Senior US official accuses Bureau of ‘helping Al Qaeda’

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Stars & Stripes (Wendy Flikr)

A senior US counter-terrorism official has accused the Bureau of supplying ‘misinformation’, and of seeking to ‘malign [US] efforts and help al Qaeda succeed.’

The Bureau’s managing editor Iain Overton announced tonight that he will be calling for the CIA’s Inspector-General to investigate whether Agency officials have been abusing their anonymous status to smear the organisation’s legitimate work.

The attack on the Bureau relates to its extensive investigation into CIA drone attacks on rescuers and funeral-goers in Pakistan. Working with the Sunday Times, the Bureau published the names of 53 of at least 75 civilians reported killed in such strikes between May 2009 and July 2011.

The investigation examined 18 original reports of attacks on rescuers and mourners, carried by credible media including Associated Press, Reuters and the New York Times. At least a dozen such attacks were confirmed by the Bureau’s field researchers. The evidence is supported by eyewitness testimony.

The anonymous US counter-terror official’s attack on the Bureau  is carried by the New York Times. The official told reporter Scott Shane:

One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions — there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed.

Previous attack
It is not the first time that US counter-terrorism officials have attacked the Bureau. In August 2011, when the Bureau published in full its database of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, anonymous US officials attempted to link the Bureau’s ‘suspect’ work to unsubstantiated allegations that one of its many sources, lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar, was a Pakistani spy.

At the same time CIA briefing documents were leaked to the Bureau showing that it was forcefully attacking Mr Akbar, claiming that ‘his agenda is crystal clear’ and that ‘his publicity is designed to put targets on the backs of Americans serving in Pakistan and Afghanistan.’

US counter-terrorism officials declined to return calls asking for confirmation that the Bureau is now being accused of ‘helping al Qaeda’.

Investigation
Reporter Chris Woods, who leads the Bureau’s drone investigations team, said: ‘Our report is thorough and transparently sourced. Yet instead of announcing an inquiry into our findings, anonymous US officials claim that we are aiding a terrorist network. Anonymity is supposed to protect US counter-terror officials engaged in vital work, not give them a safe platform from which to smear.’

Iain Overton announced that the news organisation will be calling on the CIA’s Inspector General to investigate the Agency’s deliberate targeting of rescuers and mourners.

‘We will also be calling for the Inspector General to look into the activity of US officials who have once again attacked the work of the Bureau, and to examine whether they have abused their anonymous status,’ Overton said.

The Agency’s Inspector General is tasked with promoting ‘economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability in the management of CIA activities’, and issues his or her reports both to the Director of CIA and to Congressional intelligence committees.