The White House's efforts to reassure the public that there was never a serious threat from the underwear bomb plot that was foiled close to Osama bin Laden's death anniversary may have inadvertently leaked information about covert operations, Reuters said in an exclusive report.
According to Reuters, the Obama administration's top adviser on counter-terrorism, John Brennan, held a private teleconference briefing former counter-terrorism advisers on the situation. Five sources familiar with the call said Brennan said the plot was not a threat because Washington had "inside control" of the situation.
Those words might have unintentionally led to leaking the covert joint counter-terrorism operation by American, British and Saudi agencies.
Richard Clarke, former chief of counter-terrorism for the Clinton administration, appeared on ABC World News Tonight a few minutes after the call and said the plot "never came close because they had insider information, insider control."
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A few hours later, Clarke said, "The U.S. government is saying it never came close because they had insider information, insider control, which implies that they had somebody on the inside who wasn't going to let it happen," according to Reuters.
US and allied officials told Reuters that the leaks led to shutting down an operation that they had hoped to continue for weeks or longer. The leak also exposed the sensitive information that Western spies had infiltrated Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
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According to the Guardian, James Clapper, the US director of National Intelligence opened an "internal review" of 16 American intelligence agencies to determine where any potential leaks could have originated from.
The FBI also announced that it was conducting a criminal investigation, according to the Guardian. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, "When these leaks take place, they damage our ability to be able to pursue our intelligence efforts."
On Sunday, Sen. Diane Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "The leak really did endanger sources and methods," while speaking on Fox News Sunday. She added, "The leak, I think, has to be prosecuted," according to The Atlantic.
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