Leaks and Bombs

Both Atrios and John Aravosis are looking at the connection between the London bombings and Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, an al-Qaeda agent who was arrested secretly by Pakistani intelligence last year. Khan, as it turned out, had plans on his laptop for a coordinated bombing attack on London’s subways. Now at that point, both Pakistani intelligence and MI5 in Britain wanted to keep Khan’s name secret so that they could use the information they had gleaned to make arrests.

But that didn’t go quite according to plan.

What actually happened next remains a bit murky, but after a suspiciously-timed Tom Ridge terror alert during the week of the Democratic Convention, it seems that either someone in the Bush administration or someone in Pakistan leaked Khan’s name to the press, thus alerting the world to what the Pakistanis and British knew, and compromising various ongoing investigations. See Juan Cole’s old post for background on this. As a result, MI5 had to move in quickly on a cell of 13 suspected al-Qaeda members in Britain, but ended up letting five of them go for lack of evidence—in part because they were forced to move in quickly, thanks to the leak. It looked like a serious screw-up, but until that point, nothing fatal. But now ABC News is reporting that at least two of the men behind the London attacks last week may have been part of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan’s circle. Did MI5 fail to completely disrupt the London plot because of the leak? And how did Khan’s name get out in the first place?