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4/22/2006
CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: GOOD LEAKS OR BAD?

The Nixon White House was in an uproar. Plastered all over the front page of the New York Times were some of the most extraordinary examples of “sources and methods” used by our intelligence agencies to spy on our enemies. The revelations were absolutely devastating:

* Information from “Gamma Gupy,” a top secret NSA program that intercepted signals from radiotelephones in Soviet limousines done by the Army Security Agency unit USM-2 in the American embassy.

* Some of the most sensitive documents relating to how the Defense Intelligence Agency was working to uncover a Soviet spy ring operating out of the UN.

* Information on CIA networks in Southeast Asia that gave foreign governments clues on how to roll up those networks.

There was much more, of course. These were the Pentagon Papers. And contained within those papers was incontrovertible proof that the United States government had been lying to the American people about the War in Viet Nam. They also contained some of the most closely guarded secrets in government which is the reason the bulk of them are still classified to this day.

There is absolutely no doubt that publication of the Pentagon Papers grievously hurt American national security. But they also exposed a generation of lies from Administrations of both parties on Viet Nam and led to our eventual disengagement and defeat, at a cost of 55,000 American lives.

Were the Pentagon Papers a good leak or a bad leak? At the risk of exposing my ex-liberal credentials. I would say that the issue is a close call but one would have to say that taken in its totality, Ellsberg provided a service to the American people. He was also a troubled man both by Viet Nam and a personal life that was falling apart largely because of what he knew about the war and his own role in it.

But in the end, Ellsberg’s defiant act was probably necessary to get our troops out of Viet Nam and keep them from suffering and dying in a war the government had no intention of winning. And asking soldiers to fight and die for anything less than victory I still see as immoral today.

There is probably never a purely “good” leak when we are talking about our nation’s national security. There are always trade-offs between the public’s right to know and damage to intelligence operations and sources and methods of gathering that intelligence. But what has been going on since at least the late summer of 2003 with regards to intelligence leaks from Iraq have very little with the public’s “right to know” and most everything to do with trying to discredit the President of the United States by leaking analyses and information that at the very least showed an overweening hubris on the part of the leaker and at worst may have been a partisan attempt by unelected bureaucrats to influence the 2004 Presidential election.

That said, leaks are part of the game in Washington. Nixon was so angered by the Pentagon Papers leak (and another leak that probably originated within his own National Security Council that gave away our “fallback position” on the Salt I negotiations with the Soviets) that he set up the Plumbers - a keystone cops group of loyalists whose criminal activities would eventually lead to his downfall. Other Presidents have dealt with leaks by carrying out internal investigations and trying to cut off offending reporters from access to White House aides.

Despite the fact that our national news media was shocked, simply shocked that President Bush would authorize the release of classified material both to buttress his case for war with the American people and discredit the insufferable Mr. Wilson, such leaking is done all the time, by Presidents of both parties, by partisans of both parties in our intelligence and non-intelligence bureaucracies, and for a wide variety of reasons. And the fact that our media benefits by this cascade of leaks makes them hypocrites of the most crass and disgusting kind. Their caterwauling about the President’s leak overlooks one very important fact; he is elected by the people, they are not. In their overarching hubris, believing themselves to be the gatekeepers of information to the American public as well as the watchdogs of the republic, they constantly forget that they are first, last, and always citizens of the United States and that when the President takes the country to war, it should be he that decides war policy not them.

The flood of leaks from our intelligence community since the Iraq war has been unprecedented. The leaks have not aided the war effort for the most part (although some military bloggers have pointed out that some leaks about inadequate equipment has spurred the Pentagon to do a better job of supplying body armor and armoring up transport vehicles) rather they have been designed to show that one side in the debate on the war is correct and the other side is incorrect. This is partisanship, pure and simple. As I pointed out last night, for every leaked analysis that shows the Administration had differing intelligence from that which they acted upon, there are other analysis showing exactly the opposite. In short, the leaks were nothing more than second guessing, designed to make the Bush Administration look like they “missed” key pieces of the puzzle when in actuality, they were usually acting on what they believed were the summary beliefs of our intelligence community, not the cherry picked analyses of the leakers.

Yes there are times when leaking may be not especially “good” but could be considered “necessary.” So far, I haven’t seen much evidence of this with leaks about what the Administration knew about WMD, or other pre-war intelligence regarding military planning. A case might be made that the Administration engaged in much wishful thinking regarding post-war planning for which the Secretary of Defense should have been held accountable long ago. But given that some of those leaks occurred within the context of the election campaign, it would have required extraordinary care by the news media - care not taken or even contemplated - to explain that context to the American people so that they could make up their own minds about how much weight to give the information in making their decision on who to elect the next President of the United States.

In the end, that’s what the war between the White House and the CIA is all about; the belief by some at the CIA that the wrong man is President of the United States. If we ever get to the bottom of this cesspool of partisan leakers at our intelligence agencies, we may be very surprised where their perfidy leads.

By: Rick Moran at 7:16 am
7 Responses to “CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: GOOD LEAKS OR BAD?”
  1. 1
    steviebaby! Said:
    10:50 am 

    Only george bush, dick cheney, karl rove, and scooter libby should be allowed to leak classified information;If you are not one of those six or seven people you should be fired immediatly, I don’t care if it is revealing secret torture camps or spying on citizens, only those people above should be allowed to leak and then to lie about it. All others must be prosecuted and then be sent to prison, Thank You.

  2. 2
    Syl Said:
    6:07 pm 

    steviebaby should at least get his facts straight before spouting.

    Neither Gorge Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, nor Scooter Libby ever leaked classified information.

    The person who DID, Novak’s source, has not been publicly identified and the prosecutor has said he will not be charged because he broke no laws.

    Portions of the NIE (a CONSENSUS summary) were declassified by Bush and disseminated sparingly, and publicly released a few days later.

    That’s hardly leaking.

  3. 3
    Syl Said:
    6:09 pm 

    BTW, good article, Rick!

  4. 4
    Tano Said:
    10:43 pm 

    Wow, this is crazy stuff.

    “In their overarching hubris, believing themselves to be the gatekeepers of information to the American public as well as the watchdogs of the republic,”

    Gatekeepers of information? What nonsense is that? Gatekeepers keep information inside the gates. Your whole beef with the media is that they are disseminating information that the government is trying to keep inside the gates. As for watchdogs, well they are.

    “they constantly forget that they are first, last, and always citizens of the United States and that when the President takes the country to war, it should be he that decides war policy not them.”

    What bullshit. We the people decide everything. Its our country, not the presidents. He works for us. What kind of an authoritarian attiutude have you developed in your old age?

    “in actuality, they were usually acting on what they believed were the summary beliefs of our intelligence community”

    Get real. You can’t really beleive that, can you? These people made it very plain that they wanted a war with Iraq years before they even took office. After 9/11, it is dead obvious that they decided to use that situation to convince the country to go to war. The intellegence was mined specifically for any thing of value that could be used to support their case. They had no interest whatsoever in evidence that could undermine their case. Because they had no interest whatsoever in making a wise, informed decision - their decision had been already made.

    If you can’t understand that, you must be playing with far less than half a deck.

    “that’s what the war between the White House and the CIA is all about; the belief by some at the CIA that the wrong man is President of the United States”

    Yeah right. Lets try and guess the partisan makeup of the intellegence community (80% of which is in DOD). The Bush administration war on the intellegence community has always been about the simple fact that the intel mission is to provide accurate intellegence, and the Bush administration wanted only evidence to support their agenda.

  5. 5
    Tano Said:
    10:55 pm 

    Oh, and BTW, on a different topic - this is the exact same attitude the Bushies have toward other issues - like science. They are not interested in assessing the state of the science on any matter upon which they need to make a decision. They make the decision first, on political or ideological grounds, then they mine the scientific literature to find morsels of evidence that can support their agenda. Any other evidence that might lead one to a different conclusion is ignored, even if it represents the overwhelming majority opinion in the scientific community.

    It is the attitude of the lawyer, mixed with the ideologue - lawyers have no interest in presenting the truth - their interest is in presenting the strongest case for thier client. Let the other side find the contrary evidence, if they can. Apply this to science, or to intellegence, and you get the results we see.

    Yes there is enormous disgust with this administration in the eyes of professionals of all stripes - for this administration is ideological, thoroughly dishonest, and has no interest in, or regard for the truth of any situation.

    If you had any respect for honesty and the right of the people to know the truth, you would stand with those who attempt to tell the truth, and to do their jobs with integrity, rather than to participate in these attempts to bully people into submitting to ideological agendas.

  6. 6
    Noelie Said:
    11:21 am 

    So let me get it stragiht Tano, you honestly think the MSM tell the truth??

    And people have said I am naive.

  7. 7
    Right Wing Nut House » CIA VS. THE WHITE HOUSE: GUESS WHICH SIDE THE PRESS IS ON? Pinged With:
    8:44 am 

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