The newest and most significant plot from al-Qaida in nearly a decade has prompted another concern within the intelligence community: has the Obama administration released too much information, therefore compromising our ability to intercept communications about the next threat?
The threat of an impending terrorist attack was serious enough that the U.S. government shut down several U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide Sunday and the State Dept. issued the first global travel warning since the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
ABC News reported for the first time Sunday on specific information about the plot it received from a “senior U.S. official:”
The official described the terrorists as saying the planned attack is “going to be big” and “strategically significant.”
“The part that is alarming is the confidence they showed while communicating and the air of certainty,” the official said, adding that the group — Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — appeared to have a media plan for after the attack.
“We are concerned about surgically implanted devices,” said. “These are guys who have developed the techniques to defeat our detection methods.”
The official also said authorities were stunned that the group broke “operational security” — meaning they talked likely knowing it would be picked up by intercepts.
However, former CIA analyst Lisa Ruth noted in her Washington Times article there will be “repercussions” within intelligence circles from the specific details on the terrorist attack released by the Obama administration.
“Intelligence officials are dismayed that the administration provided so much detail on what prompted the closings, and that the disclosures could work against obtaining new information.
“Militants are now likely searching for the sources of the information to both the U.S. and Yemeni officials, and almost certainly will kill anyone they suspect of working with Western intelligence,” Ruth wrote.
Current intelligence officers believe the Obama administration “could have cited other reasons for closing the embassies,” Ruth said, adding that many officers now know they will have to “start all over again” finding sources willing to talk to and trust the U.S. government.
“You can’t just walk into an al Qaeda training camp and say, ‘Hi guys, I’m from the CIA and I would really like to hear what you have to tell me,’” a source told Ruth.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many attacks we have stopped thanks to intelligence. But we don’t go out and broadcast that to the world. It doesn’t work that way,” says the active intelligence officer in the Middle East.
“Now? We are going to have to start all over again. We are operating blind,” he says.