Mystery Surrounds Contractors' Role at CIA Base

The promise of getting a bead on Zawahiri prompted one of the CIA's top analysts to travel last week from Kabul to the remote CIA listening post at Forward Operating Base Chapman in the middle of Taliban country near the Afghan-Pakistan border. The CIA outpost at Camp Chapman is the nerve center in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Al-Balawi had been to Chapman previously and because of the information he was promising, CIA officers told Afghan guards to allow him past the first of three checkpoints without searching him. The bomber was actually escorted around the checkpoints, and the officers also told the guards to vacate the area, sources told ABC News.

When al-Balawi detonated his bomb, he assassinated seven CIA operatives and wounded six others. He also killed the Jordanian intelligence officer who recruited him out of a Jordanian prison cell.

The question of security procedures has surfaced as information about the meeting has surfaced. Former CIA officers tell ABCNEWs.com that the bombing was a result of poor operational security and went against the known and accepted tradecraft of meeting with agents.

That as many as 13 CIA personnel had gathered to meet a source who had not been searched before entering the base has been hotly debated among former CIA officers who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Said Bob Baer, a former CIA case officer, "It is sort of a grim calculation but normally when you meet an asset like this you have one, maybe two people. So I think people are going to point out inside the agency that they shouldn't have 13 people there."

"Why the officers would show a source all their faces, that alone was a terrible decision," said one former senior CIA paramilitary operative who served in Afghanistan and requested anonymity when discussing sensitive and classified matters. "This is a sad, sad event, but it was a complete security breakdown."

A second paramilitary officer familiar with the attack noted that even if the Jordanian agent had met with al Qaeda number two Zawahiri, no foreign source can be trusted completely.

"It was in everyone's interest to pat him down before getting into the car," the former officer said. "You might have lost a few people, but it would not have taken out the whole base. If the source was an honest agent, he would have appreciated that you were concerned with both your security and his."

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