Incompetence at Best

Mideast expert Juan Cole reports that

… [Muhammad Naeem Noor] Khan had been secretly apprehended by Pakistani military intelligence in mid-July, and had been turned into a double agent. He was actively helping investigators penetrate further into al-Qaeda cells and activities via computer, and was still cooperating when the “senior Bush administration” figure told Jehl about him.

Pakistani military intelligence (Inter-Services Intelligence) told Reuters,

“He sent encoded e-mails and received encoded replies. He’s a great hacker and even the U.S. agents said he was a computer whiz . . . He was cooperating with interrogators on Sunday and Monday and sent e-mails on both days …”

In other words, the Bush administration just blew the cover of one of the most important assets inside al-Qaeda that the US has ever had.

Kahn is the al Qaeda member/double agent that the administration cited earlier this week in an effort to partially refute charges that the information that lead to last weekend’s alert was based on three to four year old information. For example, an 8/4 story in the Palm Beach Post gives this accounting of Kahn:

Combined with the stream of information that the Justice Department has received from human sources, from detainees and recent captures of Al-Qaeda operatives such as Mohammad Naeem Noor Kahn, “everyone’s alarm bells should be ringing,” the Justice official said.

Both intelligence and Justice department officials said that the most important information for raising the terror alert came from Khan. Khan, also known as Abu Talha, is a Pakistani computer engineer who was captured with a treasure trove of photos and written documents that led to the stepped up terror alert. Information from other sources as well as other arrests also played a role, but none as important as Khan, sources said.

So Kahn was apparently both (1) deeply integrated into at least part of al Qaeda, and (2) a double agent cooperating with the US. Now he is neither.