How a Double Agent Lured Seven CIA Operatives to Their Deaths

Suicide bomber al-Balawi convinced Americans he was the 'golden goose.'

ByABC News
January 5, 2010, 6:59 PM

Jan. 5, 2010 — -- As the CIA mourns its dead from a devastating suicide bombing in Afghanistan, the questions grow about how professional spies could have been so taken in, failing to spot a double agent and letting a bomber into their midst.

Some 13 CIA operatives, including private contractors from the company once known as Blackwater, had gathered to hear the informant's report when the bomb went off. Among the nine people killed were seven CIA operatives, the informant, and a Jordanian intelligence officer, a cousin of Jordan's King Abdullah, who had been the liaison between the informant and the CIA.

The suicide bomber, who killed some of the CIA's top al Qaeda hunters, lured the agents to the meeting by claiming he had just met with Ayman al-Zawahiri, this country's most wanted terrorist after Osama bin Laden, sources told ABC News.

The informant-turned-bomber, a 32-year-old Jordanian doctor named Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al-Balawi, had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence to get information on Zawahiri.

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.