War, media and politics
One of today's big news items is the dismissal of a person at Central Intelligence for leaking classified material to Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winner Dana Priest. Pajamas Media has a really big blog roundup. Some of the choice items.
The Department of Justice needs to prosecute these leakers to the full extent of the law. We already have the precedent of a two-year special prosecutor who spent millions of dollars investigating a leak of minimal import that resulted from what looks like a deliberate misinformation campaign quarterbacked by the CIA’s non-proliferation desk. Those within the agency that attempt to leak classified information to the press to serve their own political ends deserve a long vacation at Club Fed as a lesson to others who might consider trying their own rogue operations later.
In From the Cold comments:
My reaction to this news can be summed up in a single phrase: it’s about time. As this blog has noted (on several occasions), there have been more than 600 investigtions into unauthorized leaks since the mid-1990s. Until now, all of those inquires had something in common—none had resulted in the dismissal of offending employees, or criminal prosecution. Not surprisingly, leakers became emboldened, with new disclosures appearing in the drive-by media on almost a weekly basis.
And the oddest reaction of all was from AJ Strata.
Could there be a connection between the CIA firing and and the news that a key Democrat Hill Representative from West VA resigning his poston the House Ethics Committee? Coincidence? Seems like it. Except for the fact one name keeps propping up in the NSA leak investigation: one Senator Rockefeller from West VA. Probably just coincidence…
I had to go to Don Surber to find out about the Mollohan thing. Apparently "Congressman Alan Mollohan of northern West Virginia has stepped down this afternoon from his position as the No. 1 Democrat on the House ethics committee." That just goes to show how intertwined the subjects of war, politics and the media have become. It's almost as if they were three sides of the same coin, if you know what I mean.
Big Lizard: Story on the leaker leaked to the press -- That's how ingrained the practice is. You have to leak about the leak. Leaking over the years has become as American as apple pie and illegal immigration. There are whole industries built around it. Come to think of it, apple pie is probable the most dispensable of the three. More here from Dr. Sanity.
More details are coming out. Now the news is claiming the CIA officer in question was one Mary McCarthy from the CIA’s Inspector General’s office - the supposed watchdog for illegal activities inside the agency.
The interesting thing is the possible perception that leaking wasn't "illegal" at all. It was simply the call of a "higher duty". It had been going on so long (see In From the Cold) that secrecy was more honored in the breach than the observance.
The National Review is alleging that the consequences of McCarthy's leaks were bad, not just for the US, but for any European ally that was foolish enough to get caught up in the toils.
In Europe, the reaction [to the Post story] was immediate and intense. The EU said it would launch a probe of both Poland, which is an EU member, and Romania, which hopes to become one. Both countries might be punished if the story were true, EU officials said. Romania denied the whole thing, sort of; in a statement that perhaps sounded more definitive than it was, Romania's premier said, "I repeat: We do not have CIA bases in Romania." In Poland, the new government -- it had been in office for just a few weeks and had played no role in whatever had happened before -- also issued a denial.
But, at least in Poland, the story caused enormous anger and unhappiness behind the scenes. In an interview with National Review, one source with knowledge of the Polish government's dilemma would not address the facts of the story, but called the damage "horrific." The source cited two reasons. First, the Polish government believes that it is now, as a result of the Post story, on al-Qaeda's hit list, setting off fears that Warsaw or Krakow could follow Madrid and London as European terrorist targets. And second, the leak shook the pro-American Polish government's faith in the United States. Poland has been a loyal ally of the U.S., sending troops to Iraq and keeping them there when others withdrew. That decision has been costly not only in lives -- 17 Poles have died in Iraq -- but also in terms of Poland's relations with largely anti-U.S. European governments. And now Poland worries about whether it can trust its most powerful ally. "The next time we are asked to do an operation in common, we will always think twice about your intelligence community's ability to keep a secret," the source said.
Here's the problem as I see it. The leaky and politicized intelligence system has made it difficult to judge the truth value of any proposition. Did the Plame affair damage national security? Did Ms. McCarthy's actions damage national security? Is there someone lying dead in a gutter because somebody talked? The answer to those questions about the intelligence agencies is going to be answered by the intelligence agencies themselves. And so we come full circle to the modern version of the Cretan Paradox: which asserts that when a Cretan says 'all Cretans are liars' all logical roads lead to a contradiction. How then to know the truth about the lies? When intelligence agencies -- and I use that word broadly to encompass the press, which is the civilian intelligence system -- are politicized, then even our knowledge about our knowledge becomes uncertain. We are in a Wilderness of Mirrors indeed. Substitute the term "political faction" for "KGB" in the paragraph below.
Angleton extrapolated from this his theory of a "wilderness of mirrors" (the term is thought to be a reference to T. S. Eliot's "Gerontion"), which entailed that the KGB was capable of manipulating the CIA to believe what they wanted through channels that the CIA was unable to identify and defend against.
Dean Esmay has a little bit more on Mary McCarthy.
Buried deep--very deep--in the New York Times' story is the fact that she was a contributor to the John Kerry for President campaign in 2004. What they don't mention is that she was an even bigger donor to the Democratic Party, and her husband was likewise a significant donor to both. They also, no surprise, were friendly with Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame.
Although I'm not surprised, this particular should irrelevant to the violation itself. In principle it should not matter if the suspect was a Republican caught giving away secrets to bring down a Democratic administration or vice-versa. But in Washington politics, like the gravitational field of a massive Black Hole, distorts everything. In regions sufficiently close to the political event horizon truth and facts simply cease to exist.