Did the Bush administration accidentally or intentionally ?out? a mole in Al-Qaeda? A serious charge indeed, that appears to be confirmed by the hasty arrest of Al-Qaeda suspects in Britain.
For details, read this Reuters story, which leads: ?U.S. officials providing justification for anti-terrorism alerts [last Sunday in the United States] revealed details about a Pakistani secret agent, and confirmed his name while he was working under cover in a sting operation, Pakistani sources said on Friday.?
A Pakistani intelligence source noted that the agent, ?Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested in Lahore secretly last month, had been actively cooperating with intelligence agents to help catch al Qaeda operatives when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers.?
Was the leak intentional or not? Middle East scholar Juan Cole, who rarely has something nice to say about the Bush administration, favors the plot thesis:
So one scenario goes like this. Bush gets the reports that Eisa al-Hindi [who was one of those arrested in London] had been casing the financial institutions, and there was an update as recently as January 2004 in the al-Qaeda file. So this could be a live operation. If Bush doesn't announce it, and al-Qaeda did strike the institutions, then the fact that he knew of the plot beforehand would sink him if it came out (and it would) before the election. So he has to announce the plot. But if he announces it, people are going to suspect that he is wagging the dog and trying to shore up his popularity by playing the terrorism card. So he has to be able to give a credible account of how he got the information. So when the press is skeptical and critical, he decides to give up Khan so as to strengthen his case. In this scenario, he or someone in his immediate circle decides that a mere double agent inside al-Qaeda can be sacrificed if it helps Bush get reelected in the short term.
Rather far-fetched, but under the circumstances it is up to the administration to do the explaining. Next to this the Valerie Plame scandal is chump change.