BLOWN COVER….According to Condoleezza Rice, U.S. officials released the name of Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan to reporters on background last Sunday. On Monday, his name was printed in the New York Times and Khan’s cover as a double agent was blown.
That’s obviously bad enough, but there’s a second question: did it matter? Or was Khan’s usefulness already at an end anyway?
Today Juan Cole has the answer: Khan was in email contact with al-Qaeda agents in Britain on Monday and his exposure forced the premature arrest of an al-Qaeda cell in London:
The British MI5 was forced to have the London cell of 13 arrested immediately on Tuesday, fearing that they would flee now that they knew Khan had been arrested two weeks earlier. The British do not, however, appear to have finished gathering enough evidence to prosecute the 13 in the courts successfully.
It now turns out, according to Neville, that “Reports last week also claimed that five al Qaida militants were on the run in the UK after escaping capture in last Tuesday?s raids.” If this is true, it is likely that the 5 went underground on hearing that Khan was in custody. That is, the loose lips of the Bush administration enabled them to flee arrest.
This pretty much answers my questions from Saturday: it was a Bush administration official who blew Khan’s cover, no one appears to have seriously asked journalists not to use his name, and yes, Khan was still providing useful information.
These facts don’t even appear to be in dispute anymore, and yet the story is still getting only minor attention. Why? What does it take to get the mainstream press interested these days?