I Wonder What Fahd Al-Quso Thought of the AP’s UndieBomb 2.0 Story?

It turns out Fahd al-Quso, whom the government alleged was Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s external operations director when he was killed in a drone strike May 6 of last year, never lived to see the AP’s UndieBomb 2.0 story, which presumably described a plot he masterminded. That’s because he died during the time period AP was delaying publication at the government’s request.

As part of its effort to show how ridiculous it is for the Administration to seize 20 phone lines of call records to investigate a story on which the AP ceded to White House requests, the AP released this timeline of Administration statements surrounding their UndieBomb 2.0 plot.

Most of the dates were previously known (and have appeared in my posts on the subject). But I believe this one–the date AP first went to the White House with the UndieBomb story–is new.

May 2, 2012: Federal government officials ask the AP to delay publishing a story about a foiled plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner, which the AP had recently discovered. They cite national security concerns. The AP agrees to temporarily delay publishing until national security concerns are allayed.

Which makes the timeline from that period look like this:

April 18: Greg Miller first reports on debate over signature strikes

Around April 20: UndieBomb 2.0 device recovered

Around April 22: John Brennan takes over drone targeting from JSOC

April 22: Drone strike that–WSJ reports, “Intelligence analysts [worked] to identify those killed” after the fact, suggesting possible signature strike

April 24: Robert Mueller in Yemen for 45 minute meeting, presumably to pick up UndieBomb

April 25: WSJ reports that Obama approved use of signature strikes

April 30: John Brennan gives speech, purportedly bringing new transparency to drone program, without addressing signature strikes

May 2: Government asks AP to delay reporting the UndieBomb 2.0 story, citing national security

May 6: Fahd al-Quso killed

May 7: Government tells AP the national security concerns have been allayed; AP reports on UndieBomb 2.0

May 8: ABC reports UndieBomb 2.0 was Saudi-run infiltrator

May 15: Drone strike in Jaar kills a number of civilians

While it was fairly clear in any case (and reporting had linked the UndieBomb 2.0 plot with Quso’s death), this timeline makes it crystal clear.

The delay was about killing Fahd al-Quso.

And yet, even after the AP waited 5 days to break the story, allowing the government to drone kill a human being in the interim, the Administration still launched a witch hunt against the AP for a story that became damaging only after John Brennan ran his blabby mouth.

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.

7 replies
  1. john francis lee says:

    So … Brennan and the CIA had to hit their mole, Fahd al-Quso, to be sure he never revealed the actual extent of CIA involvement with the creation of the ‘undie bomb’?

  2. Frank33 says:

    Here is the explanation from Eric Holder why AP is targeted. This leak was the leakiest leak ever. It was a VERY VERY SERIOUSLY serious leak. Not the normal leaks from the secret government. Americans are at risk. Our brave Secret Police keeps us safe by plugging leaks.

    Referring to the leaks of national security information, Holder said, “This was a very, very serious leak. I’ve been a prosecutor since 1976 – and I have to say that this is among, if not the most serious, in the top two or three most serious leaks that I’ve ever seen. It put the American people at risk – and that is not hyperbole.”

    Trying to find out who leaked the information “required very aggressive action,” Holder said.

    Oops, Liar Liar Pants on Fire. Holder says he was a prosecutor since 1976. He did take some time to work in the Private Sector and was not prosecuting then. Holder helped to create A National Mortgage Crime Syndicate. And I think this is ultra hyperbole about putting the American people at risk. It is the criminal neo-cons and torturers that put the American people at risk. And Holder’s secret police puts us at risk.

    And the Department of Persecuters worked very hard and had 550 interviews and thousands of pages of stuff. Then they went Full Metal Nixon on Associated Press. Holder remains defiant and determined to find this leak and then terminate it with extreme prejudice.

    He said that the Justice Department sought the AP phone records only after a comprehensive investigation which included conducting over 550 interviews and reviewing of tens of thousands of documents.

  3. john francis lee says:

    The US Government is at war against us – the American people. The sooner we realize who our real enemey is the sooner we can defeat it. Once we’ve swallowed hard and accepted the facts, we can actually make short and non-violent work of them. The key is to admitting just who is public enemy number one, and then putting one foot in front of the other to remove from power all 546 people who are the problem – 300,000,000 to 546 – think we handle it?

  4. Frank33 says:

    @emptywheel:
    Why Brennan, to lead the Secret Government? I would say it is because Brennan is a ruthless, brutal muirderer, who can be trusted by the neo-cons, to destroy Democracy.

    Brennan wrote a thesis about Egypt. There are no absolute human rights. You sometimes have to destroy Democracy in order to save it. Actually, there is one absolute “Right”, freedom from torture. Irony bites.

    “[In Egypt] exercising of democratic rights would have an adverse affect on stability and even on democracy itself. This implies that too much freedom is possible and in the end, even detrimental to the cause of democracy.”
    p103

    The fact that absolute human rights do not exist, (with the probable exception of freedom from torture) makes the analysis suseptible to innumerable conditional criticisms. The exact definition of human rights and possible justification for violations is determined by a particular perspective.
    p. 110

  5. Chris Woods says:

    The timeline is really helpful. However, not sure your last item (May 15: Drone strike in Jaar kills a number of civilians) belongs there.

    Our view is that the Jaar strike was possibly part of the ‘regular’ airstrike cover the US was providing to Yemen ground forces in their attempt to recapture the south (and not part of the targeted killing program). However, there’s still no confirmation that that strike was the work of the US (could have been Yemen’s airforce) – or even if so, of a drone rather than an F15 out of Djibouti.

  6. Snoopdido says:

    It used to be standard practice that journalists would only go with a story if they had more than one source.

    If that was the case with the AP on this story, wouldn’t that mean there was more than one source who leaked the story?

    Maybe it was simply one original source who provided the details and another one or more who confirmed the details.

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