In his debate recap a few posts down, Troy Senik writes that Michele Bahmann had a strong showing and that her “intelligence committee bona fides shone through as she explained both the complexities and the consequences of the situation in Central Asia.” Ruffling everyone’s feathers this morning is the question of whether Michele Bachmann went overboard in demonstrating her knowledge of Central Asia by unwittingly leaking classified information.
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.
National Journal’s Yochi Dreazen concluded that the information Rep. Bachmann shared about Pakistani nuclear sites represents either a leak of previously classified information, or merely “another in her her recent series of seemingly-random, and highly inaccurate, public comments.” Following suit, Gawker and its commenters jumped aboard the “she’s either incompetent, or she’s dishonest” train.
Unfortunately for everyone looking for a sideshow distraction on this day before Thanksgiving (today’s a slow news day, folks!), Rep. Bachmann appeared on Fox News this morning and explained that she got her facts concerning Pakistan’s nuclear sites from an Atlantic Magazine article! Sure enough, the Atlantic piece mirrors what Bachmann said on stage.
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.
The upshot: Michele Bachmann in this case proved neither to be incompetent nor dishonest. But now we know she reads The Atlantic. Hold it against her if you must.