CIA Thought Double Agent Was Key to al-Qaeda

Balawi was agency's best hope in years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2010 6:31 AM CST
Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri in this photo from 2001.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The CIA was more optimistic than they had been in years about finding al-Qaeda's leaders—until their Jordanian double agent turned out to be a triple agent, officials say. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi—who killed seven CIA operatives and one Jordanian when he blew up himself up last week—established his bona fides and raised hopes by providing valuable information on low-ranking al-Qaeda members over several months, insiders tell the New York Times.

High-ranking agents who believed Balawi was about to provide a breakthrough flew in for the meeting. The attack, the worst against the CIA in decades, has raised serious concerns about the quality of intelligence-gathering in Afghanistan. Analysts "are starved for information from the field, so starved, in fact, that many say their jobs feel more like fortune-telling than serious detective work,” a report from the top US intelligence officer in Afghanistan concluded this week.

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