The Damage Done By The Leaks


Lots of news today on the wiretapping front. First, news that a Grand Jury may very well be impaneled to punish those traitors who put our country at risk by leaking classified information:

Federal agents have interviewed officials at several of the country’s law enforcement and national security agencies in a rapidly expanding criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding a New York Times article published in December that disclosed the existence of a highly classified domestic eavesdropping program, according to government officials.

The investigation, which appears to cover the case from 2004, when the newspaper began reporting the story, is being closely coordinated with criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department, the officials said. People who have been interviewed and others in the government who have been briefed on the interviews said the investigation seemed to lay the groundwork for a grand jury inquiry that could lead to criminal charges.

The inquiry is progressing as a debate about the eavesdropping rages in Congress and elsewhere. President Bush has condemned the leak as a “shameful act.” Others, like Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, have expressed the hope that reporters will be summoned before a grand jury and asked to reveal the identities of those who provided them classified information.

Mr. Goss, speaking at a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Feb. 2, said: “It is my aim and it is my hope that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information. I believe the safety of this nation and the people of this country deserve nothing less.”

The case is viewed as potentially far reaching because it places on a collision course constitutional principles that each side regards as paramount. For the government, the investigation represents an effort to punish those responsible for a serious security breach and enforce legal sanctions against leaks of classified information at a time of heightened terrorist threats. For news organizations, the inquiry threatens the confidentiality of sources and the ability to report on controversial national security issues free of government interference.

[…]The interviews have focused initially on identifying government officials who have had contact with Times reporters, particularly those in the newspaper’s Washington bureau. The interviews appeared to be initially intended to determine who in the government spoke with Times reporters about intelligence and counterterrorism matters.

In addition, investigators are trying to determine who in the government was authorized to know about the eavesdropping program. Several officials described the investigation as aggressive and fast-moving. The officials who described the interviews did so on condition of anonymity, citing the confidentiality of an ongoing criminal inquiry.

It’s quite funny actually how things like this work out. If it had not been for the Plame “desk jockey” leak and the rabid response by the left to find out who leaked information to the newspapers I doubt the DOJ would be going after this leak like a steamroller as it has been.

I could be wrong since this leak obviously did some real damage to our intelligence network, as opposed to leaking a name of a desk jockey rogue CIA agent:

The government’s increasing unwillingness to honor confidentiality pledges between journalists and their sources in national security cases has been evident in another case, involving the disclosure in 2003 of the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson. The special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, demanded that several journalists disclose their conversations with their sources.

Judith Miller, at the time a reporter for The Times, went to jail for 85 days before agreeing to comply with a subpoena to testify about her conversations with I. Lewis Libby Jr., who was chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Libby has been indicted on charges of making false statements and obstruction of justice and has pleaded not guilty.

“An outgrowth of the Fitzgerald investigation is that the gloves are off in leak cases,” said George J. Terwilliger III, former deputy attorney general in the administration of the first President Bush. “New rules apply.”

How aggressively prosecutors pursue the new case involving the N.S.A. may depend on their assessment of the damage caused by the disclosure, Mr. Terwilliger said. “If the program is as sensitive and critical as it has been described, and leaking its existence could put the lives of innocent American people in jeopardy,” he said, “that surely would have an effect on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”

What does all this mean to our intelligence capabilities, all these leaks surely has to be damaging something right? CIA Director Goss thinks so, and he is in a position to know:

Judge Laurence Silberman, a chairman of President Bush’s commission on weapons of mass destruction, said he was “stunned” by the damage done to our critical intelligence assets by leaked information. The commission reported last March that in monetary terms, unauthorized disclosures have cost America hundreds of millions of dollars; in security terms, of course, the cost has been much higher. Part of the problem is that the term “whistleblower” has been misappropriated. The sharp distinction between a whistleblower and someone who breaks the law by willfully compromising classified information has been muddied.

As a member of Congress in 1998, I sponsored the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act to ensure that current or former employees could petition Congress, after raising concerns within their respective agency, consistent with the need to protect classified information.

Exercising one’s rights under this act is an appropriate and responsible way to bring questionable practices to the attention of those in Congress charged with oversight of intelligence agencies. And it works. Government employees have used statutory procedures ? including internal channels at their agencies ? on countless occasions to correct abuses without risk of retribution and while protecting information critical to our national defense.

On the other hand, those who choose to bypass the law and go straight to the press are not noble, honorable or patriotic. Nor are they whistleblowers. Instead they are committing a criminal act that potentially places American lives at risk. It is unconscionable to compromise national security information and then seek protection as a whistleblower to forestall punishment.

[…]Revelations of intelligence successes or failures, whether accurate or not, can aid Al Qaeda and its global affiliates in many ways. A leak is invaluable to them, even if it only, say, prematurely confirms whether one of their associates is dead or alive. They can gain much more: these disclosures can tip the terrorists to new technologies we use, our operational tactics, and the identities of brave men and women who risk their lives to assist us.

[…]Last month, a news article in this newspaper described a “secret meeting” to discuss “highly classified” techniques to detect efforts by other countries to build nuclear weapons. This information was attributed to unnamed intelligence officials who “spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the effort’s secrecy.” Whether accurate or not, this is a direct acknowledgment that these unnamed officials apparently know the importance of secrecy.

Recently, I noticed renewed debate in the news media over press reports in 1998 that Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone was being tracked by United States intelligence officials. In the recent debate, it was taken for granted that the original reports did not hurt our national security efforts, and any suggestions that they did cause damage were dismissed as urban myth. But the reality is that the revelation of the phone tracking was, without question, one of the most egregious examples of an unauthorized criminal disclosure of classified national defense information in recent years. It served no public interest. Ultimately, the bin Laden phone went silent.

So the story about Bin Laden’s phone made headlines for a few days and made a few newspapers some money. But in the end all it did was prevent us from gaining intel from Bin Laden. Good job you liberal jackasses.

Finally there is an article in The Washington Times about the Troung case, which I have written about many times before. They don’t cover any new ground but they do highlight the case at least, which is especially timely coming on the heels of the recent comments made by the King Poobah of all Idiocy Mr. Jimmy Carter:

Former President Jimmy Carter, who publicly rebuked President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program this week during the funeral of Coretta Scott King and at a campaign event, used similar surveillance against suspected spies.

“Under the Bush administration, there’s been a disgraceful and illegal decision — we’re not going to the let the judges or the Congress or anyone else know that we’re spying on the American people,” Mr. Carter said Monday in Nevada when his son Jack announced his Senate campaign.

“And no one knows how many innocent Americans have had their privacy violated under this secret act,” he said.

But in 1977, Mr. Carter and his attorney general, Griffin B. Bell, authorized warrantless electronic surveillance used in the conviction of two men for spying on behalf of Vietnam.

The men, Truong Dinh Hung and Ronald Louis Humphrey, challenged their espionage convictions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which unanimously ruled that the warrantless searches did not violate the men’s rights.

In its opinion, the court said the executive branch has the “inherent authority” to wiretap enemies such as terror plotters and is excused from obtaining warrants when surveillance is “conducted ‘primarily’ for foreign intelligence reasons.”

[…]The Truong case, however, involved surveillance that began in 1977, before the enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which established a secret court for granting foreign intelligence warrants.

Began in 1977 but the appeals court didn’t rule on it until the early 80’s, many years after the start of FISA. Either way, the courts have ALL ruled that the President has the authority under the Constitution to authorize these wiretaps

[…]The administration’s view has been shared by previous Democrat administrations, including Mr. Carter’s.

When Mr. Bell testified in favor of FISA, he told Congress that while the measure doesn’t explicitly acknowledge the “inherent power of the president to conduct electronic surveillance,” it “does not take away the power of the president under the Constitution.”

Jamie S. Gorelick, deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, agreed. In 1994 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Miss Gorelick said case law supports the presidential authority to conduct warrantless searches and electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.

Earlier this week, however, Mr. Carter said it was “ridiculous” for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to say the spying is justified by Article II of the Constitution.

Republicans say they welcome such criticism because it proves Democrats can’t be trusted with national security.

“Just when you thought that the Democrats’ image of being soft on defense issues couldn’t get any worse, enter the sage wisdom of President Jimmy Carter to save the day,” said Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Hit the nail on the head that time. Every day these idiots on the left open their mouths the more it is certain they will never regain majority status. They are dooming themselves to the minority for many years to come. Everytime they tar and feather a moderate Democrat I have to smile with glee. Happy days are here again.

Other’s Blogging:

It’s quite funny actually how things like this work out. If it had not been for the Plame “desk jockey” leak and the rabid response by the left to find out who leaked information to the newspapers I doubt the DOJ would be going after this leak with a steamroller as it has been. I could be wrong since this leak obviously did some real damage to our intelligence network, as opposed to leaking a name of desk jockey rogue CIA agent:

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