Judicial Watch has obtained a full transcript of a teleconference between then White House top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and members of the media. Brennan is now the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
During the May 7, 2012 conference call, Brennan twice told TV terrorism consultants that US intelligence had “inside control” of a May 2012 terror plot. Brennan’s disclosure made headlines quickly, with Reuters reporting a few days later:
The next day’s headlines were filled with news of a U.S. spy planted inside Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who had acquired the latest, non-metallic model of the underwear bomb and handed it over to U.S. authorities.
At stake was an operation that could not have been more sensitive — the successful penetration by Western spies of AQAP, al Qaeda’s most creative and lethal affiliate. As a result of leaks, the undercover operation had to be shut down.
The leak became the subject of intense scrutiny in Washington, with Attorney General Eric Holder describing it as “within the two or three most serious leaks that I have ever seen.” He pledged to get to the bottom of it, but no leaker was identified.
Judicial Watch sued the government to obtain the transcript of the May 7 call. Brennan convened the call, and included a who’s who of TV terrorism consultants from ABC, NBC, CNN, and CBS that included Caitlin Hayden, Frances Townsend, Richard Clarke, and others. So, without question, Brennan knew he was speaking with media on the call.
According to the transcript, at the beginning of the call, Brennan discussed the “underwear bomb” plot, in which Yemen-based al Qaeda was said to have developed lethal new technology to attack and bring down airliners.
BRENNAN: The device itself, as I think the FBI statement said quite clearly, never posed a threat to the American public or the public … Well, as we, well know, al Qaeda has tried to carry out simultaneous types of attacks, and so we were confident that we had inside control over the – any plot that might have been associated with this device.
CLARKE: If it gets asked. There was no active threat because we had insider control …
BRENNAN: I would not disagree with the way you put that, at all.
Brennan later defended his comments in his February 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing. At the same time, he admitted to Sen. James Risch (R-ID) that he had leaked the “inside control” information. Risch characterized that leak as “the leak the Justice Department is looking for”:
MR. BRENNAN: What I’m saying is that we were explaining to the American public why that IED was not, in fact, a threat at the time that it was in the control of individuals. When we say “positive control,” “inside control,” that means that we have, in fact, that operation, either environmentally or any number of ways …
SENATOR RISCH: Having used the words that you used of “inside control,” it isn’t much of a leap to determine that somehow you had a handle on it.
MR. BRENNAN: It’s not much of a leap to know that if in fact we said this IED was, in fact, obtained, and it was not a threat at the time, that there was some type of inside control. It is almost a truism.
SENATOR RISCH: 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.
The Obama administration has prosecuted more leaks than all previous administrations combined. But despite AG Holder’s characterization of the leak as so serious, Brennan has not been prosecuted, and was promoted to head the CIA.
“It is abundantly clear that the Obama White House, in a self-serving attempt to garner favor with the American people over its handling of the ‘underwear bomb,’ blew the cover on a vital covert operation and exposed our agents to serious danger,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Edward Snowden, the AP, Fox News and other targets of leak investigations may not be able to understand why Brennan has been able to skate by for this damaging leak.”