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White House Concerned About Leaked bin Laden Tape

The White House says it is concerned by the leak of a private security firm's eavesdropping on al-Qaida communications. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the company's chief says the disclosure has ruined a long-running surveillance operation.

The private firm SITE Intelligence Group notified the White House last month that it had obtained a new video from terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

The company offered it to U.S. officials on the condition that they not reveal its existence until after al-Qaida released it, thereby protecting the integrity of the surreptitious means through which the company got the tape.

But within hours, the tape was broadcast worldwide, destroying what SITE founder Rita Katz says are techniques that took years to develop and are now ineffective and worthless.

White House officials who pride themselves on secrecy were quick to say they were not the source of that leak.

White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino says the offer from the private security firm was immediately referred to the National Center for Counter-Terrorism which is under the Director of National Intelligence.

Asked if she is suggesting that the leak came from the U.S. intelligence community and not the White House, Perino says she is simply describing what happened once the White House received SITE's offer. She says further questions about what she calls a process problem should be referred to intelligence officials.

Perino says the Bush Administration is concerned about the leak both because it may make gaining future intelligence more difficult and because it may discourage private citizens from sharing information with the government if they do not believe that information will be protected.

"To the extent that we have Americans coming forward to provide us information, whether it be a private citizen or a private corporation or anybody in America who can provide the government information, we take it very seriously that they should: one, feel comfortable in providing that information that their sources will be protected and that we will act on it if necessary," Perino said. "We appreciate what they did. This was a cause of concern that the information was leaked."

SITE is one of many private intelligence companies with a range of clients from media to military and intelligence agencies from the United States and other nations.

Many of those firms focus on al-Qaida. The Bush Administration's updated National Strategy for Homeland Security says that group will likely continue to enhance its ability to attack America through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups.

The revised strategy says al-Qaida is the nation's most serious and dangerous threat and will likely intensify efforts to send operatives to the United States.