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Context of 'September 7, 2007: White House Leak Damages Private Intelligence Operation Against Bin Laden'

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In late December 1999, Rita Katz, working with the Investigative Project on Terrorism, gave a presentation in the White House to members of the National Security Council (NSC) about a suspected al-Qaeda sleeper cell based in Anaheim, California (see December 25, 1999). The NSC forwarded the information her team gleaned from public sources to the FBI. Katz later repeatedly asked a contact she had with the NSC named Peter what happened to the lead she gave them. Peter replied that he assumed the FBI was just sitting on the material. (Katz 2003, pp. 180) Around January 2002, Katz is contacted by an FBI agent in California who is looking for investigative leads on al-Qaeda in California. Katz forwards him all her information she gave in her White House presentation back in 1999. According to Katz, the agent looks over the material and says it is “very strong… I want to go all the way with this investigation.” Then the agent registers his investigation with the FBI so other agents with leads could contact him. A few days later, he calls Katz and says that he has been taken off the case because it falls into the jurisdiction of the FBI’s Anaheim office. Apparently that office does nothing with the lead. In 1999, Katz suggested the cell included Khalil Deek, arrested in late 1999 for involvement in a millennium bomb plot in Jordan (see December 11, 1999), his brother Tawfiq Deek, Hisham Diab, and Khalid Ashour. (Katz 2003, pp. 186-187) ABC News will later report that Diab continued to live in Anaheim until June 2001, when he apparently moved to Afghanistan to stay with top al-Qaeda leaders. (Ross and Scott 12/23/2004) Khalil Deek is mysteriously released in Jordan around the same time (see May 2001); it will later be alleged that he was a mole for the Jordanian government (see Shortly After December 11, 1999). By late 1999, Ashour had requested asylum in the US. Katz will later note that he “could have been easily located, investigated, and if necessary, denied asylum and deported.” But as of 2003, Katz claims Ashour still lives in the US. (Katz 2003, pp. 187) Tawfiq Deek apparently continues to live in Anaheim as well, where he works for the state’s Department of Toxic Substance Control as a chemical engineer. He denies all terrorism ties, though he confirms that he was an active member of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which the FBI has called a Hamas front group. (Anderson 9/15/2005) Another associate of the above group, Adam Gadahn, will emerge in Afghanistan in 2004 as a prominent al-Qaeda spokesman (see Spring 2004).

The US administration leaks the news that it has obtained an advance copy of a new video from a man thought to be Osama bin Laden, damaging an intelligence operation by the SITE Institute. SITE, a private organization involved in the fight against international terrorism, obtains an advance copy of the video through an intelligence operation that had been ongoing for years (see September 7 and 11, 2007) and provides the copy to the White House. SITE founder Rita Katz sends White House representatives Fred Fielding and Joel Bagnal an e-mail saying that there is a need for secrecy and the video should not be distributed, but within twenty minutes of this government defense and intelligence agencies begin downloading the video from SITE. The video leaks from the administration to the news media within a few hours, tipping al-Qaeda off to the security breach. SITE’s activities are described as “tremendously helpful” by some intelligence officials, but Katz says that due to the leak, “Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless.” However, officials say that US agencies do not rely solely on outside contractors for such information, and Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, comments, “We have individuals in the right places dealing with all these issues, across all 16 intelligence agencies.” (Warrick 10/9/2007) The Office of the Director of National Intelligence announces an inquiry into the leak, but Feinstein says, “we don’t think there was a leak from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or the National Counterterrorism Center,” which also received a copy of the video from SITE. (Warrick 10/10/2007)

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