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Brennan Leak to TV Commentators of “Inside Control” of Terrorism Plot May Have Led to Exposure of Spies, Shutdown of Vital U.S. Intelligence Operation 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released the full transcript of a May 7, 2012, teleconference between then-White House top counterterror adviser John Brennan and various TV terrorism consultants, in which Brennan reveals that the U.S. and its allies had “inside control over any plot” in its efforts to thwart a May 2012 terrorism bomb plot.  Brennan is now CIA director. The transcript was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit: Judicial Watch v. CIA (No. 13-946).

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The Brennan revelation of “inside control” – an intelligence community euphemism for spies within an enemy operation – reportedly helped lead to the disclosure of a previously well-kept secret at the heart of a joint U.S.-British-Saudi undercover terrorism operation inside Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). According to a Reuters May, 18, 2012, report:

The next day’s headlines were filled with news of a U.S. spy planted inside Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who had acquired the latest, non-metallic model of the underwear bomb and handed it over to U.S. authorities.

At stake was an operation that could not have been more sensitive — the successful penetration by Western spies of AQAP, al Qaeda’s most creative and lethal affiliate. As a result of leaks, the undercover operation had to be shut down.

In May 2013, the Justice Department launched a wide-ranging investigation of leaks surrounding the thwarted “underwear bomb” terrorist attack. Defending the department’s seizure of phone records from The Associated Press, Attorney General Eric Holder described the leaks as “within the two or three most serious leaks I have ever seen.”

In the transcript obtained by Judicial Watch, Brennan led the phone call where he addressed the top terror consultants for ABC, NBC, CNN, and CBS including Caitlin Hayden, Frances Townsend, Richard Clarke, Roger Cressey, and Juan Zarate. In an apparent attempt to soft-peddle the thwarted terrorist attack, Brennan twice exposes the covert operation; first at the outset of the call, then as the conference draws to a close:

  • BRENNAN: The device itself, as I think the FBI statement said quite clearly, never posed a threat to the American public or the public … Well, as we, well know, al Qaeda has tried to carry out simultaneous types of attacks, and so we were confident that we had inside control over the – any plot that might have been associated with this device. (Emphasis added)
  • CLARKE: If it gets asked. There was no active threat because we had insider control …
  • BRENNAN: I would not disagree with the way you put that, at all.

Brennan later defended his comments in his February 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing, while admitting to Sen. James Risch (R-ID) that he had, indeed, leaked the information about “inside control;” a leak Risch characterized as “the leak the Justice Department is looking for”:

  • BRENNAN: What I’m saying is that we were explaining to the American public why that IED was not, in fact, a threat at the time that it was in the control of individuals. When we say “positive control,” “inside control,” that means that we have, in fact, that operation, either environmentally or any number of ways …
  • SENATOR RISCH: Having used the words that you used of “inside control,” it isn’t much of a leap to determine that somehow you had a handle on it.
  • BRENNAN: It’s not much of a leap to know that if in fact we said this IED was, in fact, obtained, and it was not a threat at the time, that there was some type of inside control. It is almost a truism.
  • SENATOR RISCH: Well, having said that, it seems to me that the leak that the Justice Department is looking for is right here in front of us.

“It is abundantly clear that the Obama White House, in a self-serving attempt to garner favor with the American people over its handling of the ‘underwear bomb,’ blew the cover on a vital covert operation and exposed our agents to serious danger,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Edward Snowden, the AP, Fox News and other targets of leak investigations may not be able to understand why Brennan has been able to skate by for this damaging leak.”

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