Tuesday, October 09, 2007

We all looked on with wonder

Osama Bin Laden - Just For Men
Originally uploaded by gusset.
When we saw Osama Bin Laden with his newly dyed beard this past September, I was struck by how viral the video went. Turns out I didn't know the half of it. Seems that the video was provided by a private company to the White House -- so they could prepare a response for immediate release once the tape was released by al-Qaeda.

From Joby Warrick at the Washington Post:
A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.
I just love this quote from the story:
While acknowledging that SITE had achieved success, the officials said U.S. agencies have their own sophisticated means of watching al-Qaeda on the Web.
Right. That's why SITE got the video first.

Nice to know all the good guys are playing from the same page.

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