|Date: 11/05/2012 Time: 09:58:00 AM
A leading British newspaper sheds more light Friday
on the British involvement in the foiled plot to carry a bomb aboard a
The agent was recruited by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which
operates in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the Guardian newspaper confirmed.
The revelation is politically and legally awkward for the UK external and
domestic intelligence services, MI6 and MI5 respectively, whose agents, unlike
American ones, are banned from missions that lead to assassinations, such as
the US drone attack at the weekend that killed the top al-Qaida operative in
the Yemen, Fahd al-Quso.
The attack is being attributed to information from the agent. The un-named
British citizen played a central role in foiling the latest "underwear" bomb
plot, as well as in the assassination of a top al-Qaida operative at the
weekend, according to various sources in Washington yesterday.
The agent involved was a British citizen of Saudi origin who had been
recruited about a year ago by Saudi intelligence, the Guardian went on.
Other US media outlets gave the Saudi intelligence service most of the
credit for the successful running of the operation. Such is the sensitivity
that America's National Public Radio reported that the British government
asked the Obama administration not to reveal the role of British intelligence
in the mission.
James Clapper, the US director of National Intelligence, has opened an
"internal review" of US intelligence agencies to determine whether there had
been leaks of classified information related to the underwear bomb operation.
The FBI is conducting a separate criminal investigation, a law enforcement
official said. The US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, a former CIA director,
was quoted by the Guardian as saying "When these leaks take place, they damage
our ability to be able to pursue our intelligence efforts."
The agent has not yet been identified but, according to US officials, he
was recruited by al-Qaida in the Yemen and given a bomb similar to - but more
sophisticated than - the one used by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was jailed
this year for a failed attempt to bring down a plane over Detroit in 2009.
That plot also originated in Yemen. The agent involved in the latest attempt
took the bomb and then handed it over.
It is now being examined by the FBI at its laboratories in Quantico,
The US reports suggested that the agent was one of several sent into Yemen
over the past two years with western passports and other documents designed to
attract the attention of al-Qaida.
It is unusual for the US to brief in this way about the internal workings
of other intelligence services, the British paper noted.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the British embassy in Washington said: "We do
not comment on intelligence matters."
In the past, British intelligence might have been happy to have taken
credit for what is being hailed in the US as a major intelligence coup. But
not this time.
British officials in London referred all questions from the media to the
Their reluctance to comment may be because of the rule that Britain's
security and intelligence agencies are not allowed to task their agents for
operations deliberately designed to lead to the death of an individual.
MI6 was banned in the 1960s from any involvement in assassination plots,
the Guardian pointed out.
The disclosure in the US of the plot comes at a bad time for MI6. Its
officers are being investigated by the police over the rendition of Libyan
dissidents to Muammar Gaddafi's secret police who, the dissidents say,