Glenn Kessler of the WaPo looks at the recent (and very suspect) denouement in the Yema leak case and leaps to the absurd and self-refuting conclusion that a lot of Republican critics owe Barck Obama and his 2012 reelection team a big apology.
His gist: retired FBI bomb expert Donald Satchleben leaked to the AP that the FBI was studying a new, enhanced Al Qaeda uinderwear bomb picked up as part of a reent plot. At the Administration's request the AP sat on this for a few days, then broke their story - White House reassurances notwithstanding, Al Qaeda had been hatching a plot to mark the anniversary of Bin Laden's death. Liar, liar, pants on fire? Not so fast! The Administration promptly pushed back - let's cut to Kessler's explanation, in which he quotes fellow WaPo reporter Walter Pincus:
In an effort to counter the misimpression caused by the story, John Brennan, then-White House counterterrorism chief, along with others, held backgrounders with analysts and reporters and disclosed immediately after the AP story appeared that there was no threat to the United States — in effect, no real “al-Qaeda plot” because the whole affair was run by the CIA and was thus under U.S. control.
The CIA use of a Saudi agent to get a bomb device by convincing the terrorists he would blow up an America-bound aircraft was a riveting story. But there were other goals for the operation, including finding the location in Yemen of the bomb builder.
And in the course of explaining that 'no plots against the US' meant 'no plots we didn't know about', Brennan spilled enough beans that reporters picked up on the Saudi and British involvement. Ooops.
And from all this Kessler infers that Republican critics alleged that the first leak, which suggested that the White House was lying, came from the White House. Really? And now we know that the original leak didn't come from there, so they should all apologize.
Let's not hold our breath. Kessler explains the role of John Brennan in the overly expansive briefing and quotes from his later confirmation hearing:
This became an issue in Brennan’s confirmation hearing to be CIA director, and so he provided written answers for the record about the briefing (starting on page 18.) Asked if he would have changed his briefing, Brennan said no and added: “Once someone leaked information about interdiction of the IED and that the IED was actually in our possession, it was imperative to inform the American people consistent with Government policy that there was never any danger to the American people associated with this al-Qaeda plot.”
Imperative? Said who? Actually, that was asked and answered in the hearing, but Kessler left this bit out:
Q: In retrospect, if you could go back and change what you said in that interview would you, and If so, how? Why was it insufficient to simply say that the U.S. government successfully interdicted or disrupted an al Qaeda plot?
A: No. Once someone leaked information about interdiction of the IED and that the IED was actually in our possession, it was imperative to inform the American people consistent with Government policy that there was never any danger to the American people associated with this al Qa’ida plot.
Q: Who instructed you to conduct the call and how were the participants selected?
A: The White House press office asked me to conduct the call to ensure the American people appropriately understood the current threat environment. The White House press office selected the participants.
They pushed back too hard in the course of sparing themselves a bit of awkwardness during the campaign. Like the critics said.