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Underwear Bomb Informant Worked for Saudi Intel–Not CIA, FBI, or MI6

Underwear Bomb Informant Worked for Saudi Intel--Not CIA, FBI, or MI6

Underwear bomber number 2 (still unnamed) isn’t the only one with his shorts in a twist over the latest attempt to bring terror to the sky over the Atlantic. The CIA, FBI, and MI6 are all scrambling to explain (or unexplain) their accounts of who did what when to take-down the would-be bomber and save a planeload of unwary infidels from mid-air incineration. US intelligence is blaming the administration for ‘leaks’ they say compromise a secret intelligence partnership, while other, perhaps less sanctioned leakers from each agency continue to spin the story in ways designed to claim victory for their team. Word is that someone at the White House leaked ‘the story’ to a national security advisor or some intel czar who then rushed the news to three major networks.

Headline? Let’s see…Obama Administration preempts significant terrorist strike against United States? Good work if you can get it.

Go for it.

Alerts about the nefarious ‘underwear bomber’ have dominated the news for days, the mainstream media (getting it wrong again) rushing to attribute the just-in-time preemptive strike to the talents and skill of US intelligence. First reports indicated that the individal in charge of the entire operation was employed by the CIA, a ‘double agent’ in control of the whole operation from start to finish.

Underwear Bomb Informant Worked for Saudi Intel--Not CIA, FBI, or MI6
Saudi Intel Discovers Bomber-not US or Brits

Then, yesterday, the story changed–the operation’s mastermind, the fellow who encouraged the 29 year old chemist from Yemen to aspire to a slicker, less-detectable, more highly-charged explosive device than the one that left  Nigerian underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab (who tried to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009) smoking but still intact–really worked for British intelligence, MI6.

Still wrong. Sources in the international intelligence community now suggest that  the covert agent, the good guy who conceived and managed the underwear bomb operation #2 really works (and has, all along) for Saudi intelligence, Mabahith–and that it was Saudi intelligence that turned the device, once obtained by its operative, over to the CIA.  But the narrative continues: the CIA, lacking appropriate lab facilities, then turned ‘underwear bomb number 2’ over to the FBI, an agency amply funded and equipped to apply the proper reengineering techniques to the device and, theoretically, figure out how to repond to the new and improved threat.

Why is any of this important? For several reasons.

First, the intelligence victory claimed by the US administration appears to have been a gift from the Saudi government (not always reliable, do we think?), as opposed to the product of rigorous, on-the-scene investigative efforts by the US or its allies. Think about that.

And why would Saudi intel send this guy and his next-generation underwear bomb our way? I thought you’d never ask. The story is that, in this particular case, the motivation behind the Saudi hand-over to US intelligence was an incident about a year ago in which the same bombmaker, intent on testing his product, actually implanted the device in his own suicide-bomber brother (true story) and instructed him to stand next to a target, a Saudi prince, against whom the 29 year old chemist apparently had some special grudge.

The ‘test,’ while successfully blowing the chemist’s own brother to smithereens, revealed the device lacked sufficient explosive charge to take down the prince or any other standerbys, so it was back to the drawing board. The Saudi Royal Family, however, was not amused. And you know what they say about payback…

The second reason all this confusion about who deserves the real kudos for heading off another terrorist scheme is important: it reveals a propensity on the part of White House officials to manipulate the press in regard to the achievements of US intelligence. Now the White House is backpeddling, revising the narrative by citing our skill and wisdom in outsourcing our intelligence work (and if you believe the US actually relies on intel from the mideast, I’ve got a bridge to sell you).

Finally, the situation exposes the eagerness and gullibility of the mainstream media, which grabs for the sensational without regard to its own investigative responsibilities. Now we have a media muddle, another fine, and embarrassing fix for the White House (remember the ‘plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US in a Georgetown eatery?)–and a lot of bad feelings between intelligence agencies we were given to believe could function at high efficiency together.

What’s going on? You tell me.





Kathleen Millar
Kathleen Millar

Kathleen Millar began her career in public affairs working for Lyn Nofziger, White House Communications Director. She has gone on to write about a wide range of enforcement and security issues for DHS, for the US Department of the Treasury (Customs & Border Patrol), for Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), then a Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and for top law enforcement officials in the United States and abroad.

A Founding Member of the Department of Homeland Security, Millar was also the deputy spokesperson-senior writer for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria. She has authored numerous speeches, articles and opeds under her own and client bylines, and her work, focusing on trafficking, terrorism, border and national security, has appeared in both national and international outlets, including The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Financial Times, and Vital Speeches of the Day.

Kathleen Millar holds an MA from Georgetown University and was the recipient of a United Nations Fellowship, International Affairs, Oxford. She is a member of the Georgetown University Alumni Association, Women in International Security (GU), the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and the American News Women’s Club in Washington, DC. Kathleen Millar is currently teaching and writing about efforts to combat transnational organized crime.

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