CNN on Khan Scandal: Has it Prevented the Capture of Bin Laden?
The story of how the Bush administration prematurely outed Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a double agent working for Pakistan against al-Qaeda, has finally hit cable television news. MSNBC picked up the story on Saturday.
On Sunday at around 12:30 pm, Wolf Blitzer’s show referred to it. New York Senator Charles Schumer criticized the Bush administration for revealing Khan’s name. He noted the annoyance of British Home Minister Blunkett (see below) and Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat with the Americans for blowing Khan’s cover. He said Hayat complained that if Khan’s name had not been reveaeled to the New York Times by the Bush administration, he might well have provided information that would have led to the capture of Usamah Bin Laden himself!
Blitzer then revealed that he had discussed the Khan case with US National Security Adviser Condaleeza Rice on background. He reported that she had admitted that the Bush administration had in fact revealed Khan’s name to the press. She said she did not know if Khan was a double agent working for the Pakistani government. (!!!) [I misheard this. Blitzer was referring to remarks Rice made on screen in the course of the interview (scroll up). She said that the name was provided on background to the journalists.]
Schumer later backed off and said we did not know for sure that the Bush administration had leaked Khan’s name. (Didn’t he hear what Wolf had just said?!)
Republican George Allen (R-Virginia) actually agreed that if Khan’s name was released, it was a mistake.
I cannot find the Hayat quote mentioned by Schumer. The closest I come is from AP:
“Whenever we get hold of high profile al-Qaida activists, there is a great deal of euphoria and excitement, and it leads to a lot of optimism . . . that it will lead us to the eventual prize – the apprehension of Osama and al-Zawahri,” Hayyat said. “But we have to be very cautious. This network . . . remains a potent threat to Pakistan, and to civilized humanity.”
But Schumer’s point is correct, anyway. The outing of Khan, probably the most important asset the US has ever had inside al-Qaeda, is a huge disaster and a setback to attempts to finish off the top leadership of al-Qaeda.
Chillingly, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan was in contact with five or six persons inside the United States by email.