AP Response to DOJ Reveals They COULDN’T Have Had Most Damaging Info Brennan Exposed

The AP has a scathing reply to Deputy Attorney General’s claim that the subpoena he signed fulfilled DOJ guidelines on scope and notice. Among other details, it reveals the AP only learned via Cole’s letter that DOJ seized just portions of the call records of April and May 2012.

In addition, the AP makes the same point I keep making: the White House had told AP the risk to national security had passed and that it planned to release this information itself the next day.

Finally, they say this secrecy is important for national security. It is always difficult to respond to that, particularly since they still haven’t told us specifically what they are investigating.

We believe it is related to AP’s May 2012 reporting that the U.S. government had foiled a plot to put a bomb on an airliner to the United States. We held that story until the government assured us that the national security concerns had passed. Indeed, the White House was preparing to publicly announce that the bomb plot had been foiled.

The White House had said there was no credible threat to the American people in May of 2012. The AP story suggested otherwise, and we felt that was important information and the public deserved to know it.

Note what else is implied by the comment: the AP believed that the threat had posed a real threat, in contradiction to what the White House had been claiming at the time.

If they believed the plot was a real threat, though, then it means they didn’t know it was just a Saudi manufactured sting. The AP didn’t, apparently, know, the detail that Brennan’s blabbing led to the reporting of, that the plot was really just a sting led by a British Saudi infiltrator.

The White House had several choices last year.

They could have quietly informed the AP that the threat had actually been thwarted a week or so before May 1, which is one basis for their claim they had no credible threats of terrorist attacks; that would have allowed CIA to claim credit for thwarting the attack without making John Brennan look like a liar.

They could have just shut up, and dealt with fairly narrow push-back amid the hails of glory for intercepting a plot. (Note, even I only realized how central the May 1 detail was to Brennan’s pique now that I’ve read his confirmation testimony in conjunction with the original article.)

Or, in a panic, Brennan could do what he did, which led to the far more damaging details of this Saudi manufactured plot to be exposed.

It’s pretty clear Brennan chose the worst possible option, and the ensuing outrage is the real reason why AP is being targeted.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

8 replies
  1. ess emm says:

    Why is John Brennan the fattest sacred cow evah? He always get what he wants!

    Must be all the moral rectitude.

  2. Snoopdido says:

    I’m still trying to figure out what exactly the US government believed was the “very, very serious leak” that the original AP story supposedly reported.

    Is it the simple fact that they stated that the “CIA has thwarted a plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a US-bound airliner using a bomb with a new design”?

    Or is it the fact that they stated that the “FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane”?

    After re-reading the AP article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/07/cia-al-qaida-bomb-plot), there doesn’t seem to be much else that would constitute the leak, and neither of these statements seem to rise to the level of a “very, very serious leak”.

    As you’ve stated Emptywheel, it appears that Brennan’s statements of “positive control, inside control” were far more serious than what the AP reported.

    In Brennan’s Senate testimony for CIA Director, he unbelievably says this:


    You said in your response to some pre-hearing questions that in exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to acknowledge classified information to a member of the media. Did you tell media commentators that the United States had, and I quote, “inside control” or “inside information” on the AQAP bomb plot in May of last year?


    I think what you’re referring to, Senator, is when I had a teleconference with some individuals, former government officials from previous administrations who were going to be out on talk shows on the night that a IED was intercepted.

    And so I discussed with them some of the aspects of that, because I was going on the news network shows the following day, I wanted to make sure they understood the nature of the threat and what it was and what it wasn’t.

    And so what I said, at the time, because I said I couldn’t talk about
    any operational details, and this was shortly after the anniversary of the Bin Laden takedown, I said there was never a threat to the American public as we had said so publicly, because we had inside control of the plot and the device was never a threat to the American public.


    Did you think that that comment actually exposed sources or methods?


    No, Senator, I did not. And there is an ongoing investigation, I must say, right now about the unfortunate leak of information that was very, very damaging. And I voluntarily cooperated with the Department of Justice on that and have been interviewed on it.”

    One has to be willingly blind to suggest that Brennan’s statement of “inside control” itself was not a “very, very serious leak”.

  3. ess emm says:

    Chambliss wasnt blind, that’s why he voted against Brennan’s confirmation.

    I remember Chambliss saying I’m looking at the leak right here.

  4. Ben Franklin says:


    Ostensibly, it was because a successful operation was compromised too soon. So the spin is; we don’t just apply the leak derogation to inconvenient info. That augers well for integrity.

  5. orionATL says:

    @ess emm:

    i suppose this entire matter could be looked upon as an elaborate doj/whitehouse charade to protect john brennan from being the sole focus of a leak investigation and subsequently being fingered. were that the case, it would qualify for at least fourth-dimensional chess :))

  6. ess emm says:

    @orionATL: Lol. And 5 dimensions isnt out of the question.

    But, good gawd, what lengths they go to protect Brennan! He must know where something is buried.

    Or he has lots of people like former NSC Deputy, now Chief of Staff McDonough running interference for him.

    And to correct my earlier comment, it wasnt Chambliss, it was Risch who said, “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.”

  7. KellyCDenver says:

    So, on the records piece itself, as relates to AP, since it was a DOJ subpoena, HOW and WHICH database does one query the suspect records in the DOJ subpoena against? NSA?

    Because wouldn’t that indicate that it was just a “chilling” exercise, if the results of the subpoena can’t be tied to the actual leak/damage that you indicate in the post? In other words, there just wasn’t damage from the AP, so this subpoena exercise is…what?

  8. P J Evans says:

    @ess emm:
    Brennan is in a position like Hoover: he know, or claims to know, all their secrets, the ones they’re afraid people will learn about (not so much the voters, as their good buddies in business).

Comments are closed.