally in the region to do it. No way to spin it, as you are only as successful as your last lethal failure. This one to reverberate for quite some time due to the dedicated individuals who put their lives on the line and lost them while continuing to connect the intelligence dots that al Qaeda once again blew away.