Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Atta In Prague

The Washington Post Opinion Journal has a piece on the convoluted story of 9/11 leader Atta being spotted in Prague by Czech Intelligence. Jiri Ruzek, chief at the time of the Czech counterintelligence service, BIS, was leading the investigation into Iraq's covert activities 2 years before Bush came into office.

Yet another instance of incompetence, or worse, by supposed highly trained FBI agents jumps out:

Less than a week after Mr. Ruzek shared the BIS's confidential information with American intelligence, it was leaked. The Associated Press reported, "A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States has received information from a foreign intelligence service that Mohamed Atta, a hijacker aboard one of the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center, met earlier this year in Europe with an Iraqi intelligence agent." CBS named al-Ani as the person meeting with Atta in Prague.

Mr. Ruzek was furious. He considered what he had passed on to the FBI to be unevaluated raw intelligence, and its disclosure not only risked compromising the BIS's penetration in the Iraqi Embassy but also greatly reduced the chances of confirming the intelligence in the first place. In Baghdad, al-Ani, through an Iraqi spokesman, denied ever meeting Atta. In Prague, Czech officials who had not been fully briefed added to the confusion. Prime Minister Milos Zeeman, wrongly assuming that the meeting had been confirmed, stated on CNN that Atta and al-Ani had met to discuss Radio Free Europe, not the 9/11 attack.

A long, long time ago, while in the Air Force, I worked with intelligence gathering. It was mundane and nothing of interest now. But there was never any question for me and the the E-3s, E-4s and E-5s that I worked with, that we did not discuss our work outside of the building, even with each other, much less with the media. As far as I could tell, everybody on our base shared that understanding and took it seriously.

How can we pretend to have a serious intelligence agency when it is a constant source of leaks of classified material?

Why isn't there a serious and brutal (yes, I meant to use that word) investigation and prosecution of people in trusted positions that choose to betray the confidence placed with them for their own personal reasons?

When are the FBI and CIA going to finally understand that this isn't a child's game for people to play as it suits them? 300,000 million people in the US, and actually billions more around the world, depend on the FBI and CIA and others to keep us safe. When are we going to treat these leaks as the damaging sabotage that it actually is instead of simple, unfortunate events?

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