How the CIA Misjudged the Pseudo-Informant at the Afghan Base

The Washington Post reports the details on the mismanagement of informant Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, who killed 7 CIA officers at an Afghan base a few weeks ago.

The Jordanians initially turned and worked him, but in mid-2009, they let the Americans and CIA take charge of him. [More...]

Senior CIA and GID officials were so beguiled by the prospect of a strike against al-Qaeda's inner sanctum that they discounted concerns raised by case officers in both services that Balawi might be a fraud, according to the former U.S. official and the Jordanian government official, who has an intelligence background.

The Americans took over the management of Balawi from the Jordanians sometime in the second half of 2009, dictating how and when the informant would meet his handlers, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officers. Agency field officers faced unusual pressures from top CIA and administration officials in Washington keyed up by Balawi's promise to deliver al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current and former officers said.

He seems like an unlikely recruit -- he was a "true believer":

In the past four years, using the pseudonym Abu Dujana al-Khorasani, Balawi wrote on extremist Web sites and gained renown. He trumpeted calls for martyrdom. "My words will drink of my blood," he wrote, one of a number of statements suggesting an ambition to move beyond rhetoric.

Were the warning signs there?

Both American and Jordanian case officers raised questions last year about the speed with which Balawi appeared to have inserted himself into a position where he could obtain such intelligence, according to the former U.S. official familiar with Balawi's detention.

Al-Qaeda is deeply suspicious of new volunteers, and especially so of Jordanians because of repeated attempts by GID to penetrate the organization...

As for Jordan, as one official said of its newly revamped GID, ""There was desperation to get the fruit."

< The Smells of Haiti | The Right Flank Of The Dem Party >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    when someone (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 06:52:44 PM EST
    wants to volunteer information to me, i'm always skeptical. perhaps i'm just too cynical to work for the cia.

    Perhaps (none / 0) (#3)
    by Zorba on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 07:18:17 PM EST
    the CIA could use a few cynics such as yourself, cpinva.  It might have saved them the lives of those agents.

    When you think that (none / 0) (#1)
    by Zorba on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 12:44:12 PM EST
    you've "turned" someone on the other side into a double agent, there's always the risk that he's actually a triple agent.  Especially if you are feeling desperate and pressured to use this guy.  Should the CIA have used more caution?  Of course, and I would have thought that they had some experience in this area.  I suppose it's hard to resist the extreme pressures from your superiors, though.

    This was a terrible loss for the CIA (none / 0) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 07:08:49 AM EST
    A lot of things could have happened or should have happened, but the truth seems pretty obvious that we will do almost anything for a good asset at this time.  What all of this is a symptom of is the Bush administration's lack of addressing what was really going on with Al Qaeda.  We don't have the intel assets we need, and they weren't cultivated prior to Obama in order for the Bush administration to keep trumpeting that figure of only a couple of hundred Al Qaeda fighters even in existence.  For everyone to have known what was really happening would have enraged the nation even more.  We tore up Iraq for Bush administration lies, spent billions and billions of the broke taxpayers money too.  It was unthinkable to allow the nation to understand that Al Qaeda was flourishing.  Seeking no decent intel means no inconvenient truths exposed.  And the CIA is very much a part of this war, they will experience losses too just like the military branches do.