If you are al Qaeda, and you are interested in interdicting or attacking CIA air services that transport captured high value targets, how would you go about finding out how the CIA is moving these prisoners around? Would you:
- a) Attempt to penetrate the CIA and dig into the inner workings of these operations.
- b) Invest heavily in paying off workers at local airports and in charter airlines across the Middle East and Asia to provide intelligence on suspicious flight activities.
- c) Read the New York Times.
If you answered "c", you are correct. Today's New York Times provides intimate detail on the charter flights used by the CIA to ferry prisoners across the globe. The names of the charter companies are disclosed. The types of aircraft flown are revealed. The points of departure and destinations of these flights are stated. There is even a picture of one of the charter craft, with the identification number of the aircraft in full display.
All of this is extremely valuable to al Qaeda members who may have an interest in rescuing, or if deemed appropriate, conducting a suicide attack against suspected extraction flights. A successful attack resulting from this story can endanger the lives of CIA, security and civilian personnel involved in these missions, as well as deprive the intelligence and military communities of valuable information that can be gained from interrogations.
At the very least, the CIA must now change the companies being used as charters, all at a great effort and cost to US taxpayers. But since al Qaeda now knows where to look and what to look for, they may not even discriminate against different charter companies if they are reasonably sure a high value target has been captured and will be deported.
What exactly is the purpose of the New York Times in reporting on sensitive issues such as these? Do they even care about the consequences of making such information pubic? It appears the editors of the New York Times feel that breaking a titillating story about sensitive CIA operations is much more important than national security and the lives of those fighting in the war. All to our detriment.