There’s one more tangential detail to the UndieBomb plot that deserves mention.
The involvement of a Saudi-handled infiltrator in the plot was revealed by May 8. The Brits knew then that it was not just the Saudis and CIA whose operation had been exposed, but MI6 and MI5, who had been involved in recruiting the guy.
The spy who helped Western intelligence agencies thwart a plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner was a British national of Middle Eastern origin, sources tell NBC News.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, also say that British intelligence was “heavily involved” in recruiting the spy, who has not yet been identified publicly, and penetrating the plot by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to detonate a new, more sophisticated underwear bomb aboard a U.S. jetliner.
Mind you, we didn’t learn that until May 11. But the British government? They already knew it.
Which means they knew it before the Queen gave new emphasis to the plan to expand the use of secret courts in counterterrorism matters.
My government will introduce legislation to strengthen oversight of the security and intelligence agencies. This will also allow courts, through the limited use of closed proceedings, to hear a greater range of evidence in national security cases.
Remember, British Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is ostensibly doing this primarily because the fact that the British told us Binyam Mohamed’s treatment might amount to torture was revealed in his suit against the British government.
Plans to expand secret hearings into civil courts have been accelerated by the government. Rather than moving to the preparatory white paper stage, a justice and security bill will be put through parliament this session.
The government has come under severe pressure from MI5 and MI6 to impose a system of secret hearings in courts ever since disclosures that the security and intelligence agencies had been involved in the brutal treatment, and knew of the torture, of UK residents and citizens detained by the CIA.
Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, has said the powers are needed to reassure other countries, particularly the United States, that they can continue to share intelligence without fear of it being exposed in British courts. Evidence emerged during a high court hearing brought by lawyers for Binyam Mohamed, the UK resident held in Guantánamo Bay.
That is, the British are ostensibly doing this because we’re pissed at them because they didn’t keep one of our secrets about torture.
After the British role in this plot was revealed, a bunch of British spooks have complained about how cross they are that we–or someone–revealed their secrets.
Nigel Inkster, a former assistant chief of MI6, said in a Twitter message: “The revelations about the British agent in AQ [al Qaeda] remind us that Beltway leaking is a major security threat,” referring to the area of Washington DC.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, said that leaks about operations could be “extremely harmful.”
“It can prevent the effective involvement of intelligence officers or agencies in operations that are designed to save lives either in this country or other countries,” he added.
“Whether a leak arises in the US, the UK or elsewhere it is equally serious.”
Hmmm. Based on the assumption that we just exposed one of their agents, maybe the Brits should rethink whether perverting their justice system will do anything to help keep American–or British–secrets.
And barring that, maybe Cameron’s Administration ought to admit they’re not doing this at our behest–we can’t keep our own damn secrets. They’re just doing it because they can.