The Bush administration, which had elevated the terror-warning level in three U.S. states on the basis of information acquired from Khan, set up the briefing to dispel public skepticism about the terrorism threat, particularly after it was disclosed that much of the information on which it was based was several years old.

British and Pakistani intelligence agencies were reportedly furious with the leak, which forced UK police to hurriedly round up 13 al-Qaeda suspects who are alleged to have been in email communication with Khan. Five others who were sought by MI5 reportedly escaped capture, and there is some question that the British had gathered enough evidence to persuade a judge to keep the 13 detainees in custody, according to published reports.

“By exposing the only deep mole we’ve ever had within al-Qaeda, it ruined the chance to capture dozens if not hundreds more,” a former Justice Department prosecutor, John Loftus, told Fox News on Saturday. ~ Jim Lobe, Bush Team on Defensive Over al-Qaeda Leak

Perhaps the administration felt compelled to produce some specific warnings and evidence to support these warnings because it had already wasted so much goodwill and credibility assuring the public that its information on Iraq was solid and accurate. The White House could no longer continue to assure the public that Americans should simply trust the word of the President and his officers, because the public cannot trust their statements any longer. This is one of the lingering dangers for Americans–that the government is so untrustworthy that it must reveal sensitive information simply to be taken seriously–and one of the permanent costs of the pointless and dreadful Iraq war.