WikiLeaks and the Next 9/11
By Marc Thiessen
In the Washington Post today, I discuss the effects of WikiLeaks’ unlawful intelligence disclosures on General Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy. But the disclosures of the identities of more than 100 U.S. intelligence sources will also have impact beyond Afghanistan, undermining our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and prevent another attack on the American homeland.
As former CIA director Mike Hayden explained in my book, Courting Disaster, we have just three tools of human intelligence available to uncover and disrupt terrorist plots: Interrogation, informants, and eavesdropping.
The Obama administration has eliminated the first tool. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that there has not been one reported detention of a high-value terrorist since President Obama took office. Not one. Putting aside the question of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, the administration has simply stopped capturing and interrogating high-value terrorists using any techniques at all. Period. This is unilateral disarmament.
At least we still had the other two tools… that is, until WikiLeaks came along. Now, with the disclosure of over 100 U.S. intelligence sources in Afghanistan, our ability to recruit sources anywhere in the world has been compromised. Why would anyone step forward to cooperate with American intelligence, when WikiLeaks has publicly demonstrated that we are powerless to keep their identities secret? The damage the WikiLeaks disclosures have done to this vital human intelligence tool is immeasurable.
That leaves us with just one tool: signals intelligence. SIGINT is critical, but it cannot alone provide us with the intelligence necessary to protect the country. For one thing, the terrorists know we are monitoring their communications—so they speak in codes that we cannot decipher without either high-value detainees or human sources within al Qaeda to translate for us. And even then, the terrorists often use primitive means of communication, such as couriers, to avoid surveillance altogether. In short, signals intelligence alone cannot keep the terrorists from carrying out the next 9/11.
In other words, of the three legs of the stool that our intelligence community employs to prevent new attacks, we have now lost two. The first was knocked out voluntarily by the Obama administration. The second has just been knocked out WikiLeaks. And the danger to the American homeland has grown exponentially.