WASHINGTON — The FBI has launched a probe into leaks about a plot to blow up a US airliner, the agency’s chief Robert Mueller said Wednesday, warning such tip-offs endanger lives and may harm ties with allies.
Mueller told US lawmakers he was hoping for any fallout from the leaks to the US media, which exposed how the CIA foiled an Al-Qaeda plot using a double agent, would have a “minimal impact.”
But he warned: “It puts at risk the lives of the sources, makes it much more difficult to recruit sources.”
Key details of the disrupted bomb plot were reported by US media earlier this month only hours after a drone strike on a key Al-Qaeda figure and as FBI experts examined an explosive meant to bring down a US-bound airliner.
“We have initiated an investigation into this leak,” Mueller told the Senate judiciary committee.
Mueller added that the FBI was working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in its investigation.
CNN has reported that the spy was sent by Saudi counterterrorism agents into Yemen as a mole after it was learned that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was developing an updated model of the underwear bomb that failed to explode in a Christmas Day 2009 attempt to blow up a US-bound plane.
It added that the agent also had a British passport. When he learned that a concrete terror plot was in the works, the man contacted Saudi counterterrorism officials from Yemen.
The Saudis then informed the Americans of the planned operation and let them know that they had succeeded in infiltrating the group, according to CNN.
There has been little official US confirmation of the details of the plot and how the information was relayed to the United States.