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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Death penalty for leakers of classified intelligence and the reporters who publish it

Enemies of the Bush administration ensconced at CIA and State are again leaking their own biased classified intelligence reports to the press. From Knight Ridder:
A series of new U.S. intelligence assessments on Iraq paint a grim picture of the road ahead and conclude that there's little likelihood that President Bush's goals can be attained in the near future.

Instead of stabilizing the country, national elections Jan. 30 are likely to be followed by more violence and could provoke a civil war between majority Shiite Muslims and minority Sunni Muslims, the CIA and other intelligence agencies predict, according to senior officials who have seen the classified reports. ...

The officials who were more pessimistic spoke on condition of anonymity, because the latest intelligence assessments are classified and their views are at odds with public statements from the White House.
The reporters themselves show grotesque bias, asserting that:
The Bush administration claimed before invading Iraq that Saddam had strong ties to international terrorism, but most counterterrorism experts dispute that and no evidence has been found to support the claim.
Liars. There is a lot of evidence. It may not be conclusive. The 9/11 report declined to find a "cooperative" relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda, despite much evidence of cooperation, but evidence and conclusions are two different things.

The officials quoted in the Knight-Ridder story are also grotesquely biased, asserting that:
"The sad thing is we have created what the administration claimed we were intervening to prevent: an Iraq/Al-Qaida linkage," one of the senior intelligence officials said.
As if Iraq would have been LESS useful to the terrorists if we had left it as a safe-haven for terrorists.

Bias and stupidity are bad enough, but the serious problem is the criminal behavior that this bias and stupidity has motivated. Leaking classified intelligence reports in time of war is TREASON. Publishing this intelligence is TREASON, properly punished with DEATH. Neither is there any mitigating public service served here.

Everybody knows that we are trying to negotiate a difficult transition to democracy in Iraq and that the Baathist-Islamofascist alliance is trying to derail this transition. We are committed to trying to succeed--there is no alternative--and in this effort, the expectations of the Sunni minority about who will win is a crucial factor. The majority of Sunni's want democracy, but an important minority of that minority might side with the totalitarians if they think totalitarianism will win.

The only thing that is affected by pessimistic or optimistic intelligence assessments about how many Sunnis will join the terrorists is how many Sunnis will join the terrorists. Whether or not there really is a serious vulnerability here, it is no more appropriate to make pessimistic intelligence claims of vulnerability public than it would have been to make public the weakness in our battle lines that the Germans exploited in the Battle of the Bulge. Pointing to weakness encourages the enemy to attack the weakness and it encourages undecideds to join the enemy, both of which we definitely do not want.

Classified intelligence is classified for a reason. The fact that loyal members of the public might like to be privy to classified intelligence does not automatically create a public interest in its release. The impact of the information on the battlefield also needs to be considered. Leaks of pessimistic classified intelligence by Democrat partisans at CIA and State is a recurring problem. It also happened in September. This has to stop. Let's see some prosecutions, NOW.

UPDATE: A related story is the publication by Seymour Hersh of claims that the U.S. military is conducting "black reconnaissance" in Iran in preparation for possible military action against the Irani nuclear threat. Tony Blankley thinks these revelations (the white House is not denying them) is probably punishable under the Espionage Act. (Hat-tip Charles at LGF, who earlier leveled his own charge of disloyalty at Hersh.)

The mainstream media's exclusive focus on negative news in Iraq is a separate but related issue. Lieutenant Colonel Tim Ryan describes in a recent post how this behavior aids and abets the enemy. The hostility of the press is nothing new of course. Anti-Americanism has been the standard for our mainstream media ever since the Vietnam war, especially when Republican's are in office. The question isn't, as Blankley puts it, whether "we are sleepwalking towards the abyss." The question is what it will take for us to wake up and STOP sleepwalking towards the abyss.

UPDATE II: My post leaves open the possibility that the leaking of classified information could sometimes be warranted by the public's need to know, so long as harmful battlefield consequences do not outweigh. To compensate for the illegality of such a leak, the net benefit to the public interest would have to be large, but it could be justified under the legal and moral doctrine of competing harms, where one is justified in breaking a law (stealing a rope say) in order to prevent a greater harm (by throwing the rope to a drowning person).

An example of what seems to be justifiable leaking is the classified information leaked to Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard in the fall of 2003, detailing numerous examples of Saddam's ties to terrorism. (Hat tip USA Granny, who cites other Saddam-terrorism authorities as well.)

Outing information of Saddam's ties to terrorism is a battlefield plus. It answers those propagandists who claim that we are not fighting terrorism in Iraq, only resisters of occupation, would-be liberators, akin to the Minutemen. The positive value of the Hayes leak was affirmed by Vice President Dick Cheney himself, who urged people to read the Weekly Standard piece (at top of Standard article). What the leak seems to violate is the necessity principle. Why didn't the administration just take the information it wanted to make public into and put it in an unclassified report? Sanctioned leaking only makes it that much harder to control unsanctioned leaking.

Still, there is every difference between leaking classified information that damages our war effort and leaking classified information that strengthens it. Sanctioned leaks express the administration's judgment that making the information public is beneficial. Unsanctioned leaks had better serve a national interest far in excess of any battlefield harm, or the harshest punishments are warranted.

Alec it is maddening. Why can't we get back to punishing those who endanger our nation in a time of war?
Sometimes I think I've lived too long.

I posted a long post a couple of days ago about Saddam and Al Qaeda links here.Oh and I quoted you today.

Thank you for the honor of the link in your blog roll.
I'm humbled.
Your an Idiot
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