Sunday, June 25, 2006

Do we know there's a war on?

Heather MacDonald launches a scathing a attack on the New York Times for publishing secrets about the way we wage the war on terror.
National Security Be Damned

Clarice Feldman goes further: she wants to arrest journalists for writing and publishing the stories.
It's Fish or Cut Bait Time, Mr. Attorney General
Bashing the Times is good sport and I think the Times was wrong to publish the details of such sensitive and useful programs. OTOH, I doubt that much harm was done or that the blame belongs only on the reporters shoulders.

The reason I think that the harm may be minimal is summed up in a comment I left over at Miriam's Ideas:
Frankly, on Sunday i want to read that several dozen employees of State, Treasury, and CIA spent their Saturday being interviewed by the FBI and undergoing polygraph exam.
Remember, this is an administration that sent FBI agents into the House of Representatives to gather superfluous evidence against a corrupt congressman they already had dead to rights. SO why have they been so lethargic when it comes to finding the people who break their oath and leak "critical" information?

The AG has a powerful tool at his disposal. The Libby/Miller precedent means he can subpoena journalists to find out who blabbed. What his he waiting for?

Is it possible that the White House wants the issue more than they want to identify the leakers and punish them?

If they cannot find the leakers, then the relevant agencies need to discipline or reassign the senior managers who ran such lax, insecure programs. After all, they were responsible for security as well as getting the intelligence. They failed. There should be consequences for that failure.

Instead we have this alarmist rhetoric combined with near total inaction. It suggests that the Administration does not view this security breach as a serious issue. If they do not, why should I?

Side notes

1. My view is bolstered by their bizarre handling of CIA. Why push out a man who was rooting out blabbermouths? Why bring back a guy who covered up for security lapses? (See here.)

2. I no longer believe that this is an administration that "abhors leaks". It is clear from the Plame/Wilson mess that it is as willing as any other administration to play the game. Rove, Libby, and a host of others were happy to leak to the New York Times, Washington Post, and other MSM "villans".

What they abhor are leaks they do not control and leaks about the internal maneuvering of the Bush team. That is fine as a general rule, but I have to wonder: is it team loyalty that is keeping AG Gonzalez from moving aggressively against the leakers?

Partisans assume that the people who leaked the intelligence information are "at war" with Bush and his GWoT. Reporters, however, get their information from many sources and those sources leak for many reasons. Did someone boast too freely about the successes? Was a loyalist baited into revealing too much? Was a would-be Lothario indiscrete? If the leaks were so bad, the motive should not matter.

Then again, if the leaks really were so bad and if the stakes really are so high, a competent administration would take vigorous action.

UPDATE 6/30: Howard Kurtz has a round-up of the reactions to the Times. I was struck by the fact that rightwing bloggers sounded more reasonable than rightwing media like NRO and The Weekly Standard. But the most over the top reaction came from James Wolcott of Vanity Fair. He, of course, was not bashing the Times: he was bashing the conservatives based on what he assumes we said:
I didn't bother listening to talk radio, but I'm sure they're baying for
blood between commercials for bladder control.

"What a gummy uproar. One so loud and ferocious that there almost has to be some follow-through, otherwise you are going to have one frustrated batch of highly indignants
So much for the elite press and their journalism of verification.

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