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State Department official: Visas Viper cable “just the tip of the iceberg”

The State Department’s official cable about underwear-bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab wasn’t the only report to come out of the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria as part of the Visas Viper process, a State Department official tells The Cable. As reported earlier today, the alert sent by the embassy to the National Counterterrorism Center and other agencies ...

The State Department's official cable about underwear-bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab wasn't the only report to come out of the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria as part of the Visas Viper process, a State Department official tells The Cable.

As reported earlier today, the alert sent by the embassy to the National Counterterrorism Center and other agencies on Nov. 20 contained only sparse information about the meeting between embassy officials and his father, a prominent Nigerian businessman. That reporting fell short of the regulations for Visas Viper cables, failing to add detailed information about the father's background and credibility.

But the additional qualitative information was included in several reports sent that same day and in succeeding days by the embassy in separate and previously unreported classified communications to the NCTC, from other embassy personnel not from employed by the State Department, the official said.

The State Department’s official cable about underwear-bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab wasn’t the only report to come out of the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria as part of the Visas Viper process, a State Department official tells The Cable.

As reported earlier today, the alert sent by the embassy to the National Counterterrorism Center and other agencies on Nov. 20 contained only sparse information about the meeting between embassy officials and his father, a prominent Nigerian businessman. That reporting fell short of the regulations for Visas Viper cables, failing to add detailed information about the father’s background and credibility.

But the additional qualitative information was included in several reports sent that same day and in succeeding days by the embassy in separate and previously unreported classified communications to the NCTC, from other embassy personnel not from employed by the State Department, the official said.

"The unclassified Visas Viper cable is just the tip of the iceberg in a much more extensive set of reports that came from the post," the official said.

At least one of those additional reports was from the CIA, the official said, and others might have been from the FBI representative on post or other intelligence organizations.

President Obama commented on previous reports that Abdulmutallab’s father had several contacts with the CIA that were not disseminated through the intel community. What’s new here is that the State Department official is claiming at least some of these were submitted directly to the NCTC "as part of the Visas Vipers process."

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed the information to The Cable and defended the official Visas Viper report as being only one part of the embassy’s effort to pass on the information they had about Abdulmutallab.

"The people in Nigeria said that this was as much of the information they felt comfortable providing in an unclassified cable," said Crowley. "The rest of the information was submitted as part of the VISA Vipers process, but by other means."’

UPDATE: A reader writes in: "There is no FBI representative at Embassy Abuja.  The Legal Attache for Nigeria operates out of the Consulate in Lagos. " So we’re left with the CIA and other as yet unnamed agencies as those who submitted the "classified" parts of the Viper cable.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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