Government Leak Compromises Private Intelligence Firm's Methods

By Matthew Harwood

A private intelligence firm is accusing the government of leaking an al Qaeda video which has given the terrorist organization the opportunity to correct its IT security vulnerabilities, reports The Washington Post.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz...

The video at the heart of the situation is last month's video of Osama Bin Laden in which the al Qaeda leader appeared with a black beard. Within the video, Bin Laden says the Bush Administration will fail in Iraq and Afghanistan and presses Americans to convert to Islam.

Katz had asked that the video be kept under wraps until its officially slated release date by an al Qaeda distributor so as not to compromise SITE's methods. However, within 20 minutes of passing the video along to two senior officials, intelligence agencies throughout the government were downloading it. The article reports by mid-day  the video was then leaked to several TV news networks.

The Post reports:

Al-Qaeda supporters, now alerted to the intrusion into their secret network, put up new obstacles that prevented SITE from gaining the kind of access it had obtained in the past, according to Katz.

While official statements from the government said that the leak did nothing to hurt U.S. intelligence activities, other officials contacted by the paper said the incident was "regrettable" and one said SITE "had been 'tremendously helpful' in ferreting out al-Qaeda secrets over time."


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