AP Leak Case: A Sad Story of Government, Politics, and the Media


Whoever leaked to the Associated Press last year not only broke the law but caused the abrupt end to a secret, joint U.S./Saudi/British operation in Yemen that offered valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda, says Washington Post columnist Walter Pincus. One goal was to get AQAP's operational head, Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso. That happened one day before the AP story appeared. A second goal was to find AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, whose first underwear device almost killed Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism chief. Acting responsibly, the AP withheld its story for several days at the government's request. Lives were at stake, officials said. What happened afterward illustrates a sad state of affairs – within government (which can't control critical secrets), the White House, politics (where every event during a presidential race becomes political fodder) and the press (which screams First Amendment at any attempt to investigate it). How many times can the media claim the federal seizure of its phone records as “chilling sources,” Pincus asks. The risk of breaking the law apparently didn't chill those who leaked the information to the AP. That's what should be considered chilling, Pincus says.

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