Did Michele Bachmann Leak Classified Nuke Intelligence?

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Yochi Dreazen makes the case that Michele Bachmann, inadvertently or not, leaked intelligence about Pakistan's nuclear program, and its vulnerabilities:

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann serves on the House Intelligence Committee, so her comments on Pakistan's nuclear program represent either a news-making leak of previously unknown classified information or another in her recent series of seemingly-random, and highly inaccurate, public comments. During the CNN debate, Bachmann said that 15 Pakistani nuclear sites were vulnerable to jihadist attacks, and that six of the sites had previously come under some form of Islamist attack. U.S. intelligence and military officials believe that Pakistan has 15 nuclear sites, but no U.S. official has publicly said that all of the sites were vulnerable to militant attack or confirmed that any of them had previously come under any form of jihadist attack.

I have to cordially disagree with Yochi's conclusions here. The joint Atlantic/National Journal cover story on Pakistan's nuclear program, written by Yochi's colleague Marc Ambinder and by yours truly, contains the information that Yochi suggests is material declassified on stage by Bachmann:

At least six facilities widely believed to be associated with Pakistan's nuclear program have already been targeted by militants. In November 2007, a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying workers to the Sargodha air base, which is believed to house nuclear weapons; the following month, a school bus was attacked outside Kamra air base, which may also serve as a nuclear storage site; in August 2008, Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers attacked what experts believe to be the country's main nuclear-weapons-assembly depot in Wah cantonment. 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.

I don't think Bachmann can be accused of leaking classified information if the information has already been published in The Atlantic and in his own magazine (and in any case, the information about the attacks on the nuclear sites is open-source material).  And I think it's a safe thing for Bachmann to surmise that U.S. officials are worried about jihadist attacks on nuclear sites. It would be newsworthy to find a U.S. official who isn't worried about attacks by jihadists on Pakistan's nuclear sites.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/11/did-michele-bachmann-leak-classified-nuke-intelligence/249020/