Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Leaker-in-Chief, Part III

I have been leaving comments around the Internet, saying that there now has been a second leak.   The first was the Libby-Plame leak; the second was the Bush-Israeli Military Intelligence leak.  Now, I have to amend that.  There have been three high-profile leaks that have damaged intelligence operations.  Hat tip to Steven J. at Radamisto, who reminds us that the Libby-Plame leak was the second.  The first occurred in 2004, when the Administration blew a Pakistani-UK operation that had successfully infiltrated Al-Qaeda.  

In the event that the London Times article about the third leak becomes unavailable, I've archived a copy on Newsvine, here.  To me, part of the story hear is that the US media have completely ignored the story.  Despite the fact that the Libby-Plame leak is a top news event right now, nobody in the media is bothering to connect the three leaks together into a comprehensive picture of the Administrations penchant for clumsy handling of sensitive intelligence data.  

I have heard that the phrase "Leaker-in-Chief" is turning out to be rather damaging to Bush.  It is sticking to him just like the "flip-flopper" nickname stuck to a different aspiring politician.  I think it is important, though, for us to reflect on just how appropriate the nickname is in this case.  

Some of the Right have tried to diminish the impact of this, by pointing out that all Administrations use leaks for political purposes.  That is true, but irrelevant.  The problem with the Bush 43 Administration is not merely that it is prone to leaks.  Rather, the problem is that some of the leaks damage our national security in general, and risk the lives of certain intelligence operatives in particular.  It is not just one case.  There are now three cases that have come to my attention.  

Why does this matter?  Consider this: when an intelligence operative goes into the field, he or she does so at the behest of the Administration.  He or She is acting in good faith, that the Administration has a good reason for the operation, and the the Administration will not betray them.  The operative then recruits people to be sources of information.  The sources act on good faith, assuming that the operative will not betray them.  When the Administration leaks sensitive information, it does betray them; both the operatives and their sources are put at risk.  Perhaps even worse, when the Administration blows the cover off of an operation conducted by a cooperative foreign government, the betrayal has three layers: the foreign government, it's operatives, and their sources, are all put at risk.  This is deadly, serious business.  

In the Bush White House, loyalty only goes one way: you are expected to be loyal to the President, but that loyalty gets you nothing in return.