Bachmann's Secret Pakistan Nuclear Source Revealed!

Laura Rozen explains:

Did Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) divulge classified information in discussing the vulnerability of Pakistani nuclear sites to jihadists at Tuesday's GOP presidential debate?

Asked by CNN debate moderator Wolf Blitzer if the United States should continue providing foreign aid to Pakistan, Bachmann--a member of the House Intelligence panel--showed she knows her Pakistan brief.

"Pakistan has been the epicenter of dealing with terrorism," she said. "It is one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is."

Then--perhaps prompted by the fairly fluent and informed response on Pakistan given by former China envoy Jon Huntsman on the issue--Bachmann went on to cite some eyebrow-raising concerns posed by the unstable, nuclear-armed south Asian nation:

"We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists," Bachmann said. "Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites.  This is more than an existential threat.  We have to take this very seriously."

Live-blogging the debate last night, your Yahoo News correspondent wondered if that information might have come from a classified intelligence briefing. And evidently, said correspondent did not wonder alone:

Bachmann's contention that Islamist jihadists have made six attempts to seize Pakistani nuclear sites "is not information that's ever been made public!" Gawker wrote, linking to a debate post by National Journal's Yochi Dreazen. "Which raises the question: did Bachmann just leak classified information to a national audience?"

Well, apparently the answer is no.

The information came not from a classified intelligence briefing but, rather, from a recent article by Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic Monthly--a sister site of the National Journal--according to the Huffington Post.

As Goldberg and Ambinder reported in their Pakistan dispatch:

"At least six facilities widely believed to be associated with Pakistan's nuclear program have already been targeted by militants. [...] If jihadists are looking to raid a nuclear facility, they have a wide selection of targets: Pakistan is very secretive about the locations of its nuclear facilities, but satellite imagery and other sources suggest that there are at least 15 sites across Pakistan at which jihadists could find warheads or other nuclear materials."

Bachmann concluded her Pakistan response at Tuesday's debate by characterizing the troubled south Asian nation as "too nuclear too fail." That phrase apparently originated with Brookings South Asia expert Stephen P. Cohen, who shared the coinage with Ambinder and Goldberg, the Huffington Post notes.


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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