By Jonathan Mann
(CNN) - Sources tell CNN that the secret agent who infiltrated al-Qaeda in Yemen was completely under the control of the Saudi Arabian government.
That agent was key in stopping a bomb plot aimed at killing Americans.
Some U.S. and Saudi officials are said to be furious that details of the foiled plan were leaked.
In this situation, al-Qaeda lost and Washington benefited from the covert operation.
But there have been other incidents in recent years where the U.S. was the one that got burned.
The most infamous may be Aldrich Ames, a counter-intelligence officer who spied for the Soviet Union in the '80s and '90s and revealed the identities of dozens of spies before he was discovered, convicted, and jailed.
But the deadliest case involving al-Qaeda was a double-agent trusted enough to be invited into a secret meeting at a CIA forward operating base in Khost, Afghanistan.
He set off explosives strapped to his body and killed seven CIA officers and a Jordanian spy.
An entire team of elite agents disappeared in that single suicide blast.
Now, al-Qaeda's would-be suicide bomber for a mission against a U.S. airline is revealed to have been a mole, working for Saudi Arabia.
In a way, al-Qaeda's double-agent plot against the CIA doubles back against al-Qaeda.
"This is a particularly poignant victory for the CIA, I must say. Remember it was the Khost bombing where there was a double agent used against them. So the notion of having a success of a double agent against Al Qaeda is a particularly satisfying victory for them, I think," said Frances Fragos Townsend, a CNN National Security Contributor.
Ironically, the mole depended on his identity staying secret to succeed against al-Qaeda.
Having succeeded, that secret is blown and his days of double duty are over.