Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

Thoughts and musings on current events and other random occurrences.

Location: South Jersey, United States

Friday, January 06, 2006

Leaks and the leaking leakers who leak them

I have many thoughts on all this leak business going on lately around the media, government and blogosphere. First, I have a real problem with Bush seemingly circumventing a law that allowed him plenty of time (72 hours) after the fact to seek what he needed. If this is indeed what he did, the only plausible reason seems to be that he thinks he would have been denied these warrants. I'd like to get to the bottom of that.

Secondly, leaker versus whistleblower. This is one of the more insightful things that I've read on that and I tend to agree with it.

Part of the reason we can applaud them, is that unlike the mysterious leak sources, we are able to analyze whether they are ‘motivated by policy disputes or nagging consciences’ or beaurocratic infighting for that matter. They put their reputations on the line.
Anonymous leaking information to a news source is the opposite of whistle-blowing (the metaphor itself conjures an image of an clearly identifiable blower of the whistle.) If a major figure at the NSA, or even more appropriately a member of Congress who was breifed on the program, had come forth openly announcing that despite the secrecy of this program, the legal issues needed to be addressed and the Bush administration had failed to do so and exposing this was necessary, I would be very supportive of protecting them from legal penalties.

If you are concerned and willing to put your reputation on the line, then do it. However, I do see instances where this might not work for someone, or possibly where a developing story, and targeted leaks over time would help find out the whole sotry, needed to be investigated. Therefore, maybe anonymity would be precious. For instance, would we know as much about Watergate if Mark Felt had come forward, out of anonymity, and told us what he knew instead of learning more and more as the story developed? I'm not so sure.

Thirdly, and lastly, every last and single conservative blogger/pundit sounds so disingenious when they are so concerned about 'leaks' now, when they didn't care when somone leaked Valerie Plame's name. I repeat, and this is a fact no matter how much whining and crying there is going on, that no one knows yet how much damage this might have done to her contacts, her co-workers and intelligence gathering in general. So to say one incident harmed national security and the other didn't just shows one to be ignorant of the KNOWN facts and to have a rampant tendency towards speculation.

That disingenious-ness also goes towards liberal bloggers who, while rightly concerned about the FISA incident, should also be concerned about our ability to gather intelligence being compromised. BOTH incidents are worriesome for different reasons.

Could the blogosphere please go to their local drugstore and get an injection of intellectual honesty?


Blogger scott said...

As you may or may not know, I have family and friends in the intelligence business.

The one who I'm closest with is a strong Democrat, though not a liberal.

He told me yesterday that the leaks concerning the NSA were many times more damaging to our national security than was the Plame leak. The entire city of DC knew that she was CIA and her own husband was the original leaker. She was at a desk and had been for years, not in the field. No one has ever disclosed anything dfferently and we've heard of no cases where her people were compromised. It was such a non-issue that the Special Counsel could not even bring anyone up on charges related to it. Libby is under indictment for lying to a grand jury, not revealing Plame's identity.

The Times ran the story solely for their own publicity and that of a staff writer who was releasing a book.

I hate to use my own anonymous sources, but the NSA leak was much more damaging because it revealed an ONGOING operation that was effective from all evidence.

Try as you might to say that the Plame leak trumped the NSA leak, it would be your intellectual dishonesty or delusion to believe that.

2:45 PM  
Blogger scott said...

BTW, welcome back.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Katinula said...

Try as you might to say that I'm saying that the Plame leak trumps the NSA leak, I never said that. So I think my intellectual honesty is in tact. I could just as easily direct you to other intelligence sources like this site (, with people in the know, who say that Plame's identity being leaked did damage security. Who is right and who is wrong is a long arguement, but to say it put no one in danger, I think, is extremely premature.
At least I have an open enough mind to wait to hear the true story before I automatically conclude one way or the other just based on the political affiliation of the parties involved.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

The actual damage of the Plame leak is unknown. I have seen speculation, I can't recall where right now, that her cover had already been blown by Aldrich Ames, which if true would mean that the CIA had already done what they could to take care of those connections. It would also explain the fairly cavalier attitude that seemed to be around the 'secrecy' of Plame.

Probably the greatest damage that can be attributed to the Plame outing isn't to Plame or anyone she was specifically connected with but to the NOC program in general, both current agents and future recruitment. Whether or not she was deliberately outed (which is I think still a very valid question) the perception that she has been, or might be, undermines the trust that is all an NOC has to go on. The only protection an NOC has is secrecy, and destroying that secrecy for a political purpose is wrong.

That said, I don't think that most conservative bloggers treated the Plame matter the way you claim that they did. I know that for myself, and most others that I have read, there was consistance in saying that is someone broke the law they should be punished. It still is not clear that that ever happened. Liberals on the other hand seemed ready to convict Rove/Libby/Cheney/Bush at the first hint that a crime could have been commited.

As to the whole FISA thing, I have blogged on it extensively. It remains to me unclear if the President's program was illegal or not, but of a certainty the idea that FISA would allow the President to do what he wanted to do is incorrect. Probably the key is indeed probable cause. Probable cause is a great legal theory for gathering of evidence for a conviction. It may well be totally inapplicable to intelligence gathering, where one has to try and get a lot of data to find the key bits from it.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Katinula said...

I have read your posts on the FISA matter Dave and like you, I'm waiting it out. I'm no legal mind but from the simple facts, its troubling...troubling is about as far as I'll go for now.
However, I disagree with you characterization of conservative blogs over the Plame issue. Their comments ranged from 'kerfluffle' to 'boring' to 'non issue'. Search Powerline, Instapundit, the Corner..any of them. They all downplayed the importance of the leak while protecting themselves by saying 'if anyone broke the law, they should be punished'. Now, they aren't just saying 'punishment', they are pretty much saying that the NYT single-handedly lost the war on terror.
There has actually been many good posts on the subject this weekend and today, that if I get around to linking to, are worth a read.
I'm just more inclined to wait it out. See what comes of it and wait for the truth, in both cases.

2:53 PM  
Blogger scott said...

That's because it was essentially a non-issue. She was known around Washington. Do you think that the Vanity Fair piece and other media-whoring by Joe and Valerie were anything new?

No one has even been indicted for leaking her name after a thoroughly exhaustive investigation by Fitzgerald who by all accounts is a very competent prosecutor.

Let's see how the NSA leak plays out. I've not heard of a single case of a truly covert agent being "outed". I imagine that we will learn that the NY Times leak of the NSA operation, an operation still in progress, will have far reaching and potentially devastating efects.

Also, I've looked through all the posts I've done on the Plame affair and have been consistent with my thoughts. If someone intentionally leaked the name of a covert agent, they should be tried and jailed. That does not seem to be the case.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I frequently glance through the Corner and Powerling to keep up with what they are interested in but I don't read them in depth usually. I do read Instapundit very regularly and I think you are misconstruing his reaction. His initial post on the matter was that it was 'complicated' and that there seemed to be more to it than was immediately obvious, which proved to be very accurate.

I don't recall him ever dismissing the leak, or the idea that someone who leaked the name of a NOC should not be punished. I think he did point to evidence at times that Plame may have been well known as a CIA employee in DC (which is very relevant.)

I think you also need to take into account that a lot of what the 'right' of the blogosphere does in react to what the left is saying (and vice versa of course.) When the left is calling for Karl Roves head on a platter it is natural that they will give reasons why that might not be appropriate given what we know at a given time. One can dismiss the idea the Karl Rove should be marched out of the Whitehouse in chains without necessarily agreeing that this sort of leak is not serious and that leakers should not be punished.

11:34 AM  

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