Friday, July 15, 2005

Presidential Fumble?

Those of us old enough to remember Gerald Ford (in the mid-70's) recall that he had been a football player at the University of Michigan.  Somewhat paradoxically, he often was portrayed in the media as being a bit uncoordinated.  There even was a Saturday Night Live skit about him, in which he was awakened at night, fumbled around trying to turn on his bedside light -- which was made from a UM football helmet -- and knocked it over.  But in reality, Ford never made any really big fumbles as a President.

Skip forward to 2005.  We learn from Americablog, via Informed Comment, that there is a distinct possibility that Bush II may have committed a really big fumble.  From Juan Cole:
John Aravosis at AmericaBlog brings up the awful possibility, based on an ABC report, that the Public Relations-hungry Bush administration may have interfered with a British and Pakistani investigation of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb London that ties into July 7. [...]

In response to White House pressure, the Pakistanis were in fact able to make an arrest, which was announced during the Democratic National Convention. [...]

The announcement set off a frenzy of press interest in the basis for then Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge's alarm. Either from a Bush administration source or from a Pakistani one (each government blames the other), they came up with the name of Muhammad Naeem Khan, a recently arrested al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan, and published it. But it turns out that the Pakistanis and the UK had "turned" Khan and were having him be in active email contact with the al-Qaeda network in the UK so as to track them down.

On August 3, the Bush administration released the name of Abu Eisa Khan, a suspected al-Qaeda operative in the UK who had been arrested. The motive for this shocking lapse in security procedure appears to have been the desire to trumpet a specific arrest. [...]

For the sake of three year old intelligence, the Bush administration had helped blow the first inside double agent the Pakistanis and the British had ever developed. [...]

Muhammad Sadique Khan, one of the July 7 bombers, was apparently connected to one of the suspects under surveillance in early August, 2004. [emphasis added]
The implications are obvious.  Of course, it is too early to draw any firm conclusions, but this certainly warrants investigation.  If true, it would be an even greater intelligence gaffe than the Plame outing; and even more politically damaging than the Downing Street Memo.  This would not be an instance of "fixing" intelligence; it would be an example of breaking it.

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