I’ll have much more to say about the right of privacy in the age of terror in an article I’m writing for The American Thinker but something the President said in his radio address today defending his eavesdropping program stuck out like a sore thumb:
This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.
The information was “improperly provided” to the New York Times. And according to the newspaper’s story, they had been sitting on this juicy little morsel of a secret for more than a year.
First, for the President to use the term “improperly provided” regarding a leak involving the National Security Agency is a monumental understatement. The NSA has extraordinarily strict rules about things like leaks. In short, if you’re an employee and you get caught leaking, you go to jail for a very long time.
Secondly, the fact that the Times sat on this information for a year may prove that whoever the leaker was, they are probably not with the agency any more. One would think that the eavesdropping operation was so compartmentalized within the agency, that discovering the leaker - or at least narrowing the list of suspects - would be fairly easy. That is, if the leaker was from the NSA. And this opens the question of who else knew about the surveillance program. There were a few attorneys at Justice and the White House along with some high-level FBI anti-terrorist officials. And of course, some Congress critters whose inability to keep a secret is matched only by their belief in their own superior wisdom in matters of national security not to mention civil liberties issues.
My guess would be that the leak came from someone on one of the Intelligence Committee staffs. It wouldn’t be the first time and it would be logical in the context of the hyper-partisanship on Capitol Hill. This leak was meant to damage not only the program itself but the Bush Administration as well. The consequences to our national security may prove that the leaker has bitten off more than they bargained for.