Al-Qaeda Gets A Helping Hand From The Mainstream Media

The Bush Administration’s continuing lack of seriousness about going after leakers of classified national security data is extremely frustrating,

“Al Qaeda’s Internet communications system has suddenly gone dark to American intelligence after the leak of Osama bin Laden’s September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that we had penetrated the enemy’s system.

The intelligence blunder started with what appeared at the time as an American intelligence victory, namely that the federal government had intercepted, a full four days before it was to be aired, a video of Osama bin Laden’s first appearance in three years in a video address marking the sixth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. On the morning of September 7, the Web site of ABC News posted excerpts from the speech.

But the disclosure from ABC and later other news organizations tipped off Qaeda’s internal security division that the organization’s Internet communications system, known among American intelligence analysts as Obelisk, was compromised. This network of Web sites serves not only as the distribution system for the videos produced by Al Qaeda’s production company, As-Sahab, but also as the equivalent of a corporate intranet, dealing with such mundane matters as expense reporting and clerical memos to mid- and lower-level Qaeda operatives throughout the world.

While intranets are usually based on servers in a discrete physical location, Obelisk is a series of sites all over the Web, often with fake names, in some cases sites that are not even known by their proprietors to have been hacked by Al Qaeda.

One intelligence officer who requested anonymity said in an interview last week that the intelligence community watched in real time the shutdown of the Obelisk system. America’s Obelisk watchers even saw the order to shut down the system delivered from Qaeda’s internal security to a team of technical workers in Malaysia. That was the last internal message America’s intelligence community saw. “We saw the whole thing shut down because of this leak,” the official said. “We lost an important keyhole into the enemy.”

Once again, our mainstream media has been of enormous help to Al-Qaeda. Not only do they relentlessly act as a propaganda arm for Bin Laden’s boys, they’ve been an enormously effective counter-intelligence unit. No need to worry, Al-Qaeda, because if we come up with a highly effective program, your pals in the American mainstream media will ferret it out and put it on the front pages to warn you — but, not to help Al-Qaeda, of course. The revelation will be brought to the world in the name of breaking news, sticking it to the Bush Administration, fighting the power, or whatever other excuse they can come up with to distract people from the fact that they are helping Al-Qaeda to murder Americans. In cases like this, the motivation is essentially irrelevant: what matters is the result of the leak.

But, the mainstream media couldn’t have gotten anywhere without the real villain in this story: the person or persons who leaked it to the press. The people responsible for this leak deserve to spend every day of the rest of their lives in jail, breaking big rocks into smaller rocks — and if that requires throwing some reporters in jail on contempt charges until they give up their source, that would be a very small price to pay.

Additionally, the Bush Administration deserves a measure of responsibility for this leak as well. Because they have turned a blind eye to damaging leak after leak after leak, they’ve encouraged unethical people in our government to keep handing classified data to the media. How do you go to the American people and convince them of the seriousness of the fight we’re in when the Bushies don’t even think it’s serious enough to prosecute damaging leaks that are extremely helpful to Al-Qaeda?

This. Has. Got. To. Stop!

Clarification: Just to be clear, the SITE Intelligence Group came up with this information, not the CIA — and then it was leaked after it was given to the Bush Administration. I made a change in the 7th paragraph to better reflect that information.

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