If Obama is responsible for this leak, it’s one of the worst things he has ever done:
[T]he emergence of this story, with a blow-by-blow account of operational detail, is the result of reckless, impetuous leaking that could cost lives and compromise operations in the future.
For a start, the story appears to have trickled out far too soon.
One US official has noted that “this operation could have gone on for some time … when it was cut off by a leak”. Even once the agent turned up in Saudi Arabia, it was clear that his intelligence was helping to target a spate of crucial drone strikes within Yemen – including one that killed AQAP’s head of external operations, a man responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.
If the group learnt of their member’s defection from the media, who knows what countermeasures they took? How did that stymie further arrests or airstrikes? AQAP’s chief bomb-maker, Ibrahim Al-Asiri, might even have escaped as a result.
After all, the agent was reportedly evacuated from Yemen two weeks before the appointed date for his attack. He might have remained quietly operational for that entire period, contacting his colleagues and passing on their location. This leak appears to have frustrated a painstaking and risky operation, of the sort that cannot come around very often.
Second, it’s possible that the story shouldn’t have been leaked at all, at least not in such detail. Agents work with intelligence services because their anonymity – and therefore safety – is guaranteed. AQAP now knows the name and location of their traitor.
Cui bono? The Obama administration gets a big publicity boost in an election year. So, one guess who is responsible.