Friday, August 11, 2006
This morning's wire service coverage of the British preemptive arrests contained this weird and only somewhat gratifying bit of news:
The Guardian newspaper, citing unidentified British government sources, said that after the arrests a message was sent to Britain telling the plotters: "Do your attacks now." That message was intercepted and decoded earlier this week, The Guardian said.
A U.S. congressman briefed by intelligence officials, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigation, said U.S. intelligence had intercepted terrorist chatter.
The implication of these two paragraphs is that American sigint detected the "do your attacks now" message, but they do not actually say that. The story only says that the "go" order "was intercepted," so we do not know who intercepted it, and that U.S. intelligence "had intercepted terrorist chatter." It does not say that the go order was among the chatter intercepted by the United States. The question is, did A.P. reporter Robert Barr write this passage sloppily, or precisely? If the latter, this is just a meaningless bit of braggadocio claiming more credit for American counterterrorism efforts than is warranted. If Barr was that precise in his writing, though, why is he playing along with the leaker? Why wouldn't he make clear that the "go signal" was, or was not, part of the package that we supplied to the British?
Why wouldn't he make clear that the "go signal" was, or was not, part of the package that we supplied to the British?
Maybe because he is one of a seemingly very few journalists who realizes that occasionally information is sensitive and needs protecting?
I thought about that sirius_sir, but it seems to me that writing those two paragraphs in juxtaposition pretty much did that. Even I, who would have preferred that this not be reported, cannot see that the difference between Barr's imprecise language (which may not have been intentional) and a more precise version conceals anything of value from the jihadis.