Report: Leak-happy Obama team compromised U.S. intelligence, endangered assets

by WorldTribune Staff, September 11, 2019

The Obama administration had a history of compromising intelligence assets, misjudging loyalties of informants and leaking key details of covert operations to the media, a report said.

Following reports that in 2016 the CIA decided to extract an agent from Russia, Washington Times security correspondent Rowan Scarborough noted that the Obama administration had botched another key intelligence operation years earlier.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, on May 1, 2011. / The White House, Pete Souza

In 2011, after the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan that killed Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Pakistani authorities “quickly hunted down and jailed a Pakistani physician, Shakeel Afridi. At great risk, he had helped the CIA pinpoint” bin Laden’s exact whereabouts, Scarborough noted.

The CIA failed to exfiltrate Afridi fast enough. He remains imprisoned today, eight years after the May 2 SEAL Team 6 raid.

Some Republicans suggested a leak-happy Obama administration betrayed Afridi.

There were excessive press leaks, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in his memoir “Duty”.

A day after the raid on bin Laden’s compound, then-Vice President Joe Biden identified the raiders as SEALs. President Barack Obama had refrained from doing so in a speech to the nation.

“The White House began leaking so many details about the raid that Gates publicly told Obama aides to shut up,” Scarborough wrote. Gates “said he thought he had garnered such a commitment. But within day the news media were publishing detailed graphics of the helicopter route and bin Laden compound. White House communication adviser Ben Rhodes promoted a movie idea.”

Gates wrote in his memoir:

“Before we broke up and the president headed upstairs to tell the American people what had just happened, I reminded everyone that the techniques, tactics, and procedures the SEALs had used in the bin Laden operation were used every night in Afghanistan and elsewhere in hunting down terrorists and other enemies. It was therefore essential that we agree not to release any operational details of the raid. That we killed him, I said, is all we needed to say. Everybody in that room agreed to keep mum on details. That commitment lasted about five hours. The initial leaks came from the White House and CIA. They just couldn’t wait to brag and to claim credit. The facts were often wrong, including details in the first press briefing. Nonetheless the information just kept pouring out. I was outraged and, at one point, told [national security adviser Thomas] Donilon, ‘Why doesn’t everybody just shut up?’ To no avail.”

Months later, a helicopter carrying SEAL Team Six warriors in Afghanistan was shot down, killing all onboard.

“Never before had a president in office released the identity of any Special Forces Team involved in a covert operation,” the father of a slain service member told Congress. “Until bin Laden was taken out, no one had really heard of SEAL Team Six. Its name and missions were always kept quiet for protection for themselves and their families.”

The Obama administration “also badly misjudged the motives of a supposed Al Qaida informant,” Scarborough noted.

“CIA officers welcomed Jordanian physician, Human Khalil Abu-Mulai al-Balawi, onto a CIA base in Afghanistan. One officer had baked him a cake. Al-Balawi went through three checkpoints unbothered. He detonated a suicide bomb killing seven American officers and contractors on Dec. 30, 2009.”

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