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April 26, 2006

Leak, Shmeak

Apparently the WaPo/NYT Good leak/Bad leak brouhaha has unhinged the Post's editorial staff. Are we the only ones disturbed to see the press stoop to using judgmental terms like "Good" and "Bad"? Good thing we know Right and Wrong are just perjorative labels applied by narrow-minded bigots to perfectly valid alternative lifestyle choices. Otherwise we might get the impression the Post is trying to impose some kind of repressive Judeo-Christian morality on us:

Last week a CIA officer on the verge of retirement, Mary O. McCarthy, was fired for speaking to Ms. Priest and other journalists, though she says she did not provide classified information about the secret prisons. Anyone who talked from inside the CIA violated the agency's rules, if not the law. But they also upheld the public interest.
Maybe disclosure of the prisons damaged national security -- the CIA has offered no evidence of that -- but it's hard to imagine what could be more damaging than the existence of the system itself. CIA Director Porter J. Goss appears to have dismissed Ms. McCarthy to send a message to others who leaked to the press. That's a questionable use of his authority.

Interesting argument. So the head of the CIA is abusing his authority by firing employees who admit violating the terms of their employment contract?

Furthermore, Goss must now compound the damage by disclosing more sensitive information to justify enforcing the agency's own rules? Perhaps the Post can tell us what secrets the CIA is entitled to keep... well, secret? If only Goss had stopped and asked the Post whether this was a good leak or a baaaaad leak.

We don't question the need for intelligence agencies to gather or keep secrets, or to penalize employees who fail to do so. Leaks that compromise national security, such as the deliberate delivery of information to foreign governments, must be aggressively prosecuted.

In the Post's considered opinion, publishing classified information in a major newspaper does not constitute "delivery of information to foreign governments". Everyone knows those people can't read.

But the history of the past several decades shows that leaks of classified information to the U.S. media have generally benefited the country -- whether it was the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam era or the more recent revelations of secret prisons and domestic spying during the war on terrorism.

One notes that it is the media who get to decide which leaks "benefit the country". How convenient for them. Of course, we didn't vote for the media, did we? Whence comes this authority to decide which leaks do or do not "benefit the country"?

Those who leak to the press often do so for patriotic reasons, not because they wish to damage national security.

In other words, Ms. McCarthy's failure to use normal channels for reporting what she saw as abuses is excusable because she thought she had a good reason. It must be very difficult, working in the Inspector General's office at the CIA, to figure out how to report a problem up the chain. On balance, we can easily see that she felt she had no choice but to release classified information to people who would publish it in a newspaper.

Which bring us to Mr. Goss. He has taken no disciplinary action against CIA personnel identified by his inspector general as having played a part in the failure to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Is "playing a part in the failure to prevent a terrorist attack" an infraction of CIA rules?

He has taken no action against CIA interrogators known to have participated in the torture and killing of foreign detainees, or against those who knowingly violated the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.

Does the Post offer proof of this, or are they once again assuming facts not in evidence?

Now he would have the country believe that one of the CIA's biggest problems -- worthy of an unprecedented internal investigation he personally oversaw -- is unauthorized leaks to the press. His setting of priorities seems unlikely to improve the CIA's success rate in judging foreign programs of weapons of mass destruction or preventing the next terrorist attack.

How magnanimous: the Post doesn't question the "need for intelligence agencies to gather or keep secrets, or to penalize employees who fail to do so," ...so long as they don't investigate leaks when they do occur or take disciplinary action against leakers. Instead, Goss should focus on punishing intelligence failures...even when other major intelligence agencies came to the same conclusions based on the information available.

Gee. That ought to encourage analysts to be forthcoming with their assessments. "Hey, make your best guess, but don't let events prove you wrong or you'll be punished."

Good thing this sort of reasoning isn't applied to the media. It might have a Chilling Effect.

Posted by Cassandra at April 26, 2006 12:01 PM


> against those who knowingly violated the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.

Against whom?

The prisoners at Abu Ghirab? I seem to recall the quards in question got quite prosecuted.

Who, exactly, in Iraq, operating against the USA, is subject to the Geneva Conventions AT ALL? Most of our "enemies" there are spies, saboteurs, and gadflys of every stripe.

None of those are covered by the Geneva Conventions.

Posted by: OhBloodyHell at April 26, 2006 01:48 PM

And to second "Oh Bloody Hell!", those who are knowingly carrying out
1) "terrorism" or
2) "insurgency" or
3) "freedom fighters"
(take your pick) are deliberately blurring the line between non-combatants (we call them civilians) and the category listed above as 1,2 or 3. The Geneval Conventions were written to protect UNIFORMED soldiers in combat serving under a NATIONAL Identity and civilians who were nearby warfighting.

Well, everyone's on the frontline with Al Qaeda. This concept doesn't seem to be apparent to those thumb-fingered cretinous dishrags at the NYT.

Shoot 'em. Shoot 'em all.

Posted by: Don 'bad Leak' Brouhaha at April 26, 2006 05:17 PM

those thumb-fingered cretinous dishrags ...

Nice :)

Posted by: Cassandra at April 26, 2006 05:56 PM

Loved the discussion re: the WaPO. Referenced it over at my house. Are they on the defensive? Maybe the hammer is about to drop on the leakers and their MSM cohorts. The bias has gotten so bad they don't even try to hide it any more. At least in 2004 they were making an attempt at that. Course it was a presidential election year.

Posted by: CoREv at April 26, 2006 08:10 PM

Actually, we do vote for the media. Every time we buy a newspaper or turn on the TV.

And declining circulations scare the Hell out of them.

Posted by: Consul-At-Arms at April 26, 2006 09:51 PM

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