Leaks that revealed British agent's role in foiled bomb plot investigated by FBI
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Saturday 12 May 2012
Consternation grew on both sides of the Atlantic yesterday at leaks in the US media over the foiled al-Qa'ida bomb plot – the latest of them that the key infiltrator into the terrorist organisation's Yemen network was a British citizen apparently of Saudi origin who was recruited, according to some accounts, by MI5.
The leaks, beginning with an Associated Press report on Monday the news agency had held back for several days at the request of the US authorities, have turned the spotlight on a spectacularly successful co-operation between the intelligence services of the US, Saudi Arabia and Britain.
But senior officials and analysts in Washington and London have warned that exposure of the affair will further increase al-Qa'ida's wariness, and make it even harder to find potential moles ready to risk their lives in such operations. To counter al-Qa'ida, "you have to protect your agents, and you have to protect the confidence" that foreign intelligence services have when they collaborate with the CIA, said the US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta.
At least two investigations are under way into the source of the leak, one ordered by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence and the other led by the FBI.
"Such a small universe of people knew about it. No one in Congress at all," Mr King said. "I'm not aware of any other intelligence operation that was so closely held as this. We're talking about life and death here."
But the anger here is matched by that in London, where the US is again accused of being congenitally unable to keep a secret. If the disclosure was not deliberate, said Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP and former shadow security minister, "it is a shocking example of a leak posing risks to highly important work".
This is not the first time such intelligence leaks have occurred here, but even by Washington's porous standards this one is unusual, both it its detail and its closeness to the event itself.
The operation, targeting the Yemeni bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, had been under way for several months, before the mole, posing as a volunteer suicide bomber, managed to pass to western intelligence the device he was supposed to smuggle aboard a US-bound flight and detonate. AP only published its story about the failed plot after the drone strike on Sunday in Yemen that killed Fahd al-Quso, a top operative of al-Qa'ida in the Arabian peninsula.
That attack was apparently on the basis of information provided by the infiltrant, now in hiding. Then it emerged that a "double agent" was involved, and now that he was a British passport holder of Saudi origin.
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
China's 'Inconvenient Truth': video exposing country’s smog crisis watched 100 million times
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...