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Did Bachmann Really Leak Classified Info. During Last Night's Debate? Maybe Not

Did Bachmann Really Leak Classified Info. During Last Night's Debate? Maybe Not

“This is more than an existential threat. We have to take this very seriously.”

It was a moment that Mediaite originally called a "high point" for Michele Bachmann during last night's debate. During a discussion on whether Pakistan should no longer receive foreign aid (Bachmann supports continued aid), the Minnesota Congresswoman who sits on the House Intelligence Committee revealed that Pakistan has 15 nuclear sites and that six of the sites had already been attacked by Islamists. But that's information some are saying has never been made public before, causing some to wonder if Bachmann accidentally leaked classified information.

But did she? What we found suggests no.

First, here's how Mediaite describes Bachmann's response:

Bachmann’s response was a high-point for her in the debate, showing detailed fluency on a sometimes confusing topic of identifying and supporting allies in a region that is also home to many extremist, many of whom have, at least rhetorically, stated goals of doing harm to the United States. But her specific detail raised the eyebrows of many who play close attention to the region when she revealed that Pakistan apparently is home to 15 nuclear sites, and that six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites by what she called nuclear sites jihadists. Claiming that this was more than an “existential threat” she ended with perhaps the best line of the night, saying that Pakistan was “too nuclear to fail.”

If you're wondering what the possible "leak" is, it's the part where Bachmann seemingly confirmed that the 15 sites have come under attack by jihadists.

“We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites," were Bachmann's actual words. “This is more than an existential threat. We have to take this very seriously.”

Yochi J. Dreazen from National Journal, an historically fair publication, first noticed the new information in a "fact check" article:

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. ... 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.

As of publication time, Bachmann's campaign had not addressed the issue. However, a fact check on CNN's website, which moderated the debate, confirms that six attacks have, in fact, occurred:

According to Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, six incidents at sites considered known or likely nuclear installations in Pakistan have occurred.

CNN did call out Bachmann for saying the attacks pose a threat to the U.S., but it never said that her claims about the attacks were either bogus or new information. "Yes, six attacks occurred, but they do not appear to have been attempts to seize the country's nuclear weapons," the site concluded.

Newser summed it up: "Six terrorist attacks—including a school bus bomb and a munitions factory blast—have occurred at or near nuclear sites in Pakistan, according to Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center, but they do not appear to have been attempts to seize the country's nuclear weapons".

So did she leak classified information or drop a bombshell of new information? It doesn't seem so. Could she be the first "public" U.S. official to say so? Maybe. But that could have been information gleaned outside the walls of the Intelligence Committee.


Bachmann appeared on Fox News Wednesday morning and noted that her facts on Pakistan came from an Atlantic Monthly article. We've tracked down the article from the December 2011 issue and, sure enough, it mentions the attacks:

Like many statements made by Pakistan’s current leaders, this one contained large elements of deceit. 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.


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