Two congressional leaders vowed Tuesday to investigate how word of a successful operation to foil a bomb plot by a Yemen-based al-Qaida affiliate leaked to reporters for the Associated Press.
“This leak could have been … devastating and still could have significant long term damage,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said after a closed door briefing on the operation. “I believe it's absolutely essential a full investigation is carried out as to who was responsible for this leak.
“I can't emphasize how closed this was, how compartmentalized it was, and how secret it was, and yet the fact that it could have gotten out in any kind of detail at all, … that even a hint of it could have gotten out, is really, really shocking.”
King’s words were echoed by Rep Charles “Dutch” Ruppersberger III of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
“When you have a leak it could cost American lives, your allies’ lives,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “It also deters people from giving information. So, it's very important that we make sure that we have a sensitive investigation, it has to be a classified, need-to-know type of situation.”
The Associated Press broke the story Monday of the foiled plot by members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to detonate on a U.S.-bound airliner a refined version of an “underwear bomb” used in two previous failed terror plots.
The news service said it had learned about the plot last week but agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish a story immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way. Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP said it decided to disclose the plot Monday despite requests from the Obama administration to wait for an official announcement Tuesday.
If word of the operation had leaked out prior to the weekend, it could have disrupted an attack in Yemen by a U.S. Predator drone that U.S. officials say killed Fahd al-Quso, whom they described as director of external operations at AQAP, who was “involved (in the bomb plot) in an intimate fashion.”
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