Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Al Qa'ida threat - Sources, Methods and... Leaks

It now appears that the ongoing US security alert was indeed precipitated by a communications intercept. Specifically, an intercepted exchange between the leader of Al Qa'ida core - Ayman al-Zawahiri and the leader of Al Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula - Nasir al-Wuhayshi. Yesterday, before this confirmation arrived, I noted that an Intelligence leak of this magnitude would be highly significant.

Let's be clear, this leak represents an inexcusable failure of operational security - probably by someone on Capitol Hill. As I argued during my BBC discussion, it greatly complicates the necessary efforts of Intelligence officers. The protection (secrecy) of sources and methods provides the aorta of the Intelligence cycle. Without that protection, Intelligence efforts are doomed. In the US, there's a reason this information is classified Top Secret - Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). Again, it's truly pathetic that Congress happily condemns leakers whilst simultaneously hemorrhaging classified material. Put simply, it's the summit of hypocrisy.

So, where does this leave us?

In an absurd situation. Two of the world's most dangerous terrorists are now aware that the US has been monitoring their communications. They're aware because we told them. It's utterly ridiculous. As they alter their methods of communication and take greater steps to evade future surveillance, innocent lives will be placed in jeopardy. 

One ego has levied a high cost.

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