Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Damaging Intelligence Infrastructure

We have heard about them and read about them. They rarely creep into the MSM's "stories of the day," and even when they do, many in the MSM applaud the "bravery" of the anonymous leakers. But Representative Pete Hoekstra penned a piece for National Review that discusses such leaks and reminds us, yet again, that they do damage this nation's ability to protect itself:

The fate of Harry Potter in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows was a closely guarded secret that was not supposed to be revealed before the book’s official release on July 21. The U.S. Postal Service tried to protect the secret when a mailman asked a Chicago-area woman to give back two copies of the book he had accidentally delivered before the release date. The mailman feared that he would lose his job for delivering the novel early. That is, he feared he would be fired for “leaking” the new Harry Potter book.

If only our intelligence agencies were as concerned about leaks as the U.S. Postal Service. There has been a torrent of leaks of national-security information since 2001. Many have been politically motivated, unauthorized disclosures to the news media aimed at hurting the Bush administration. The small number of intelligence officers who leak are a cancer inside the U.S. intelligence community. They jeopardize the lives and credibility of the thousands of hard-working intelligence professionals who have dedicated themselves to protecting America and its citizens.

Crucial antiterrorist programs implemented after 9/11 targeting al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups have been seriously weakened by unauthorized disclosures by intelligence officials to the news media. Last week, unnamed intelligence officers told a blogger that a recent National Intelligence Estimate on terrorist threats to the United States lacked sourcing and was politicized. I have read this carefully crafted assessment and find these claims to be groundless. If anyone in the intelligence community believed this, they should have brought their concerns to the intelligence oversight committees and/or their agency inspectors general. They did not; instead they chose to go to the press.

Rowan Scarborough discussed many examples of illegal leaks of classified information to the news media by intelligence officers in his new book Sabotage: America’s Enemies within the CIA. The CIA, rather than explaining how it is working to stop leaks, instead attacked the author.

This was exactly the wrong response and further demonstrates the CIA’s unwillingness to respond to the leaks that are undermining the agency. Late last year, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence conducted a review documenting multiple cases since 2001 of intelligence officers making unauthorized disclosures to the press. Repeated demands by Congress that the Intelligence Community investigate and prosecute these leaks have been met with silence. Moreover, in my six years on HPSCI, there has never been a successful prosecution of an intelligence official for leaking classified information to the press.

Now there is news of an even more disturbing leak by high-level intelligence officials. Last week, a Swiss investigator told the European parliament that senior CIA officials leaked information to him on the alleged classified activities of the U.S. government. The CIA officers reportedly made these illegal disclosures to the Swiss investigator because of their dislike of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and disagreements with certain CIA programs.

Leaking information to an agent of a foreign power conducting an investigation of U.S. intelligence activities takes illegal disclosures to a new and very disturbing level. This is why I wrote director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to demand that he investigate the report and prosecute any CIA officers who may have illegally disclosed information to this foreign investigator to the maximum extent of the law.

It is urgent that President Bush and the heads of all intelligence agencies begin to take this problem seriously. Leaks of national-security information — especially America’s counterterrorism programs — have seriously damaged the security of the United States. Immediate action must be taken stop leaks of classified information and to prosecute those who have been engaged in this illegal activity.

The Chicago mailman who thought his career was in danger for prematurely delivering the then-secret Harry Potter book should not have worried. His job is to see to the efficient delivery of mail, and he should not have been faulted for doing his job perhaps too well. Intelligence officers, however, take an oath to safeguard America's secrets. When intelligence officers leak sensitive national-security information to the press or give it to agents of foreign powers without authorization, they are not just violating this oath, they are violating the public’s trust. There is no room for political activity in intelligence because protecting our nation from al Qaeda and others who would do us harm is a deadly, serious business.

It is abhorrent when things like this occur. When New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen broke the story of the NSA's Terrorist Surveillance Program, not only did they tip our hand to the enemy as to what the government was doing -- legally, mind you -- to track and locate them in an effort to confound them in this war, the internal damage was even greater. It set off a political firestorm in the nation that eventually led tot he president caving in to demands that others have control over the program. When he relented, he handed it over to the very people that had tried to tie his hands over the ability to track our enemies, namely the FISA court.

Since then, many have stated that the program is not nearly as effective as it was when it began shortly after 9/11. We are still receiving information, but not the sort we were. This is one of the reasons why Congress has recently taken the issue up to revise the FISA court. However, forces in the House are reluctant to touch it; preferring to let the bleeding continue.

Intelligence leaks are not a joke, and they should not become the political football amongst those with a differing opinion. Representative Hoekstra is quite correct in stating that if these people have a problem, they should address it to the right individuals within their hierarchy, not the press. Not independent journalists, bloggers, or the waiter serving them lunch. He is also correct in stating that these leakers should be roundly prosecuted, especially if they have leaked such information to a foreign agent or nation. It does not have to be a treason charge, but at the very least, there should be an amount of jail equal to the veracity and severity of the leak.


CORRECTION: In my commentary above, I stated that there were those in the House trying to stall the FISA revisions. That is incorrect. The House approved those revisions on Saturday by a vote of 227 to 183. On Sunday, President Bush signed the FISA revisions into law. While this helps the nation overall, it does nothing to deal with the leakers in the past. These people must be discovered, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


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