CIA 'was warned about bomber of Afghan base'
Published 20/10/2010 | 10:08
A CIA officer was warned that the Jordanian double-agent who blew himself up at a US base in Afghanistan, killing seven Americans, might have been working for al-Qaeda, yet did not tell his bosses.
An internal inquiry into the attack at the Khost base on December 30, which caused the CIA's worst loss of life in 27 years, found a string of communications breakdowns, Leon Panetta, the director of the agency, said yesterday.
Most notably it discovered that a US agent in Amman, the Jordanian capital, was given a warning by a Jordanian intelligence officer about the bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi.
However, he dismissed the tip-off because he suspected the Jordanian officer was acting out of jealousy of a colleague's close relationship with Balawi, the inquiry found.
Balawai, 36, was introduced to the US by Jordanian intelligence after pretending to be an al-Qaeda defector willing to co-operate. He supplied the Americans with information from Pakistan and eventually a meeting at the base was arranged.
After being taken inside the base, however, he detonated a suicide vest while standing among a group of CIA officers.
The CIA inquiry found there had been serious security lapses at the base, Mr Panetta said. Balawi was not screened at the perimeter, and the large group of officers gathered to greet him because he was considered a reliable source.
The Jordanian officer even warned the American that Balawi "may be trying to lure us into an ambush," Mr Panetta said.
The report also found that Balawai had not been sufficiently vetted from the start and that agency staff at the base lacked experience of working in war zones.
Officers drew their guns when Balawi's exit from his vehicle aroused suspicions, the inquiry found, but the Jordanian immediately detonated his vest.
Seven CIA employees were killed and another six were wounded. A Jordanian agent working as Balawi's handler, and their Afghan driver, were also killed.
Mr Panetta said that he would not fire or discipline any officials involved, including the agent in Jordan who did not pass on the warning about Balawi.
He said the report pointed to "systemic failures" rather than errors by individuals, and that sweeping structural changes would be made in response.