Condemnation, confusion and silence over Al-Qaeda conference call leaks

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The Obama administration’s intelligence leaks about how the U.S. discovered an imminent al-Qaeda plot have drawn mixed reactions of silence and concern from top members of Congress’ intelligence committees.

Last week Friday, the State Department closed 22 embassies across the Middle East and Africa due to intelligence gleaned from intercepted communications between top al-Qaeda leaders.

On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that the intercepted communication was actually a conference call that took place among more than 20 top al-Qaeda leaders, including al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri — a group nicknamed by one U.S. intelligence official as the “Legion of Doom,” after the DC Comics supervillain alliance.

Eli Lake, one of story‘s co-authors, told CNN’s Erin Burnett Wednesday evening that the so-called “conference call” took place not over a phone network, but over the Internet.

When asked by The Daily Caller about the leaks and whether U.S. sources and methods were put at risk, Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss said, “Disclosing classified information is always wrong, and some leaks cause more harm than others”

“We know al Qaeda pays attention to news reports like these and continually changes their tactics to evade detection,” he told TheDC.

Chambliss, a staunch defender of the National Security Ageny’s anti-terror global surveillance programs, told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that the danger posed to the U.S. embassies was “the most serious threat that I’ve seen in the last several years.”

“No one should be surprised if they are doing that right now, which means we could miss intelligence that could stop them before they act,” said Chambliss.

“This administration has been particularly irresponsible about leaking classified information, and I only hope that their disclosures do not harm the intelligence community’s ability to prevent another attack,” he said.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that the Obama administration has known about the threat to the embassies for months.

Even the report about how the Yemeni government foiled a plot by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni off-shoot of al-Qaeda, was called into question by a spokesman for the Yemeni embassy, Mohammed Albasha, reports Foreign Policy Magazine and GlobalPost.

Skeptical about the timing of the disclosures, critics of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities charged that the administration was using the leaks to distract from the scandal over the NSA’s domestic surveillance program — a charge White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed, declaring the two issues as separate from one another.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers’ office declined The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

When asked if Rogers would have a comment on the matter in the near future, committee spokesperson Susan Phalen told The Daily Caller that he “likely won’t comment later either.”

The offices of California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Maryland Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger did not return The Daily Caller’s request for comment by the time of publication.

Rogers, Feinstein and Ruppersberger have also been staunch defenders of the NSA’s programs and have condemned the leaks as harmful to the nation’s national security.

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