Cole: Did Bush Team’s Outing Lead to London Bombings?

No, not that politically motivated outing of a national security asset, a different politically motivated outing of a national security asset. With the Bush White House, it’s hard to keep track, I realize, but Juan Cole has the details: The outing of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan: State of play.

I actually did not begin by being critical of the Ridge announcement. I remember being interviewed by a print reporter on August 3 or so, and declining to dismiss the press conference as pure politics. I didn’t say anything negative about it at my weblog at the time. What impelled me to begin following the story and to speak out about it was the Reuter report of August 6, which made the case that the Bush administration had leaked Khan’s name as part of its public relations use of terrorism. That allegation seems to have been incorrect in its specifics.

The Reuters story still does seem to me to hold water, however, at a more general level. After understanding that Ridge set in train the events that led to Khan’s outing, I think it was a huge mistake. It would have been better to keep quiet and use Khan to get more and more of al-Qaeda, maybe even Bin Laden himself. I do not know if the Bush administration made the announcement to take the spotlight off the Kerry campaign right after the Democratic National Convention, but Paul Krugman and others have persuasively argued that the Bush administration does time such announcements for political purposes. The British security officials have the better instincts here.

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