Tuesday, October 09, 2007

White House Terror Officials Feed Intel to Fox News

So today we wake up to discover that the recent OBL video overshadowed by sordid tale of how it was acquired early by the Bush White House and then leaked to FOX NEWS. Two senior officials in Bush's Administration were given an emailed link around 10 a.m. to the video on a private intelligence company's website that monitors Islamic terrorists. Those two officials are White House counsel Fred F. Fielding and Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center. The Search for International Terrorist Entities first contacted Fielding, and then emailed the link to Fielding and also to Leitner, at the suggestion of Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Fielding and Bagnal both told SITE that Bush's White House did not yet have a copy of OBL's video.

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.

The precise source of the leak remains unknown. Government officials declined to be interviewed about the circumstances on the record, but they did not challenge Katz's version of events. They also said the incident had no effect on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and did not diminish the government's ability to anticipate attacks.

While acknowledging that SITE had achieved success, the officials said U.S. agencies have their own sophisticated means of watching al-Qaeda on the Web. "We have individuals in the right places dealing with all these issues, across all 16 intelligence agencies," said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

At first blush, we are faced with the idea that the Bush Administration is so extraordinarily sloppy with controlling sensitive information, that people began forwarding the emails sent to Feilding and Leitner at-will. As a federal employee, constantly trained in the handling of sensitive information and reminded by marks on every document and email, this innocent excitement seems implausible. Of course, this wouldn't be the first time that analysts in either the CIA or the DIA have used or misused intelligence in order to fight their constant turf battles. How alarming it is that Bush has created an entire security apparatus in order to fight terrorism and it's plagued at the top by people who just want to be the first to leak to their overlords at FOX NEWS.

Conservative bloggers are fighting the notion of a White House Intel Leak tooth and nail. One attempt involves stating that since the transcipts, which include a translation, were done on the 6th, the day before the link was provided to the White House, that is de facto proof that American intelligence had the video the day before... because only American intelligence could have done the translation. However, the Jawa Report is in (deliberate?) error. The "marks" are in fact SITE marks. You can discover that for yourself by hunting down the original posting of the "marks" on FOX NEWS... which shows the same document without the header chopped off. The header clearly shows the translation was downloaded off a SITE website and gives the address.

CounterterrorismBlog also corrects another one of The Jawa Reports inaccuracies, when it claimed that blogger Laura Mansfeild had the video. Laura Mansfeild only knew the video was coming, and released a link to another jihad video which came out the day before. The Jawa Report goes on to claim that it had the video, but check out their actual posting of the OBL video. The time stamp reads as posted By Dr. Rusty "John Doe" Shackleford at September 7, 2007 03:39 PM. That would be after the release on FOX NEWS. One amusing misquote of Jawa's "marks" claim further distorted the claim to the point that the marks proved ABC had the video and transcript on the 6th!!

Other conservative bloggers attempt to make hay with an ABC story on the video after latching onto the date marker for the article, which reads 9:23 AM. The Jawa Report's blog on the marks has found life as a source for this spin. At first blush, perhaps to those who didn't actually read the article, it would seem that ABC had the transcript previous to SITE's emails at 10 AM. However, when you get to the bottom of the article, you find the words "This post has been updated." Which means that the original story of the Blotter, talking about DHS statements on possible terrorist attacks against the US and New York City on 9-11, which you can extrapolate out of the text, was amended later to include the blurb that there was a new video. You would think that they would take this as a chance to scream about how the liberal media is just trying to discredit the DHS and US counterterrorism by making it seems as if the DHS got caught sleeping, but even a chance to scream "liberal media bias" gets sacrificed in the need to defend Bush.

Con-blogs resist document comparison between the ABC and FOX transcripts which leave little room for doubt that they are the same document, and work hard at insisting that ABC posted the video before FOX. The evidence against them would be the comment section for the Blotter's post. Surely, if ABC had posted the actual video at 9:23 as is being claimed, the comments would include references to the contents. Yet the comments contain no discussion of OBL's rant on the state of the mortgage industry in our country. And it is not until 3:37:45 PM that comments on the content of the video begin, including a count on the number of times OBL says "Wake Up."

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