Alerting Bin Laden's Compatriots (ABC): Al Qaeda Goes Dark Thanks to Network

The New York Sun's Eli Lake is reporting this morning that "Al Qaeda's Internet communications system has suddenly gone dark to American intelligence" following "the leak of Osama bin Laden's September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that" American intelligence agencies "had penetrated the enemy's system."

You can thank ABC News for that. According to Lake:

...the disclosure from ABC and later other news organizations tipped off Qaeda's internal security division that the organization's Internet communications system, known among American intelligence analysts as Obelisk, was compromised. This network of Web sites serves not only as the distribution system for the videos produced by Al Qaeda's production company, As-Sahab, but also as the equivalent of a corporate intranet, dealing with such mundane matters as expense reporting and clerical memos to mid- and lower-level Qaeda operatives throughout the world.

Lake went on to quote an anonymous intelligence officer lamenting that "We lost an important keyhole into the enemy."

Townhall's Hugh Hewitt goes further, attacking the leakers for a "An Astonishing and Sickening Breach of Trust," wondering, "What will it take for people to realize that it is a war, not a game or a campaign?"

Of course it's not just the leaker but the leakee that has moral culpability for potential lives lost due to the intelligence failures that may result here. But then again, is it that surprising coming from ABC, a network whose news chief once famously waxed agnostice over whether the Pentagon was a legitimate military target for our enemies. David Westin did eventually apologize, although Westin didn't exactly become a "patriot first, journalist second." After all, ABC policy still frowns on the U.S. flag pin as an unnecessary and suspect sartorial accessory.

As my colleague Scott Whitlock noted on October 5:

On Friday's "Good Morning America," ABC reporter David Wright narrated a sympathetic look at Barack Obama's decision not to wear an American flag lapel pin and asserted that this country's "obsession with flag pins is relatively new." To further defend the Democratic presidential candidate, Wright pointedly noted that liberal bogeyman Richard Nixon wore such a pin. He observed, "Ike didn't wear one. JFK either. Nixon did wear the flag as he told the American people he had nothing to do with Watergate."

Of course, Wright himself was not wearing a pin with the U.S. flag on it. As the MRC has previously noted, ABC President David Westin banned on-air talent from having such pins adorn their lapels. In 2003, he deemed it the "patriotic duty" of reporters not to display the flag. At a journalist conference, he elaborated that "after 9/11, the question came up and we, as a matter of policy at ABC News, tell our people on the air, you shall not wear an American flag or any other symbol on the air."

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